A DeCamp Commuter’s Protest

New Jersey Transit finally began limited service on Wednesday, but commuters are still having a rough time getting in and out of the city. Lines for DeCamp remain long and, once commuters are actually on the bus, finding a seat can be impossible–especially if you’re one of the last on.

One commuter, Baristanet’s own Martta Rose Kelly, has decided to stage her own protest in response. As one of the “1 percent” of commuters that boards the DeCamp 33 express bus route at the end, Mrs. M is consistently told “standing only”–and that began even before Hurricane Sandy hit. Here is her reaction:

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  1. Could it be that Ms. Marta is in the 1% of the self-absorbed? There are people without power, without homes, the trains are still not back to full operation and our local bus company has been greatly stretched. Ms Marta makes no effort, as others have, to get herself to a bus stop earlier on the route, and instead huffs “where is my seat?”

  2. Good for her. The Decamp bus situtaion is the pits. Thank God, there is some train service. There are still kinks to work out: my train that lost power; the absurd evening rush hour train schedule, and the cancelled trains to Hobokens this morning. I like the protest.

  3. I should not have to drive to Roseland or Caldwell for a seat when I live in West Orange. If DeCamp is under contract to service West Orange, then they should have enough seats for West Orange residents. BY the way, this protest was started long before Sandy.

  4. Townie, the argument that she shouldn’t protest because people are worse off is a tired one. No matter what situation you are in, someone is worse off.

  5. Standing on one of those stop-start-stop-speed like hell-stop Decamp buses is dangerous, not just uncomfortable. If Decamp knows that, day in, day out, folks like Ms. M will have to stand in the aisle from West Orange to PABT, they should run more buses during peak times. If customer service isn’t a good enough reason, wait for the first personal-injury lawsuit when someone breaks an arm.

  6. I agree with you, townie. I was another person who, living near the end of the 33M line, was schlepping out to get a bus at 5:50 each morning only to stand another 40 minutes once actually on the bus–if I got on at all, that is, despite my being out there at the crack of dawn. Of course, I was miffed about there not being enough buses, not being any seats, having to stand outside for hours to wait for a bus. And then one day, while waiting on line for the bus home, I started chatting to the woman behind me who was staying with friends in Glen Ridge because her PRIMARY residence down the shore had been washed away. She was allowed back home for just ONE weekend to see if there was anything left of her house and to gather whatever valuables and memories she could find–and then would be barred from her home and her regular life for 8 months while her town began rebuilding.

    Martta, a gentle reminder–if choosing between sitting and standing on a bus is your only injustice to protest post-Sandy, then consider yourself among the lucky ones. I know I do.

  7. I don’t get it. Yes, Decamp is one of the absolute worst companies any of us have had the displeasure of dealing with. However, aren’t there several other bus options to NYC from West Orange? As Montclair residents, we stayed in a WO hotel during Sandy and we were thrilled that there were other bus companies from which to choose (including Coach USA, which kept rolling up busses to a stop until everybody had a ride). Is that normally not the case? Best protest I can think of is taking my business elsewhere.

  8. So the law states that we need to wear seat belts in cars, but standing on a moving bus is Okie-dokie?

    How is being worried about your safety self-absorbed?

  9. Montclairdad: Not too many options. When DeCamp went on strike, my husband would drive me to Montclair to get the train. That is not always possible since we are on different work schedules. So we are stuck with DeCamp that has a monopoly on many routes, including West Orange. I hope someday that will change…wishful thinking.

  10. Read the whole post people not just the comments, “–and that began even before Hurricane Sandy hit.”

    She was doing this before Sandy and it has nothing to do with Sandy.

  11. I think framing yourself as in the 1% is understating DeCamp’s allocation problem. This happens on the 33M as well all the time. I probably stand half the time going into the city, but it would be all the time if I wanted to catch a bus during the earlier rush hour. The worst is when DeCamp throws those old state buses on the line with no standing allowed while using the new buses to run routes which only half fill the bus.

  12. By the way–it looks like one of the last posts on: https://www.ihatedecamp.com/

    involved a sitting standee. Author does not appear to be a fan. Whatever happened to the updates on this blog? Does the rider not use DeCamp anymore? Are they willing to part with the site? I would have stories everyday that others could enjoy.

  13. I wouldn’t even mind the use of the older buses if they were serviced properly. But you have lights that don’t work, seats perpetually stuck in the back or upright position, doors that get stuck, and even breakdowns. It reflects on the company as a whole.

  14. I used to have the same issue, I was at the “end” of a line. For years I was able to get on a bus, even if it was standing. Then I started having to walk two blocks further up the line to a another corner to get on a bus. Then buses started just passing us by. Afer years of having buses pass me by (along with a line of anywhere from 10 to 25 people) I decided to move to be walking distance to a train. Not everyone has that option. The clincher was the day I stood outside in the sleet for well over an hour and decided to bag it and stay home. I called my husband and told him I was done with the DeCamp commute.

    I agree completely with Mrs. M. If they have a non-compete deal (as well as state subsidies) for a certain route, that route should be serviced. If buses are regularly full toward the end of a certain route then figure out a way to adjust the schedule to send a bus to that part of the route.

  15. I’ve heard this conversation before on the NJ Transit train to NYC between an irate passenger and the conductor. The conductor made it very clear that the fare paid guarantees transportation to the advertised destination, not a seat. As a longtime commuter I very much empathize with Mrs. Marta, but the terms and conditions for the bus probably operate under the same logic.

    This is not a defense of DeCamp; I too have found their quality of service to be lacking. But this protest is wasted energy. To affect genuine change, one would have to address the problem at the contractual level between Decamp and the State of NJ. If that many people in the area want something better, you should direct your time and effort to state officials and demand contracts with more specific terms of service, or to have NJT take over the service instead. Clearly, that is an uphill battle, but it would be the correct method to achieve your goal-set.

    Insofar as Mrs. Marta’s dislike of driving to a better commute, that is a daily reality for more southern points in NJ. The gigantic parking complex at MetroPark comes to mind. Indeed, during the recent (and ongoing) Sandy-related crisis, I drove to Rutherford and caught the 190 bus to PABT. Not my idea of an efficient commute either, but on the plus side, that line runs on time and many morning buses go express once they hit Route 3.

    All roads lead to Rome, but some roads are clearly better than others.

  16. Just to reiterate the previous post, DeCamp operates its franchise under an exclusive agreement with the state. That excludes competition between the same endpoints.

    DeCamp certainly seems to be in breach of its obligation to provide adequate service on the 33 (and 66, from what I’ve heard) routes. Calling the State Senator and Assembly members to demand specific improvements (more 33 and 66 buses) would be a start. Getting town council members involved would be a plus, since it will eventually affect housing prices as a less desirable commute.

    DeCamp would likely argue that the Port Authority limits the number of arrivals for DeCamp to the current number. There is no more space in the PABT for additional runs. There is space available for additional runs at World Trade, and there could be space at a proposed east side drop off bus site in the 50s. Or the NY Waterway ferry dock.

    Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) has been very active in promoting the rights of bus commuters on the Route 9 and Route 18 corridors. Perhaps her office has suggestions on how to deal with the state bureaucracy and force DeCamp to either do a better job or sell the route to somebody who can.

  17. I remember riding a decamp bus into Ny on a Sunday afternoon with my (then) teenage son. Another bus has become disabled on route 3 and ours was going to pick up the stranded passengers. The bus has already been so crowded that my son and i could not sit together…obviously with the extra passengers many were without seats. I saw my son stand and offer his to a senior who in turn was too much of a gentleman to sit while ladies remained standing. Before the seat could go to a female senior a selfish 20 something plopped her lazy ass in my son’s vacated seat. I was very proud of my son. And i wonder how that girl’s mother would feel? Would she be mortified or is that acceptable in their eyes?

  18. Mrs. M…..Time to become self-employed and stay home sipping coffee in your pajamas while dialing in to a conference call. Commuting is for the birds. I did the DeCamp bus ride back in the seventies, it stunk then and as I see from your commute, it still stinks…..Stay home and consult, if they want you badly they’ll send a town car.
    PAZ in GR today.

  19. I don’t quite get this one.If you’re farther down the route than others, it’s a somewhat logical assumption that seats may be harder to find then when the bus gets your way, yes? No? How’s about, then, driving farther up the route? There are actually people on the NJT route in Clifton who, to avoid the fee at the park-ride lot, park instead on residential streets in Clifton and thus catch the bus into Gotham. So they wait farther down the route. But then, because the bus is crowded when it picks them up, I’ve subsequently heard them complain there are no seats on the bus when it gets to them. Well, folks…

    Buses have been known to fill up, in other words. And I’m honestly thus surprised to find Mrs. Martta suddenly sounding like so many others of the wishfully “ennobled and entitled” who seem to populate this site. Plus, it’s rather obvious that sitting in the aisle to make a dubious point is also unsafe.

    (I do, however, have a certain admiration for those steadfast souls who insist on taking the fifth, middle seat on the back seat of buses. That others harrumph so when someone does sit in their midst always amuses me. Here, too, Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign always makes sense to me.)

    Have any of the posters above ever even actually driven a bus themselves? T’aint fun, believe you me. I don’t know about now, but the Academy buses on the Monmouth County-NYC run used to hire actual commuters to do rush hour driving. And some of the nerdiest, most unlikely looking of my fellow commuters, male and female, proved themselves mighty fine drivers. Far better and better tempered than I’d have been given the circumstances of rush hour traffic and weather delays.

  20. self-admittedly you say this system is fine for all but 1% of the people using it, so why should they alter the system if it works for 99% of users? is it ideal? for you, no. is it still convenient? seems so if you’re still using it. i assume no one is forcing you to get on the bus in the first place. moving on…

  21. Cathar, you know I respect and admire you but you are missing the point here. If this happened once a month or so, I couldn’t care less. This happens on a daily basis, however. And it’s not just me about about a dozen to 20 people who have the misfortune of living near the end of the bus line. This tells me that we have a bus company that is out of touch with its ridership (DUH!), in more ways than one. If they know they have SRO on a few of their lines, they need to add another bus, period. Maybe not every day or during times of less ridership (holidays, summer), but certainly on most commuter days. The SRO is not a safe situation and not everyone is in a position to stand for 40 minutes to an hour (elderly people, people with medical conditions).

  22. DeCamp was totally unable to surge to handel the extra volume created by NJT passengers. I assume contractually they had to cross honor even though they did not not have the capacity & totally screwed the regular passengers. The aggrement should assign NJT busses to the DeCamp routes with DeCamp getting some of the revenue.
    In general DeCamp’s normal level of service leaves much to be desired.

  23. >>The aggrement should assign NJT busses to the DeCamp routes with DeCamp getting some of the revenue. In general DeCamp’s normal level of service leaves much to be desired.<<

    DeCamp bus drivers make less money than comparable NJ Transit drivers, as I understand the scales. I'm sure that allowing NJT drivers to operate on a DeCamp route would trigger a contract grievance, and could trigger a strike. As well as set a dangerous, for DeCamp, precedent.

  24. Leave it to cathar to bring up Michelle Obama in a DeCamp Bus Company thread.
    I’ll make sure to return the favor to the old coot, and mention Angela Davis in a thread about the Glen Ridge Kitchen Tour.

  25. I guess I shouldn’t give away the big secret… but the big secret is

    that train towns are really bus towns (cause buses work so much better than trains)
    and bus towns are really car tows… 

    cause cars are just so much easier to get into the city with.

    today was a bad day for me. the GWB and Lincoln Tunnel were both reporting over an hour of wait times… 

    but after a while you figure it out… you learn the secret routes, for those of us who have settled in jersey and are not just planning to move on to the next and more lucrative spot for the $$,$$$,$$$ salaries.

    and even this bad day the drive in was ninety minutes. which is faster than the bus would have been according to its own schedule. and i didn’t have to take the subway… and i found a secret parking spot for free.

  26. I think DeCamp should make it mandatory that SRO passengers sit in the aisle. Perhaps they can even provide little blankets like we had during nap time in kindergarten. There’s one particular DeCamp driver who drives painfully slow the entire route–until he gets to the big curve onto the bus lane. Then he floors it. Does the same at the big curve at the Port Authority entrance. He’s made a game out of trying to get standees to fall over. At least if we sit, we can’t fall down–because we’re already on the floor!

  27. If I drove to work I wouldn’t be able to play my favorite game: Count the number of cars that are waiting in traffic while we cruise along in the bus lane.

  28. Although I own a car, I support public transportation and take it whenever possible. It means less cars on the road and is therefore supposed to be “greener”–in a perfect world. That being said, why are those of us who support and choose to use public transport penalized for it? They should be going out of their way to make the experience more pleasant for us rather than something akin to Dante’s Inferno. We live in one of the wealthiest counties in NJ and we are provided with poor service, creaky old clunkers, a web site that is often down (especially in a crisis such as Sandy), poor communication from dispatchers…the list goes on and on. Whoever said “drive to work” just doesn’t get it. There are too many cars on the road as is and taking your car into the city would just be contributing to the problem.

  29. It’s easy for those that have never had to stand on a moving bus for 1.5 hours everyday to make negative comments about Mrs. Martta’s request. If she’s paying the same as another person who happens to live close to one of the first stops on the route, she should get a seat. As she mentioned, this was a problem prior to Sandy, and it’s something that Decamp needs to address – either add more buses or start half the buses at a different point in Upper Montclair. Moreover, to suggest she should just start driving is ridiculous. People have many different reasons for not driving (environmental, economical, etc.). This town prides itself on being commuter friendly, so it shouldn’t be that hard to comfortably get into the city everyday.

  30. With all due respect to Ms. Kelly, Decamp can not be faulted. The Port Authority was/is unprepared to service the huge number of displaced commuters who would normally travel through Penn Station by train. NJTransit was clearly unprepared for such a storm and the damage that could be inflicted on the trains and tracks. I commute daily on a NJTransit bus and since bus service was restored, we have long lines of hundreds of exhausted and frustrated commuters. Until NJTransit trains are running on regular schedules we will continue to have long lines at the Port Authority. At rush hour, the Port Authority cannot accommodate extra buses, nor can they accommodate the crowding in an organized manner. Solution: arrive no later than 20 minutes prior to the scheduled bus departure time in order to get a seat. Arrange to car pool if you can but don’t clog up the highways with one person in a car. Then we all suffer with more traffic delays. This too shall pass but NJ Transit will need to seriously evaluate the status of trains/tracks to prevent a similar future failure.

  31. Criminy, Spirochete, I can’t even praise the President’s spouse without you trying, and failing as usually happens, to make a funny. Are you honestly that desperate for attention? It’s beginning to strike me as sad. But if you wish to somehow tie the unregenerate Commie Angela Davis to daily commuting, please, feel free to try.

    Mrs. Martta, I was once in a Florida airport when planes were being cancelled because of a snowstorm up here. And someone asked if the airline would be putting on “extra planes” when the storm ceased. But as the gate attendant pointed out, it doesn’t work that way, that there simply are no such things as “extra” planes.

    I suspect it’s the same with DeCamp, that its “rolling stock” is pretty much allocated on a daily basis. And while I’m sure DeCamp welcomes the current crowding on its buses as a boost to revenues, we also both know from the posts here how need and/or affection for DeCamp seems but a quondam thing among those who post. Hence understandable wariness about even modest expansion from DeCamp’s management.

    For all the hot air regularly expended here on the travails of commuting, all I really ever sense is the relative powerlessness of commuters against bus, train and even airline forces. This is, as The Alarm once sang, “absolute reality.”

    Also, I in fact read recently about some operator of a discount airline who is aiming to actually sell standing room on his planes (for what I hope are only short hops), if the FAA approves. I wonder how that would work out in practice. And I understand standing on buses for a good long time, too. I even once went from Algiers to the mountainous interior of Algeria on a vehicle which not only seemed to stop to let pass every stray goat and sheep in the country, but sometimes even picked a few of them up along with their shepherds (all of whom probably smelled worse than even Angela Davis but were also almost all Michelle Obama-like svelte, thank goodness).

  32. Also, as someone who will occasionally use Decamp I think any investment would be better spent towards fixing their current fleet vs buying more buses.

  33. Decamp has never, in the last 12 years or so, been that good. Anyone who says they serve 99% of their customers well must be not in touch. I rode that bus line for years and it was always a “hard” ride. Their drivers were never any good at something called customer service. Rude answers to questions and all. So stop giving this lade a hard time. Decamp has to re-look at their business model and start looking towards the future. Their immediate past is horrible.

  34. Wrong claremont, their business model is perfect if they continue to pack every bus.

    If people refuse to drive, refuse to take the train or refuse to move out of the area and instead continue to use Decamp the only message that sends is that everything is ok. That is how it works.

  35. Hey, same could be said about the airlines. I have a 4 hr flight out & back and only could get middle seats near the latrine, so I guess I shouldn’t complain about lack of flights since at least I got a seat? WhoooHoooo!

  36. Wrong claremont, their business model is perfect if they continue to pack every bus.

    Easy to pack every bus if you are the only game in town. Certainly not a barometer of a great business model.

    I have family in the Portland, OR area and whenever I visit them, I use the Portland bus system. It’s like night and day. The first time I rode a bus through downtown Portland, I was thrown for a loop. Not only did the driver wish me “Good afternoon,” she continued to make small talk with me, asking me about my day! Granted the bus at the hour was not that crowded but still, it made me realize that DeCamp is not a barometer of how things are done in other parts of the country. The drivers in Portland were courteous, answered questions politely and were rarely late. The buses were state-of the-art, clean, with working reading lamps. If they were running late, they would apologize and explain what the problem was. In my 15 years of riding DeCamp, I have never once had a driver explain what the problem was if we got stuck in traffic. There is no excuse for this lack of communication since they have dispatchers and radios, and today, the Internet.

    So just being successful at cramming fannies into seats is not an indicator that all is well. I am sure if DeCamp conducted a customer satisfaction poll (will never happen in my lifetime), they would get a totally different picture.

  37. One more word about SRO: I also take the subway frequently and more often than not, I don’t get a seat. I don’t grouse about this because there are poles and loops to hold on to. Also, it’s a short ride for the most part. If you stand on a bus, the only thing to hold on to is a seat handle (some of the older buses don’t even have these!). Not the safest thing in the world.

  38. DeCamp’s flagrant habitual use of the “Jake Brake”, a use of the engine to apply braking which causes a loud engine noise is illegal on residential streets and roads according to The New Jersey DEP and most if not all townships Noise laws. DeCamp may not care because they save so much on brake pad replacement and it’s easier for the driver. When will townships start enforcing this law with summons and fines? Their use of the “Jake Brake”has a very negative affect on quality of life due to the illegal noise pollution it creates.

  39. Goddam mass transit, it doesn’t have the capacity to take everyone in the style to which they’d like to become accustomed. If only the government would get off the people’s backs and stop subsidizing the automobile. Bastards! Vive la revolution!

  40. Yes, we should immediately investigate the gear shifting practices of bus drivers! Dude, we’ve got far more pressing issues. And sorry, if you can’t get a seat on the bus. It comes with the territory. The system that allows DeCamp to enjoy a service monopoly, thereby eliminating competition, is at the root of the problem. There is an economic issue that needs political pressure to be resolved. Otherwise, you can stand on your head in the aisle and it won’t change a thing. Personally, I get around these problems under ordinary circumstances by getting in earlier and home later. If you commute during the peak of rush hour, it’s not fun.

  41. The system that allows DeCamp to enjoy a service monopoly, thereby eliminating competition, is at the root of the problem.

    YES! And something seems very illegal about all of this.

  42. Personally, I get around these problems under ordinary circumstances by getting in earlier and home later.

    Life is too short for that, at least to me. “Gee I wish I spent more time in the office or riding DeCamp,” said No one, ever.

  43. I’m not a martyr. I need to get in early, and the days that I stay late are offset by days that I leave early for kids events, etc. peak evening rush, especially at the PA is to be avoided if possible.

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