A little under two weeks from now – Sunday March 13 – could be the beginning of a strike by New Jersey Transit’s rail employees. Although public transit alternatives for the Coalition’s lines of concern will be very limited in that event, we’ll look at what the possibilities are.

Let’s be clear that none of the alternative routes discussed here will be able to carry more than a tiny fraction of the people currently riding the trains. NJ Transit is estimating that its buses can handle less than 40% of the riders going into New York alone.

What should be running: NJT Bus, Light Rail, PATH, Private Carrier Busses, Ferries

NJ Transit settled with its bus operators previously, and its private carrier partners are also under contracts. None of NJ Transit’s light rail employees are involved in the dispute. Although PATH’s motormen and conductors are part of the same national union as NJ Transit’s conductors, they are also uninvolved. NY Waterway should also be operating.

Alternatives near stations

Your access to these services varies a lot depending on where you ride from. Some of the inner-ring suburbs like Orange, Bloomfield, and Montclair have significant local bus service paralleling the train routes. Wayne has a large number of commuter busses, some of which serve neighboring communities before jumping on the highway. Several outer-zone stops on the Gladstone Branch and Montclair-Boonton Line have Lakeland bus service to New York close at hand.  

Options are more limited for other stops. Morristown-Dover on the Morristown Line are served by a small network of local NJ Transit buses, but they end service early in the evening and their interconnectivity is limited. Millburn and Short Hills have exactly one bus route running near the train line. And some stops are completely train-dependent.

UPDATE: NJ Transit has indicated that the 191 and 324 buses (Wayne/Little Falls), and the 107 (South Orange/Maplewood) and 114 (Union/Springfield), will run increased service. Morristown and Morris Township (Convent Station) have also indicated that they plan to run 4 charter buses each during commuting hours, although space will be extremely limited.

A couple of things to keep in mind. First, these buses' schedules are often dissimilar to the trains they're paralleling. Many of the routes into Port Authority Bus Terminal (as well as the aforementioned Morris County local routes) are either rush hour only or stop running much earlier than rail service. As such we advise you to check the schedule prior to making your trip. Second, although the routings we list are to Newark and New York, if you need to ride locally you can either look for buses the two stations have in common or use a public transit directions service such as Google Maps (more on that below).

A full table of options by stop is below (Click each item to expand):

Morris & Essex Core (Newark-Summit)
Stop Bus Routes nearby New York options (PABT) Newark Options (Newark Broad St)
Newark Broad St 11, 13, 27, 28, go28, 29, 30, 41, 72, 76, 78, 108, 378 108 N/A
East Orange 21, 71, 73, 79, 94 21->108 Walk->41
Brick Church 21, 71, 73, 79, 94, 97, D88 94->107 Walk->41
Orange 21, 41, 71, 73, 79, 92, CC24, CC44 73->108 71
Highland Ave 92, CC44 92->107 Walk->71
Mountain Station 92 Walk->107 Walk->92->41
South Orange 92, 107, CC31, Livingston Express Shuttle 107 92->41
Maplewood CC31 Walk->70->107 Walk->25->30
Millburn 70 70->114 70->13
Short Hills   Walk->70->114 Walk->70->13
Summit 986, 70, LL78 Lakeland 78 70->13
Morristown Line (Chatham-Dover)
Stop Bus Routes nearby New York options (PABT) Newark Options (Newark Broad St)
Chatham 873 Walk->70->114 Walk->70->13
Madison 873   Walk->873->73
Convent Station 873, 878, 879 Walk to Morristown->Community Coach 77
Morristown 871, 872, 873, 874, 875, 880, CC77

Community Coach 77
871->Lakeland 46

Morris Plains 872, 875, 880 880->Lakeland 46 Walk->873->73
Mount Tabor 880 880->Lakeland 46 Walk->Lakeland 46->29
Denville 880, LL46 Walk/880->Lakeland 46 Lakeland 46->29
Dover 875, 880, LL80, MOM Shuttle Walk/880->Lakeland 46 880->Lakeland 46->29
Mount Arlington-Hackettstown
Stop Bus Routes nearby New York options (PABT) Newark Options (Newark Broad St)
Mount Arlington LL80 Lakeland 80  
Lake Hopatcong   Walk->Lakeland 80 Walk->Lakeland 80->108
Netcong LL80, MOM Shuttle Lakeland 80 Walk->Lakeland 80->108
Mount Olive      
Gladstone Branch (New Providence-Gladstone)
Stop Bus Routes nearby New York options (PABT) Newark Options (Newark Broad St)
New Providence 986, LL78 Lakeland 78 Lakeland 78->70->11
Murray Hill 986 986->Lakeland 78 986->70->11
Berkeley Heights LL78 Lakeland 78 Lakeland 78->70->27
Millington   Lakeland 78 Walk->Lakeland 78->70->11
Lyons LL78 Lakeland 78 Walk->Lakeland 78->70->27
Basking Ridge LL78 Lakeland 78 Lakeland 78->70->27
Bernardsville LL78 Lakeland 78 Lakeland 78->108
Far Hills S-Scoot, LL78 Lakeland 78 Lakeland 78->108
Stop Bus Routes nearby New York options (PABT) Newark Options (Newark Broad St)
Watsessing Ave 94 72->191 Walk->29
Bloomfield go28, 28, 29, 34, 72, 92, 93, 94, 709, Bloomfield Shuttle Decamp 44
Glen Ridge 11, 28, 29, D33 Decamp 33
Bay Street 11, 28, 29, D33 Decamp 33
Walnut Street   Walk->Decamp 33
Watchung Ave 28, D66 Decamp 66
Upper Montclair 28, D66 Decamp 66
Mountain Ave 28, D66 Decamp 66
Montclair Heights 28, 191, 705 191 28
Montclair State University   Walk->191 28
Little Falls 11, 191, 704, 705 191 11
Wayne Route 23 194, 198, 324, 748 324 194->108
Mountain View-Wayne 871, LL46 Lakeland 46 Lakeland 46->108
Lincoln Park 871, LL46 Walk->Lakeland 46 Walk->Lakeland 46->108
Towaco 871, LL46 Lakeland 46 Lakeland 46->108
Boonton 871, LL46 Lakeland 46 Lakeland 46->29
Mountain Lakes   Walk->Lakeland 46  

Park & Rides

If you have access to a car there may be additional options in range. Mount Arlington and Wayne Route 23 both have commuter bus service available. In addition, there are a number of bus and light-rail Park & Rides in and around our area:

Name Town Services available Location of stop(s) Parking Info
Port Imperial Weehawken NY Waterway Ferry (39th St NYC)
PABT Bound: 156, 158
Hudson-Bergen Light Rail
Light Rail

NY Waterway

MetLife Stadium East Rutherford Substitute Bus Service to PABT  

NJ Transit Advisory

Allwood Clifton PABT bound: 191, 192, 195, 199
Local: 705, 72
Bus NJ Transit
Clifton Commons Clifton PABT bound: 191, 192, 195
Local: 13, 27, 74
Bus (1)
Bus (2)
NJ Transit
Wayne Route 23 Wayne PABT Bound: 194, 198, 324
Local: 748
Bus NJ Transit
Mothers Park & Ride Wayne PABT Bound: 194, 324
Local: 748
Bus NJ Transit
Willowbrook Mall Wayne PABT Bound: 191, 193, 194, 195, 197, 198, Lakeland 46
Local: 11, 704, 705, 712, 871, 874
Bus (1)
Bus (2)
NJ Transit
Bonnel Court Union PABT bound: 114
Local: 52, 66, 94, 95
Bus NJ Transit
Pine Avenue Union PABT bound: 114
Local: 52, 66, 94, 95
Bus NJ Transit
Springfield Center Springfield PABT bound: 114
Local: 52, 66, 70
Bus NJ Transit
Watchung Park & Ride Watchung PABT bound: 114
Local: 65, 66, 95
Bus NJ Transit
Summit Park & Ride Summit PABT bound: Lakeland 78 Bus  
Lyons Park & Ride Lyons PABT bound: Lakeland 78 Bus  
Arlington Plaza Park & Ride Parsippany PABT bound: Lakeland 46 Bus  
Baldwin Road Parsippany PABT bound: Lakeland 46
Others: 871, 874
Beverwyck Road Park &Ride Parsippany PABT Bound: Lakeland 46, Lakeland 80
Others: 874
Waterview Park & Ride Parsippany PABT bound: Lakeland 46 Bus  
Bloomfield Ave Park & Ride Denville PABT bound: Lakeland 46 Bus  
Rockaway Mall Park & Ride Rockaway PABT bound: Lakeland 80
Others: 880
Bus (1)
Bus (2)
Mount Arlington Mount Arlington PABT bound: Lakeland 80 Bus NJ Transit
Stanhope Park & Ride Stanhope PABT Bound: Lakeland 80 Bus  
Byram Park & Ride Stanhope PABT Bound: Lakeland 80 Bus  

Plan your own train-free route

Most of our research for this article was done using Google Maps’ public transit directions. It’s certainly not the only player in this space, and we’re not handing out endorsements, but it has one very useful feature for strike contingency planning: directions that “prefer” a mode. By indicating you prefer to use all other modes, the best available bus, light rail, or subway routing, if one exists, will appear.

It’s not perfect – if there’s no good option it may try to go halfway using the train. There are also some “off-grid” providers such as Community Coach and DeCamp that don’t publish their schedules to Google Maps. But unless NJ Transit publishes a feed that removes train service this kind of analysis is the best we can do.

Can we avoid this mess?

None of this is to say that a strike is inevitable, though negotiations between NJ Transit and the unions are coming down to the wire. NJ Transit has claimed that it can’t afford the contract the unions are requesting. Certainly its budget has been gutted by dramatic reductions in subsidies from the state over the last several years. While the latest federal transportation bill shores up sources of capital funding, there is no similar program to help with the operations budget. Since the operating budget covers running the trains, paying the crews, and upkeep of the system, that’s a rather important omission.

NJ Transit is the only major commuter rail operator in the New York area with no dedicated funding source. The only revenue it can rely on is fares, which are already the highest in the nation. And while the threat of a strike is the latest result of this enforced austerity, it’s far from the only budget pressure they’re facing in this year alone. In the short term we need to push for state funding to cover an equitable solution to the contract dispute. And in the longer term we need to find a dedicated source of funding for transit operations.

Petition: Stop the Strike! Fund NJ Transit!