SuperTrans to limit New Jersey bus stops for 2019-2020 school year

Vivien Sweet and David Maydan

SuperTrans will further reduce the number of bus stops per New Jersey town starting next September; many students will have to find additional modes of transport or wake up earlier to commute to the new stops.

For the past year, SuperTrans has been working with the hill schools to create an entirely new transportation system for students in New Jersey. The system’s new routes will decrease the number of stops in New Jersey from approximately 70 to 11, permanently ending door-to-door service.

The buses will be stopping only once or twice in Closter, Tenafly, Presskill, Fort Lee, Woodcliff Lake, Ridgewood, Englewood Cliffs, and Englewood, where there is the highest concentration of students from the three schools.

“Over the years, there’s been an increase in the number of students who live in more spread out Jersey counties,” General Manager of SuperTrans Shane Young said. “With the commute time, we had buses leaving at 6:30 and kids spending over an hour and a half on the bus, which was ridiculous.”

“SuperTrans showed us maps and at a certain point, there are three vans simultaneously crossing each other at the same exact buildings,” Young said.

An email sent to families cited “increased traffic conditions and a lack of ridership in your service area,” to justify the need for a new routing model.

The prices of tolls on the George Washington Bridge have also been increasing, making the trip even more expensive. “The cost is getting astronomical, especially with each bus crossing the bridge three times a day,” Director of Transport Robert Forcelli said.

The projected cost for the new plan is $4,500 to $5,500 per student, a significant decrease from the old system’s $6,500 to $7,500 fee.

Prior to making changes to the New Jersey bus route, SuperTrans sent out a survey to the families, asking if they would prefer a communal bus stop or a more expensive door-to-door bus stop. Another option was the original door-to-door bus stop plan in the morning, but switch to the communal stop route in the evenings.

The families ended up voting for the new communal stop model, which will go into effect for all New Jersey SuperTrans buses starting in the 2019-2020 school year.

While SuperTrans is primarily concerned with the efficiency of the routes and cost of their transport, the stop changes raise new issues for the students.

Gabby Fischberg (10), is one of the students whose schedule is drastically affected by SuperTrans’ new transportation model. She lives in Edgewater, which is about 15 to 20 minutes away from the closest stop in Fort Lee.

“If I have to drive there, I might as well drive to school, but my parents don’t have time to do that,” she said. In order to be able to make it it home at a reasonable hour, Fischberg may have to cut down on some of her extracurricular activities, she said.

Although the bus routes have not been finalized, there will definitively be no stop in Edgewater due the lack of students in that town and the traffic in that area, Forcelli said.

Katya Arutyunyan (11), who lives in Fort Lee, is only a three minute car ride from the stop in Fort Lee. For her, the new route will make her morning commute shorter since her bus wouldn’t have to stop in Edgewater, she said.

Arutynyan still has to find a way to get to the stop, she said. “If I don’t have a driver’s license by next year or if my parents are away, working around the issue is difficult,” she said.

Both Fischberg and Arutyunyan believe that SuperTrans’ system is a lose-lose situation, they said. “If they kept going street to street or door to door the price would increase. Technically, the price is decreasing, but you have to make another sacrifice,” Fischberg said.

Sareena Parikh (9), who lives in Englewood, would have to walk a couple blocks to get to her stop. However, her town doesn’t have any sidewalks, making the winter trek difficult, she said,

“If I biked, it would be around a four minute ride, but I’m worried about the ice in the winter,” she said.

However, Saloni Parikh P’22, would “never let [her] daughter bike in the winter,” she said. Parikh voted for the morning door-to-door and the afternoon communal pick-up option and was disappointed to learn that she would have to drive her daughter to and from the stop, she said.

“Myself and most people in Englewood Cliffs are looking into a private driver,” she said. “If I’m going to drive my daughter a couple miles, I might as well drive her the extra five miles to school.”

Nishtha Sharma’s (11) parents are among those who have attempted to change SuperTrans’ upcoming plan. Like Fischberg, Sharma, who lives in Saddle River, is 15 to 20 minutes away from the proposed stop. Sharma’s family has decided that despite having taken the bus for six years, she will most likely not take the bus next year as a result of the new routes, she said.

Sharma will have her drivers’ license next fall, so she can start driving to school or carpooling with others, she said. Unfortunately, not all students have the option to pay for a driver or a car; for those living in more secluded parts of New Jersey, there may not be nearly enough students nearby with whom to carpool.

Although Neelima and Anuj Jain P’19 P’27 forgot to fill out the survey, they would have voted for the original door-to-door pickup plan, they said. Their primary concern is about picking up and dropping off their son, Neel, who is a fourth grader. “If both of us are working, we don’t know how Neel is going to get half a mile home,” Neelima said.

“If you’ve been at Horace Mann since lower school and have been picked up same time and place every year, you don’t want to see this change,” Forcelli said. “But it was inevitable, and we knew it was coming.”