A common complaint about transit in New Jersey is that there is no official map with bus lines. New Jersey Transit provides maps of its commuter rail and light rail lines, New York Waterway has ferry maps, and the Port Authority provides maps of its PATH trains, but nothing for buses. Part of the problem is that New Jersey Transit runs a lot of buses, and a bus map of the entire state would be incredibly expensive to produce and hard to read. Still, it's kind of silly that they just throw up their hands. The MTA produces maps for each county that they serve, and the Paris RATP makes a great series of bus maps by department. So it can be done.
Since 2008, Doug Kelly has been developing, updating and maintaining an impressive set of Google maps of New Jersey Transit buses (and one of Nassau County to boot). But the other day I was thinking about our frequent network maps discussion from last year, where I made a map of the most frequent routes in Queens. I realized that I don't really want to know about New Jersey Transit Route 120, which doesn't even run all day. Like most people, I want to know the frequent routes.
The vast majority of bus routes are run by New Jersey Transit, but if you've been reading this blog you'll know that there's a large network of privately operated buses, especially in Hudson County and the Route 4 corridor. Many of these buses run on a jitney system, without a fixed schedule. They either wait at one end of the route to fill up before going, or they operate on the driver's best guess as to whether they'll be able to make a profit on the run. How do we know what that is for a given route? Sit out on a street corner with a stopwatch?
Fortunately, we don't have to. Unlike official transit planners in New York City who completely ignore jitneys, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority hired AECOM to study the jitneys of Hudson County in detail. Their report is a thing of beauty, and yes it contains frequency counts at different times of day. It also contains a list of all the bus lines that they know of in Hudson County, so I looked them all up on the websites of New Jersey Transit (though it's actually easier to google "NJ Transit" and the route number than to use their clunky interface), the A&C Bus Company, and others, and compiled a list of weekday midday frequencies, and a map to go with them (sorry about the colors).
I was blown away. I knew that the NJTPA report listed the Bergenline vans as coming every two minutes, so I expected there to be van routes at the top of the frequency list, but I didn't think that the top six most frequent lines would be van lines. I also didn't expect that the Hudson-Bergen light rail would come so infrequently that if you're going to Hoboken you may have to wait up to twenty minutes. I didn't even expect the PATH trains to be every ten minutes during middays.
Most significantly, I didn't expect to find no New Jersey Transit bus route in Hudson County that comes more than once every twenty minutes during the middle of the day. But that actually makes sense if you remember that they're actually forbidden from engaging in "destructive competition" with a private operator, so in the terminology of Klein, Moore and Reja, when there's a thick market they step back and provide only an anchor. Still, it seems to me that in thin markets like everything west of the Hackensack River (Secaucus, Kearney, Arlington, East Newark and Harrison) they would provide more frequent service, but apparently not.
Another thing: these buses run frequently all day, and fill up regularly, without subsidies, and they only have one feature of "bus rapid transit": the Lincoln Tunnel Exclusive Bus Lane in the mornings. No iconic stations or distinctive branding. To be honest, many of them are slow, particularly on Bergenline Avenue. But people take them anyway.
A final note: I worked primarily by corridors, so I didn't include services like the Newark-WTC PATH train, the Broadway Bus and the buses that come every twenty minutes when they're the only service in that corridor. I did, however, include services like the Hudson-Bergen Light rail where interlining makes the vehicles more frequent than once every fifteen minutes.