Kevin Hennings, a resident of West Fifth Street, asked the City Council at its Feb. 20 meeting to do something about idling shuttle buses that congregate on Kennedy Boulevard near West Second Street.
He said some of these buses idle for 20 minutes at a time, using the area as a dispatch point, and he cited a recent state grant to three cities in Hudson County health departments to help deal with such abuses.
Under regulations, vehicles should not idle longer than 3 minutes at a time. Hennings has complained both to the Bayonne Health Department and the Bayonne Police Department, but wants the City Council to take action.
“I know that the jitney service is convenient for people who do not want to wait for the Boulevard bus,” he said. “But we are supposed to be concerned about the carbon footprint.”
“These jitney buses are something new to the City of Bayonne,” he said. “We have a public transportation system that consists of regular boulevard buses, and these jitney buses in the downtown area, three or four of them idling along the bus stops, sitting there, sometimes for 20 minutes at a time. It’s like a dispatch point where they get to set in this area, they have their heat running and they drink their coffee.”
Last week, he said, he saw three of these vehicles parked at the bus stop, and another blocking the fire hydrant and crosswalk.
“They don’t seem to have any respect for the people in Bayonne,” he said. “They’re here to make a quick buck and get back to wherever they came from.”
Complaints to the city, county
He asked if the Hudson County Improvement Authority – which operates a fleet of its own public transportation vehicles throughout the county – has jurisdiction over the jitneys.
He said recently, the issue of three minute idling came up and that Hudson County was receiving a stipend of $10,000 that was going to be distributed to the local health departments to address this issue.
“I called up the Bayonne Health Department and asked them what they’re going to do to deal with this issue and they didn’t know anything about it,” Hennings said. “The reason these jitneys seem to exist is for convenience, because people don’t want to wait for the Boulevard bus, and want to take the jitney because it comes sooner.”
The idea of public transportation, he said, is to help reduce the carbon footprint or excess pollution and use of fuel.
“The regular buses have cleaner technology,” he said. “Where these small jitney buses, you can see the black smoke pouring out wherever they go. It seems counterproductive to have a transportation system where you have 300 of these buses running up and down the street all the time.”
He said the regular buses get government funding to provide for clean air technology. They are also inspected for cleanliness.
“I don’t see where these small buses are inspected at all,” he said.
He asked the city to adopt some kind of licensing program for these buses similar to the way the city currently regulates taxies.
“They are inspected and they have to meet certain regulations,” he said.
He said by limiting the taxies to three services, the city is able to better regulate them, and suggested a similar system might be adopted in regards to jitney buses as well
“These buses seem to come and go,” he said, citing one instance where one nearly hit him. “On the back it had a phone number, a 1-800 number and when I called it on my cell phone, it was disconnected,” Hennings said.
He said it difficult to determine who is accountable for these vehicles, but that others in the area, including in other vehicles have problems with the jitneys, too.
He said he would like to see the city council take some kind of action to regulate or even outlaw the jitney service in Bayonne, perhaps requiring a certain number of people to be on the vehicle.
“They’re here to make a quick buck and get back to wherever they came from.” – Kevin Hennings
Third Ward Councilman Ray Greaves said he shares Hennings’ concerns.
“I for one have contacted the Department of Transportation about the use of these jitneys down the Boulevard, and we have been talking to some of our legislators to see if there is a way to regular this service.”
First Ward Councilwoman Agnes Gillespie said she’d also heard complaints about the buses idling and in fact has had fumes from them coming into her house in that area, and suggested that Hennings call the police department when he sees this.
Hennings said he has called the police, but sometimes they are busy or do not arrive in time for to catch the jitneys before they take off.
Police Chief Ralph Scianni said as of May 2000, members of the department have been designated as assistant officers by the Hudson County Regional Health Service for the purpose of enforcing air pollution codes involving idling vehicles.
Scianni said he has also witnessed the vehicles on Second to Third Streets on Kennedy Boulevard.
“We have had strict enforcement,” he said. “We have issued close to 200 summonses for various violations. We have been in contact with the Department of Transportation. We also have on the drawing boards for the traffic division to contact the state Division of Motor Vehicle to have these roving vehicles which actually does do inspections because [the jitneys] fall under a different jurisdiction in transportation. They will do air pollution and other things just as if you were going to an inspection station. They can enforce different regulations that are not in the police department’s purview. While their resources are a bit stretched, we have contacted them to get them into the city to assist us with enforcement from that end.”
Scianni said, while the police department does prioritize its calls, he encourages residents who see the idling to call the police
“We do respond, and we address it very aggressively,” he said, but noted that most of the jitneys parked between Second and Third Streets have their engines turned off, but that police are in the area monitoring their behavior.