Bayonne, a vacation spot for Manhattan’s landed elite until the 1800s, and later an industrial hotspot for the likes of Standard Oil and the U.S. military, has been a commuter community since the 1990s. Incoming residents most often commute to Manhattan, Jersey City, and Newark, where jobs have been concentrated in recent decades.
To accommodate the masses of commuters, New Jersey constructed the Hudson Bergen Light Rail in the early 2000s and later made improvements to the Bayonne Bridge, the Turnpike Extension Bridge, and the Exit 14A Interchange. Now, a ferry terminal is planned for the southern shore of the former Military Ocean Terminal Base that will transport commuters to and from Manhattan, and possibly the Jersey Shore on the weekends.
Bayonne is blessed with ample transit options. But this is still New Jersey, and true to its reputation, commuters are constantly frustrated by delays. Drivers have it especially hard. The state has invested very little in transit infrastructure, as commuters flock to New Jersey’s urban areas and Manhattan; highways are more congested than ever.
Bayonne remains an attractive place to live. New residents are moving here to gain greater public-transit access and to take advantage of a walkable lifestyle.
Walking and Biking
While the wide roads of Avenue C, Kennedy Boulevard, and Route 440 can be hazardous—five people have died on Route 440 in the last four years, and a senior citizen was killed biking on Ave. C—the rest of the city is generally safe for cyclists and pedestrians. Thousands of kids walk to school and to the light rail stations, and crossing guards are on hand for many of the busiest intersections.
While many ride bikes, the city has yet to invest in cycling infrastructure. Bayonne has no bike lanes, only a few signs along major routes that alert drivers that there may be a cyclist nearby.
A bikeshare program, administered by the same company that installed Hoboken’s bikeshare program, was introduced in 2018. Some residents have been using the service, but more infrastructure is likely needed to take Bayonne down that path.
Highways and Byways
Completed in May of 2018 at a cost of $310 million, the 14A Turnpike Interchange project increased the number of lanes from 11 to 13.
The improvements were as much for truckers as commuters. Truckers used to take Avenue E into the East Side neighborhood via a bridge over Route 440 to reach Port Jersey Boulevard, Constable Hook, and the former Military Ocean Terminal Base. That route resulted in noise, air pollution, and parking issues. Industrial traffic along that route has decreased since the project’s completion.
Parking in the city, meanwhile, continues to grow scarcer as the population grows. But high-density apartment buildings with dedicated parking garages should alleviate the problem; Bayonne hopes to avoid the parking nightmares experienced by Hoboken and Jersey City.
The Bayonne Bridge, which was recently raised by more than 200 feet to accommodate larger cargo ships en route to New Jersey ports, has finally reached the lane capacity forfeited when construction began in 2013. Four lanes on each side officially opened in February. Most Bayonne Bridge commuters travel north over the bridge to reach a light rail station in Bayonne, with connecting transportation to Manhattan. Some Bayonne residents cross the bridge in the other direction to work or shop in Staten Island.
The Hudson Bergen Light Rail and the NJ Transit bus system are much used and much in need of investment. The number 10 and 119 buses run along Kennedy Boulevard. The number 10 ends at Journal Square for transfers to other buses or the PATH train. NJCU students use this line. The 119 takes New York commuters through Journal Square, into Jersey City Heights, Union City, Weehawken, through the Lincoln Tunnel, ending at Port Authority.
The buses are rarely on time. An audit report of NJ Transit released in October of 2018 showed that operating costs increased by nearly 30 percent in the last decade, while the state cut subsidies for the agency in 2015 by $33 million. As a result, buses are expensive to replace, and parts are hard to come by.
Riding the Rails
Light rail trains are usually on time but spotty during off-peak hours. The digital signage inside and outside the trains is often wrong or miscoded. Luckily, the light rail is all above ground, so riders familiar with county geography can simply look out the window to see where they are.
Future plans call for the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate the light rail, and the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation has unveiled a plan for a gondola to cross the Kill Van Kull.
Urban dwellers in the country’s most densely populated state are demanding great public transportation and environmentally-friendly options. – BLP