Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy has issued a stay-at- home order for all New Jerseyans and has advised residents to practice social distancing by keeping six feet apart from each other.
Despite Murphy’s restrictions, an unnamed Bayonne resident, who is an essential worker, took a picture on the way to work on March 30 around 5:30 a.m. on a No. 119 bus packed with standing room only passengers heading from Bayonne to New York City .
Outraged by what was happening, the resident took to social media to share the incident with others. The picture was subsequently posted to a Facebook page titled “Bayonne Alerts and What’s Happening Now.”
In the post, the resident displayed anger toward the bus driver and NJ Transit for allowing the bus to get that crowded. Not only did the bus driver pack the bus, the first few seats were taped off to prevent passengers from sitting too close to the driver.
According to NJ Transit, the seats near the bus operator have been taken out of service to allow for proper social distancing for the operator. As an added precautionary measure to protect bus operators and customers, NJ TRANSIT has also implemented rear-door boarding on all bus routes where rear-boarding is available.
However, there is no precautionary measure in place to promote social distancing among customers.
Packed like sardines
“Why did this bus driver let all these people on?” the resident asked. “Mind you she has the front seats taped up so no one goes near the driver, but why not protect the riders as well?”
The resident went on to note that the bus didn’t become packed as pictured until it reached Jersey City. However, things got even worse. According to the resident, the bus driver “super packed” the bus after the picture was taken.
“If you’re going to cut service, limit the amount of people that get on the bus,” the resident said. “I am an essential worker and have to be at work.”
NJ Transit recently announced that it would be adjusting its weekday bus schedule in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All travel should be limited to essential trips only.
Despite this, no service adjustments have been made to the 119. According to the NJ Transit Bus Schedule, the 119 is still operating on a normal weekday schedule.
However, the 10 line from Bayonne to Jersey City, the 81 line from Bayonne to Jersey City, and the 120 line from Bayonne directly to New York City are operating on reduced schedules. The 10 and 81 are currently operating on Saturday schedules.
Customers are encouraged to use the NJ TRANSIT mobile ticketing app or purchase paper tickets prior to boarding to limit cash transactions with the bus operator.
NJ TRANSIT has also enhanced its cleaning efforts to include disinfecting vehicles every 24 hours. Hard surface cleaning and disinfecting typically includes handholds, armrests, seating areas, and restrooms.
The enhanced cleaning regimen in stations includes additional disinfecting of frequent customer touch points such as ticket vending machines, handrails, and door handles. In major stations and terminals, this occurs once every shift.
But is it enough?
Those precautions alone may not be enough to quell residents’ fears after the picture of the crowded bus was posted.
In the comments, residents shared outrage over the lack of social distancing or preventative measures being taken on the buses. Some residents also suggested potential fixes.
“NJ transit should have more buses running and only open every third seat to one passenger,” Lisa Rivera said. “There are people who still have to work and need a way to get there.”
Rivera also suggested that residents who want to board the buses provide ID as proof they are essential workers.
“If you’re essential, maybe show some type of ID,” Rivera suggested. “I myself am a Healthcare worker and need to use public transportation.”
Simone Mottley said, “I think only essential workers should be in the bus with ID, and also public transportation should run on holiday schedule.”
Kathy Gonzalez called the picture of the crowded bus “very sad.”
“We live in the most densely populated area here. Some people need to get to work,” Gonzalez said. “The safest thing to do is everyone wear a mask!!!!”
Some residents were more outraged because the reduced service means fewer buses on the road. Boris Leonardini said he had to walk to work on the morning of March 31.
“They don’t give a damn about us,” Leonardini said.
Who’s to blame?
Other residents directed their outrage at NJ Transit.
“I’m sure the driver wasn’t happy about it either, but usually takes all the passenger complaints,” Jim Murphy wrote. “He or she is just another worker trying to feed a family.”
Yet some still argue that the driver was wrong.
“It’s the driver’s fault for picking up that many people,” Eric Soto said. “Common sense would’ve said to stop when people can’t use social distancing.”
Overall the message was clear that residents were generally unhappy at the sight of the crowded 119 bus.
The resident who took the picture said, “We need to do better Gov. Murphy.”
On March 30, Murphy slammed New Jerseyans who were further spreading COVID-19 by not staying at home or not practicing social distancing.
Some residents have even been holding “corona parties.” Murphy has said that any resident who disobeys the restrictions by throwing a party will be charged and held accountable.
“No more knucklehead gatherings or parties,” Murphy said in a March 30 update. “We have got to stay home.”
Murphy said that he supported harsher restrictions, noting, “I want, if anything, to tighten the screws.” It is not clear what that would entail.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.