We’ve all been there, standing at the bus stop in the pouring rain or freezing cold, cursing the morning commute, and then finally, you see the bright yellow lights of a New Jersey Transit bus a few blocks away and excitedly begin to gather exact change. The bus gets closer and you hold out your hand, hailing it down and feeling relieved. And then it flies by apparently too packed to stop. Cue the jitney bus!
Also known as gypsy buses, Spanish buses, or even guaguas, these mini buses are often a welcome sight to the overflow of commuters in Jersey City and beyond. They are usually white, seat about two dozen passengers, and can be signaled to stop just like an NJT bus. Many shadow carriers and lines that have marked stops, and others run their own routes. They definitely supply a convenience in very high demand, but the variety of operators makes nailing down details difficult.
Some jitneys stay in New Jersey and complete local loops, but many cross the Hudson River and terminate at the Port Authority Bus Terminal either at a specific gate or just outside. Community Lines is one of the more organized operators running out of Journal Square to Gate 51 at Port Authority, every five minutes, for only $3.25 each way.
Generally, Hudson County routes run from Bayonne through Jersey City and into North Bergen along J.F.K. Boulevard, from Journal Square to Newport along Newark Avenue and Marin Boulevard, through Jersey City Heights on Central Avenue and Palisade Avenue, north through Weehawken and West New York along Boulevard East, and even farther north through Edgewater and Fort Lee on River Road. Additional service is available to the west on Bergenline Avenue and towards Fairview and Paterson. All PATH train stations and Light Rail stations are served as well.
The best way to know for sure which jitney goes where is to wave it down, hop on, and ask. And you don’t always have to be at a bus stop depending on the driver. Like New Jersey Transit buses, the jitneys calculate the cost by zones and the base fare is $1.50. But unlike NJT buses, you do not have to have exact change. Drivers can easily make change for small bills and even break a $20 most of the time if you give them a heads up. And you pay when you exit.
You can’t buy a monthly pass or receive child, student, or elderly discounts which is a nice perk of the New Jersey Transit buses; you might have to yell out “next stop!” because the cord doesn’t work or isn’t even there; they stop short and sometimes drive too fast or too slow, but when you have no change and the regular bus is full anyway, a jitney will be along soon enough to get you where you need to go, and that is well worth the guesswork.
A website, Jersey Jitneys, recently launched that provides need-to-know information on this highly effective yet mysterious alternative form of public transport. Also, in 2011, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, released an in-depth study looking at the role these private bus lines play in the overall transportation needs of Hudson County residents.