NJ Transit announces ‘premium’ fare for new American Dream bus service

NJ Transit this week reached out to the public about its controversial mass transit plans for the huge new American Dream complex in the Meadowlands, due to open later this month.

Let’s just say it got an earful.

In one of several changes underway, the agency announced it will run a new “premium” bus service from Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal to American Dream every half hour.

The one-way fare will be $9, $2 more than the fare on Sundays for football games. At the public hearing held at the Journal Square Transportation Center on Thursday evening, agency officials explained why.

“To assure that NJ Transit will be able to maintain a high quality level of service on this line, without any need to potentially reallocate resources from other services, it is necessary to charge a premium fare that will guarantee a positive rate of return,” said Robert Pegg, NJ Transit’s director of bus service planning.

Nathan Rudy, the agency’s public information officer, said the aim is to make the service self-sustaining.

“We’re looking to have the service be self-sustaining. We don’t want to take anything from any of our other routes,” he said. “So we want to make sure that while we can provide this service to our customers, it doesn’t impact other customers.”

Only a handful of people stepped up to speak at the sparsely attended hearing, held during evening rush hour. But there were plenty of chatter online.

Other tweets referenced the cost of the premium fares on the employees of American Dream who would have to commute much more frequently.

The bus service will start Oct. 25, the day American Dream opens. Three other local bus route expansions for American Dream already kicked off in August on a pilot basis. They will be up for review in December to whether they will go forward.

The hearing also solicited comments on the 119 bus, from Jersey City to the Port Authority. NJ Transit recently added hourly Sunday service, but it has hardly satisfied everyone.

“The bus is so crowded, it’s impossible to get on and get a seat. And I do not get in the very beginning or the very end of this route,” said Jeff Criddle, a regular rider from Jersey City. “The biggest problem that I have coming back is that buses do not show up at all.

Criddle cringed at the thought of American Dream workers trying to commute on NJ Transit buses to and from the shopping and entertainment complex. There will be an estimated 16,000 staffers by the time it’s fully up and running next March.

“They have no idea what kind of overcrowding exists now with these bus lines,” he said. “They do not accommodate commuters at all. And adding thousands and thousands of more people who are going to be trying to get to that mall to go work is going to cripple this bus line 100%.”

NJ Transit will also run buses every half-hour from the Secaucus Junction transportation hub over to the American Dream — for $2.25 a ride. But the agency will not provide regular train service on the Meadowlands spur, at least not for now, officials said.

How well this all works out is yet to be seen, of course. The complex will start opening to the public this month, but only the entertainment section — the Nickelodeon theme park and the skating rink will be available. As more opens and more people come, the challenges will only increase.

Another public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 7 in Hackensack.