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Riders ready to throw company under the bus

By AMY SARA CLARK JERSEY JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith along with a panel of elected officials addresses the concerns of the crowd. Outrage and frustration over canceled bus lines turned to talk of a boycott of Red & Tan buses after more than 100 people crowded into Monumental Baptist Church for a block association meeting Monday night.

The No. 16 was canceled this week, on the heels of cancellation of the Nos. 3 and 5 in September. The No. 99 is expected to stop running in 30 days, while the No. 4 has three months before it's expected to be discontinued.

Coach USA, which owns the Red & Tan Hudson County lines, has cited rising fuel and insurance costs and low ridership for the cancellation of the lines, but riders say there would be plenty of ridership if the buses were reliable.

Margie Mccord, 58, has been walking 30 minutes each way to the Journal Square PATH for months because she got sick of waiting for buses that never came. She said she's waited 90 minutes for the No. 99 and more than an hour for the No. 4.

"I don't care what you get, but we need something," Mccord said to the numerous city and state politicians at the meeting. "Whatever you have to do, do it."

Councilman Steve Lipski suggested that the $1.5 million the city had offered to Greenville Hospital be used to hire a "transportation czar" who would coordinate and lobby for transportation improvements for the entire city.

Ward F Councilwoman Viola Richardson brought up the possibility of riders taking more severe action. "I'm personally ready to boycott them."

Her remark received spirited applause, but after the meeting, riders said they had mixed feelings. While some said they would do whatever it takes, others said it might be too difficult for some.

"It would affect a lot of people in different ways. It might be hard to do," said rider Barbara Wilson.

A few Greenville residents noted the irony that they've lost both a post office and the bus they need to get to the next closest post office.

Several attendees said they felt Greenville was being unfairly targeted by Coach USA, noting that there are plenty of buses on the No. 10 line, which connects Journal Square with Bayonne.

"This is just economic segregation," said Angela Felder, a teacher's assistant.

Red & Tan officials vehemently deny the claim. "What it has to do with is economics, passenger counts and rising costs," said Red & Tan District General Manager John Emberson.

Red & Tan did not send a representative to the meeting, despite confirming that it would. Emberson said the representative was "tied up in reinstituting the 99 line and making sure service levels were done satisfactorily."

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy said his office has been meeting with NJ Transit to work out alternative service for the canceled lines. The mayor has also approached New York and New Jersey transportation officials.

In the meantime, the mayor's office asked riders to register detailed complaints concerning Red & Tan's service online at jerseycitynj.gov (click on Online Help Center), by phone at (201) 547-4900 or by mail at City of Jersey City, 280 Grove St., Jersey City, NJ 07302.

In addition, some residents are circulating petitions and a follow-up meeting is scheduled for Jan. 28 at Monumental Baptist Church at 7 p.m.

AMY SARA CLARK can be reached at (201) 217-2500.

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