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SAFETY FIRST: Tow 16 Jitneys in Inspection Blitz

By MICHAELANGELO CONTE JERSEY JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

It was commuter chaos in the Jersey City Heights yesterday morning when dozens of commuter vans pulled over at an inspection checkpoint were impounded for safety violations.

Passengers on the impounded vehicles waited for more vans or got on NJ Transit buses, said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward De Fazio, whose office has been coordinating a series of surprise inspections.

Officials stopped the vans at Summit and Jefferson avenues and waved them onto Jefferson, where they queued up in a line as much as 18 vans long awaiting their turn at a state Department of Transportation mobile inspection station.

About a dozen vans had been inspected by 10:30 a.m. and 11 of them were taken out of service and towed away, officials said.

In all, 21 vans were stopped and 16 of them were towed, De Fazio said. State Motor Vehicle Commission workers issued citations for 109 safety violations, Jersey City Police wrote 26 tickets and five drivers were issued summonses for not being properly licensed, De Fazio said.

"They are supposed to do it," said Manny Suarrez, who wasn't angry after his Fuji Lines van was impounded for a defective brake line. "If it's minor, they let you go. If it could be dangerous and you can't carry passengers, ." said Suarrez, trailing off as more tow trucks arrived.

Suarrez said tow truck operators charge as much as $800 for an impounded van. He said he feels the current system overly inconveniences passengers. He suggested that inspectors show up at random garages in the morning and inspect vans before they leave.
De Fazio said having surprise inspections at garages might be a problem.

"This is more random," the prosecutor said, adding: "Going to the garages would not address driver violations and moving violations. There is a level of inconvenience, but the public safety is our primary concern."

NJ Transit buses were not pulled over. DeFazio said they already undergo far more rigorous inspections than do the jitneys.

While Suarrez waited to have his vehicle taken away a tow truck arrived and he ran over to ask how much the tow would cost. He was told it would be $600.

"The city makes the prices," said a Jack's Towing driver as he pulled up and parked on Jefferson near Central Avenue. During the inspections it appeared that word spread among drivers and vans on the roadways were scarce.

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