DeCamp Bus Driver McGrumplesteen At Your Service

By Anthony Buccino

Three sides of the Commuter's Coins

NY Times, March 2023: DeCamp to End Commuter Bus Service to New York City From New Jersey

Standing in the wet snow as more wet snow falls on our head, we decided to take the next bus that came along and it turned out to be the DeCamp #8412 driven by the ever so delightful driver Grumpy McGrumplesteen. In one moment aboard that bus, we already knew that when we got off in New York, our day was going to be much, much better than this ride.

This Seat Taken? Notes of a Hapless Commuter by Anthony Buccino

Give us a few moments to gather our notes and check back in a while.

We stood at one of those rare bus stops shared by NJ Transit and DeCamp, where either bus line will pick you up with some exceptions some times.

I boarded the DeCamp and reached for the receipt after I handed the driver my ticket.

That's how we do it on NJ Transit. I show the driver my monthly pass and take the ticket as a receipt. It will help later should we leave something on the bus and need to track it down. The NJ Transit receipt has the bus number and time. With that info, you can find out if whatever you left on the bus was turned in. Well, it helps to have that receipt, but it it's not totally necessary.

But the DeCamp driver yelled at me not to touch that long slip of paper leading out of the ticket box. "That's my work!" He said, as he was writing on a clipboard.

Ha. I laughed. "Ah, you're writing love notes on your computer," I kidded.

"Did you give me cash?" He grumbled as I headed to find a seat.

"Ask the driver for a receipt," he growled as I sat in the first of three broken seats near the back of the bus.

DeCamp Bus Lines, Tickets to NYC, June 2009 © A Buccino

We wonder what he was writing on that clipboard. Does he need to write a full description of every passenger that boards? Was he writing of the shock of seeing us wave him to a stop rather than ignoring him completely?

By the time we found a decent seat, with a non-broken reclining position, the driver was still grumbling, but thankfully out of hearing range.

This first impression of a pensive ride through scenic Nutley on DeCamp seemed a sign to never do this again except in an extreme emergency.

I looked around at the bus. Inside it's virtually the same as an NJ Transit bus, right down to the preponderance of seats with broken reclining positions.

DeCamp buses have one added sign we don't see on NJ Transit buses, and that's the cell phone use prohibited sign. This bus had a holder for the driver's name plate, but the holder was empty. And we noticed the passenger counter sign -- similar but smaller than on NJ Transit -- was not working at all, if they ever do.

As the bus filled up, two passengers seated in front of me had their cell phones in use. I wasn't going to turn them in. Who'd want to hear driver Grumpy McGrumplesteen moan about having to fill out more paperwork on his clipboard.

Welcoming DeCamp Riders To NJ Transit

By Anthony Buccino

DeCamp bus riders, you may notice a few differences between NJ Transit and your usual seamless commute. For one, we commuters can use our cell phones on NJT buses. For another, NJT buses may seem old, dingy and worn, but, hey, they mostly always get us where we're going.

Do Not Operate Clever Device, NJ Transit, © A Buccino

As you probably do the same, we NJT commuters usually take the same bus from the same bus stop every day at the same time. So, whatever you do, don't sit in our regular seat. If you do, it may explain the malocchio you earn by altering our feng shui and throwing off our entire day.

Coming home at night through the Port Authority Bus Terminal, you may notice NJT buses don't pull up on an angle for your boarding pleasure. The numbers over the boarding doors, like DeCamp, are used as a suggestion for where the line might start. Like DeCamp, you have to ask someone who appears to be at the end of a line which bus the front of the line will board.

Well, no one can say for sure when the DeCamp strike will end, but you'll get used to the new inconvenience as well as the lower prices soon enough. And speaking of travel costs, yes, NJ Transit is subsidized by the state, that's why it generally costs less to travel than the privately-owned bus lines.

You may have a chance to buy a monthly NJ Transit bus pass for September. The buying period is a few days before the end of the month and a few days after. DeCamp, as you probably know, doesn't sell a monthly pass, and the short-term discount tickets have a rather brief use-by date.

Again, the usual, hapless commuters from the bumpy buses of NJ Transit welcome our fellow travelers. Sit back, relax, no eating or drinking, chat away on your cell phone, read your newspaper, your Kindle, or listen to your own drummer, it may be a long strike. We'll get there when we get there.

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

By Anthony Buccino

We haven't yet boarded a DeCamp bus for our new commute to New York and already our heads are spinning. So spoiled, we'd gotten using a monthly pass with NJ Transit for eight years, and now, DeCamp sells single fare tickets, just like NJ Transit, but for the same commute, DeCamp is a simple handover the fin and you're in. NJT is only $4.40.

DeCamp Bus Lines, Timetable, Sept 2018, © A BuccinoTraveling from the northwest corner of Nutley to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, the routes are virtually the same, but they are different. Now the DeCamp 10-trip pack is $45.50 and it's good for 30 days. And the 10-trip NJT is discounted at $34.50 and it's good for 20 days. NJT says its 10-day non discounted tickets are good until used.

NJT offers a monthly bus pass that's good for all the days in the calendar month. You might think that's obvious, but if you buy a July pass at the end of June, you'll still need a June ticket to ride in June.

DeCamp has a 40-trip package that's good for a number of days (I can't remember, maybe 60 days, it doesn't say on their web site. (** A speedy reply from DeCamp via Blackberry: Ten good for thirty days from date of purchase; forty equals sixty days.**)

The other big difference between the transit lines is the price for the long term ticket. DeCamp is an independently owned and operated bus line that's been in service for almost 140 years.

(Disclosures: Years ago I visited my retired Uncle Bim in Florida and visiting him at the same time was as descendant of the DeCamp bus family. I don't remember her name or whether or not somehow through my late uncle I might be related to that woman.

On the other hand, I once profiled Myron "Mike" Shevell and his company, Mike is now vice chairman at NJT. We haven't spoken in years. However, I would invite any of the board members to ride the Newark City Subway at rush hour and catch a bus to somewhere ... just to see how the hapless commuters do it.)

You could get more trips out of a monthly pass versus a 40-trip pass. But, hey, that's the way it is. An NJT monthly pass for this route is $122, while a 40-trip packet on DeCamp is $170.

If we caught the NJT Route 192 express in Clifton, there's a park and ride, but you have to pay to park so that could change the math. Catching a Route 192 local could solve the parking problem, but it takes the long road through Lyndhurst and other drive-by places along Route 3.

The optional DeCamp buses, Route 33 and Route 88, would hop on Route 3 as soon as I boarded, and then my stop would be the first stop after leaving Route 3 in the evening. That could be a much quicker ride in the long run, depending on the highway traffic. Most of the time those buses are standing room only by the time they get to the last stop, mine, before hopping on the highway.

A quick look at the calendar shows that there are two more June days left in this week's commute. Since my monthly NJT pass wouldn't work, I decided to try the DeCamp trip for two days (four tickets @ $5 = $20), instead of the single NJT option (four tickets @$4.40 = 17.60).

We shall see. Perhaps the DeCamp time-saving convenience will turn out to be worth the added cost.

First published on NJ.Com NJVoices. 

Adapted from: This Seat Taken? Notes of a Hapless Commuter

Voices on the bus, train, subway, sidewalk and in my head  by Anthony BuccinoVoices on the Bus, train, subway, sidewalk and in my head

Verse  about commuting in Northern New Jersey. Feel the rhythm of the rails as you travel the last days of the Newark City Subway, or the PATH, and be relieved you are not present to hear the Preacher Man or Mr. Tourette's but do listen for the noise above the hum of the wheels and turn your ear to the voices on the bus, train or standing nearby on the platform.