On Monday, residents of West Orange and Livingston packed into Livingston’s Town Hall to discuss their concerns with the “77 bus” that runs from West Orange to New York City.
The meeting derived from an online petition, signed by almost 200 commuters, which expressed concerns with various factors of the Community Coach bus route. Riders had complaints ranging from the attitude of drivers to the condition of the buses.
The petition was delivered to John Nguyen, a general manager at Community Coach, who also attended the meeting so that he could address the frustrated riders.
“Having grown up in town, I definitely understand the importance of the ‘77’,” Livingston Mayor Stephen Santola told the residents at the meeting.
Joining Santola at the town hall meeting was West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, and members of both towns’ councils.
“As soon as we get any sort of inquiry from Mayor Santola or Mayor Parisi, we’re on it,” said Jasey. “We know that you have great people running your towns, so if there is a problem that even they can’t handle and there is reason for state involvement, we are more than happy to be here.”
One of the concerns on the petition was the tardiness of the bus. Some of the petitioners described the route as “erratic” and “continually late.”
According to Mary Theroux, Jasey’s Chief of Staff, Community Coach’s reasoning for the bus’ lateness was congestion in the Lincoln Tunnel; a reasoning which brought laughter from the crowd.
“The whole reasoning about traffic is amazing, because somehow it only affects the 77 bus,” exclaimed one resident.
Another concern was condition of the bus. The buses were described as “unsafe” and “in lousy shape.” One resident asked the crowd to raise their hands if they were ever on a bus that broke down. Nearly every hand in the room went up.
One resident commented that the buses have been in such bad shape for so long, that he can “tell you which seats are broken on each individual bus.”
According to Nguyen, riders should expect to deal with these conditions for a few more years, as he says the buses aren’t scheduled to be replaced until 2014.
Some other complaints addressed by the riders were the attitudes of the drivers and dispatcher, fare increases and communication from the company when lines are closed down.
Nguyen addressed the crowd of disgruntled riders at the end of the meeting to try to ease some fears.
“What you are saying, we hear loud and clear,” Nguyen said at the end of the meeting.