So you just moved to Hudson County or you’re a lucky one who has never had to ride a bus in your life, chances are you’ve seen the jitneys (mini buses) going around. If you’ve ever taken NJ Transit there’s a good chance a jitney driver has stopped for you along their same routes and you’ve peered inside, too scared to climb, politely declining. Questions flood your mind: Is this safe? Is this even legal? Did I just miss my chance to get to where I’m going faster for a lower price? The answers are: yes, yes, and yes.
Hudson County jitneys are often overlooked as one of the more affordable forms of transportation, but they’re the main traffic system along some corridors (Bergenline, we’re looking at you!).
The Upsides and the Downside
It can be a bit overwhelming for new commuters, but you should absolutely be taking advantage of them. What are those advantages? For one, they run more often than some NJ Transit routes (at a ratio of 2-to-1 or even 3-to-1 over some lines!); to sweeten the pot fares are slightly lower*, you don’t need exact change and you don’t have to stand; some drivers will run a little earlier or later than NJ Transit or even their own advertised hours (approximately 6 a.m. through 8 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. on weekends).
The downside? There’s no time table, you just stand at the stop and wait for one to run; but odds are you won’t have to wait long, as they typically run every 5-10 minutes. Even the slowest ones run every 15 minutes or so, much faster than NJ Transit’s 20-40 minute average wait times. In addition, there’s no telling if their routes will be running during heavy snow or other inclement-weather periods. Oh, and if you don’t often carry cash on you, then, unlike NJ Transit, you can’t pay online or via app.
Where to Catch Them
Most jitney routes are so convenient because they follow NJ Transit’s most popular routes and somewhat similar times.
190- Paterson to New York
171- Paterson to New York
125- Jersey City to New York
128- North Bergen to New York
159- Fort Lee to New York
10- Bayonne to Jersey City
84- Jersey City to North Bergen
88- Jersey City to North Bergen
It’s also no surprise that they often follow some of the main roads:
Tip: At the Port Authority, the electronic departure boards have rough estimates of the schedule for the Paterson and Kennedy Boulevard jitneys.
— Jersey Digs
Wait at the bus stop where you would meet NJ Transit buses, and hold out or waive your hand at the jitney when you see it coming. The route o r destination will be displayed on the front (“Bergenline” “55 New York”, etc). When in doubt, you can always tell the driver your destination or ask other passengers waiting at the bus stop (who most often know the routes pretty well).
The fare is a little lower than NJ Transit, but it can vary by destination; it’s best to ask the driver when you board. Be advised there are no monthly passes and no discounts for kids or seniors. Hold on to your money, you pay when you get off (unless you’re boarding at Gate 55 in Port Authority).
More often than not, there are no bells to ring, when you’re a stop away just let the driver know. Don’t feel self-conscious about the volume of your voice, you’ll notice most everyone says loudly: “next stop” unless it’s the very last stop.
Remember you pay when you get off, here’s where the driver can break some change for you.
Jitneys are privately owned, commercial vehicles overseen by the NJ MCV and Department of transportation, and even though they are competitors of NJ Transit the business model is not prohibited.
According to Jersey Digs:
Jitneys have to meet requirements such as vehicle maintenance, proper insurance, commercial drivers’ licenses, drug tests, and hours-of-service limits for drivers.
That being said, as in many regulated industries, universal compliance is not guaranteed.
Unlike NJ Transit though, drivers are often independent: renting a bus for the day and taking the fares home as their pay; other drivers own their jitneys which is why depending on which route you’re traveling they can be the small ones or even full-length ones; some of them even go outside of Hudson County into neighboring towns.
Jitneys are also known as shuttle buses, Spanish buses, Immi buses, or simply “la guagua“.
*PS: If you commute to NYC often, you can buy “tickets” to the jitneys (“Gate 55”) at one of the Port Authority windows for a slightly lower price. Notice these only work for jitneys to and from inside Port Authority’s Gate 55.
Parts of this post have been adapted from: Jersey Digs and JerseyJitneys.info