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May   3

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Sue 'Em

Decamp2_2 Decamp's newest strategy in the commuter transportation wars: sue NJ Transit. The 136-year-old bus company is suing the state-owned train service for $36 million, claiming lost revenues past and future, and court proceedings got underway this week. From today's Ledger:

In what scholars said was an unusual legal argument, DeCamp is claiming that NJ Transit is luring away the bus company's riders, amounting to seizure of its property in violation of the "takings" clause of the Fifth Amendment. DeCamp is seeking $36 million from NJ Transit as compensation for current and future losses.

Philip Sellinger, DeCamp's attorney, said NJ Transit is entitled to compete fairly in the open market, but state and federal subsidies allow it to offer fares that a private business could never sustain without going out of business.

Of course, another strategy might be actually improving service, if the consistent comments of Baristanet readers is any indication.

Like Decamp or not, the case raises novel legal questions that are sure to be studied far afield from the 33 line.

Legal experts said the Fifth Amendment claim was a novel ar gument that could have relevance to other private transportation companies.

"That is a very novel approach, I'll give them that," said Penny Venetis, a professor of constitutional law at Rutgers University in Newark. "The question is whether they are constitutionally entitled to ridership."

May 3, 2006 in Buzz | Permalink


How appropriate that this story should surface on Mental Health Day.

Posted by: crank | May 3, 2006 9:39:31 AM

i'm a bi-transit, shuffling b/w DeCamp and NJT...frankly, if it wasn't so expensive, I'd rather take DeCamp than stand on Route 3 dodging truck debris.

Posted by: captainlou | May 3, 2006 9:51:08 AM

Hey, I have a novel idea: How about DeCamp improving its crappy service to get more riders. Duh!

Posted by: Miss Martta | May 3, 2006 9:54:16 AM

I get the sense that DeCamp is run by morons.

Posted by: lasermike026 | May 3, 2006 10:11:40 AM

I wonder how DeCamp's management replied to this query?

"In cross-examination, Little suggested the company had made no effort to study its ridership losses to find out whether people were abandoning the routes for reasons other than fares"

Posted by: Franklin | May 3, 2006 10:11:52 AM

Franklin, Laser: I honestly don't think they care a rat's patootie about customer service. If they did, they would make an effort to survey the population they serve to find out what needs fixin' and then they'd fix it. I've been commuting to NYC now for almost a decade. I have not seen anything like this happen in that time.

Posted by: Miss Martta | May 3, 2006 10:14:59 AM

Do you think even if they were awarded $36 million customer service would improve? They're suing NJ Transit because that's where the money is. If they could sue their riders, they probably would.

Posted by: glee | May 3, 2006 10:31:43 AM

We used to ride DeCamp when we lived in Caldwell - there wasn't much choice. By and large, our weekend trips in and out of PABT were relatively uneventful, but every now and then one of their drivers would be a complete ass-void. Makes you feel a little powerless, but I believe they are union drivers and truly don't give a big rat's kiester. It would be nice to see them all get thrown out on their butts. Probably they would all go to work for Jersey Transit and keep up their good work. Or maybe become Air Traffic Controllers; yeah, that's it, Air Traffic Controllers...

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | May 3, 2006 10:38:26 AM

Uh, DeCamp, hello? Have you thought of Midtown Direct? I bet you can trace your ridership decline to some time after the train service started. Reliable, no traffic jams, reasonably friendly conductors, no fumes...

Posted by: appletony | May 3, 2006 10:39:00 AM

Oops -- I just looked at the article. I thought it was a complaint about NJT buses.

Ha ha: running a train is a "taking" of the bus company's property (uh, the commuters are the property?). Sorry, DeCamp, you will lose. Maybe start a short-run service from towns without train stations to towns with?

Posted by: appletony | May 3, 2006 10:42:34 AM

" . . . but I believe they are union drivers and truly don't give a big rat's kiester."

Conan, I don't think they give a big rat's kiester either but I can't, in good conscience, equate that with being union. There are plenty of non-union ass-void employees out in the work force. I think if DeCamp emphasized customer service to their employees there might, and I say might, just be a better attitude. Then again, there are many in the service industries who appear to be misanthropes. Why they choose careers requiring a lot of human interaction is a mystery. Maybe they just like to suffer.

Posted by: glee | May 3, 2006 10:45:19 AM


You may be right. The schedule that is on the website is incorrect - how easy would that be to fix ?

Posted by: badd_patti | May 3, 2006 10:52:48 AM

I ride DeCamp only when I have to, or occasionally since there is at least one more late-night bus after the not-late-enough last NJT train.
There is one nice driver out of the whole lot of them. The rest are miserable and on some kind of power trip. And the lovely gentleman they have at Port Authority? He is exactly who I would assign to interact with my customers. That guy practically inspires me to violence.

Posted by: darren | May 3, 2006 10:52:57 AM

More than likely, glee, they just like to make us suffer. I threw in the union line without benefit of knowing how their contracts are structured, but my experience tells me that people who aren't too worried about how their customer relations skills affect their jobs or compensation can be as miserable to their customers as they want. This lawsuit tells you all you need to know about DeCamp's management, too. Arrogance begins at the top, I guess.

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | May 3, 2006 10:53:28 AM

ugh, leave it to Decamp to call the Waahhhhmbulance.

Posted by: efs | May 3, 2006 10:55:21 AM

I wouldn't put much hope in this litigation if I was DeCamp.

But, they have a glimmer of hope. NJT may have interfered with DeCamp's contractual franchise to haul passengers to NYC. NJT acknowledged that principle in a settlement with Lakeland buses in 2004.

NJT spent a few billion dollars of the taxpayers money to build Midtown Direct, which put Lakeland's Madison and Bernardsville bus services out of business.

My guess is Lakeland is a much smarter outfit than DeCamp, and went in with detailed comparisons, analysis, etc.

Posted by: Paul from OB | May 3, 2006 10:59:38 AM

Is NJ Transit prohibited from running weekend service on Midtown Direct because of an agreement w/DeCamp or because of protests over such service by Montclair residents, or both? I'd take the train into Manhattan on a Saturday w/pleasure. Whereas waiting for and taking one of DeCamp's weekend buses into Town is like waiting for paint to dry.

Posted by: glee | May 3, 2006 11:01:18 AM

I believe weekend train service is held up due to construction projects that are done on the weekends.

Posted by: appletony | May 3, 2006 11:04:06 AM

Last I heard, the weekend trains are being held up until the Newark rennovations are done. Look for weekend trains in 2008.

Posted by: George | May 3, 2006 11:12:01 AM

I just hope that if Decamp goes out of business, 1) it will happen after weekend service starts, and 2) Bloomfield will get a jitney down Broad like GR has down Ridgewood. That'd be better than Decamp anyway.

Posted by: solar-powered | May 3, 2006 11:18:18 AM

I tried to get to NYC one Saturday using DeCamp - but the bus never showed up. I called and DeCamp said the driver was out sick so no bus that day. As for my Yankee tickets I was told oh well.

If they want passengers then they need to actually show up and provide them with a service.

What a waste of our court system.

Posted by: hrhppg | May 3, 2006 11:28:48 AM

Not that I love Decamp, but how do all you train riders tolerate Penn Station?

Posted by: Backsore | May 3, 2006 11:31:41 AM

LOL, Backsore -- I commuted from Westchester, then Connecticut, for almost a decade on the old NYNH&HRR (now MetroNorth). I recall an article about commuting in New York Magazine from the late 60's that had a great line: "After three or four years of commuting into New York you don't even realize it when you begin to go nuts." True. The frustrations of commuting may lead to serious psychological disorders - kind of a mass transit road rage; thank God there were bar cars, although not in the mornings! :)

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | May 3, 2006 11:39:48 AM

The payoff with Penn Station is a train that provides a comfortable ride w/generally friendly conductors. As far as commuting hubs, Port Authority and Penn Station are on equal footing w/me. Neither has enough comfortable seating for waiting passengers. The NJ Transit area of Penn Station attempts to be more aesthetically pleasing and certainly has P.A. beat. But overall, the two hubs aren't much different.

Posted by: glee | May 3, 2006 11:43:31 AM

alas, we have til 2010 to look forward to the brand new Moynihan Station:


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