Bus terminal remains hub of Lakewood transit
BY JOYCE BLAY
LAKEWOOD — All roads do not lead to Lakewood, but all public transportation leaves from its bus terminal.
Half a century since passenger rail service stopped running in Lakewood, its bus terminal remains the only place where travelers can take public transportation into and out of the township.
Built in 1950 by the Lincoln Stages Bus Co., which began operations in 1931, the bus terminal is at the southwest corner of First Street and Lexington Avenue. Passengers boarded buses there that were bound for New York City or Atlantic City.
In later years, a large maintenance garage was added to the south end of the building.
After Lincoln Transit went out of business in the mid-1980s, its routes and the terminal were acquired by NJ Transit, which began operations in 1979.
According to a fact sheet provided by NJ Transit, 217 trips a day are made into and out of the Lakewood bus terminal by four separate bus routes that provide service to northern New Jersey and New York City.
In January 1989, NJ Transit completed a half-million dollar renovation of the facility, which has 92 parking spaces. Additional renovations were performed this year as well.
Growth has come hand in hand with an increase in crime. To stem the latter, Lakewood police and NJ Transit police conducted a joint sweep of the bus terminal and its grounds on Nov. 9. Police arrested four suspects who were accused of crimes that included possession of marijuana, non-payment of child support, an outstanding warrant for contempt of court, and multiple traffic warrants.
According to Lakewood Police Depart-ment spokeswoman Sgt. Maureen Mc-Gilloway, the operation was all in a day’s work.
“We know it’s an area where a lot of people are moving through,” McGilloway said. “[Police] make frequent drive-throughs, get out and walk around and speak to people to let them know we’re there.”
McGilloway said that even before homeland security became a national concern following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Lakewood police made frequent business checks of individuals on the bus terminal’s grounds.
McGilloway said that in 2000, there were 824 business checks, as homeland security checks were then called. By the end of 2001, that number rose to 1,146 business checks. At the end of 2002, 1,335 business checks had been reported.
In 2003 that number began to drop, with 1,099 business checks recorded. In 2004, 777 business checks were made.
In July 2005, business checks were separated from homeland security checks for the first time, McGilloway said. By the end of the year, 538 business checks were reported along with 596 homeland security checks.
McGilloway said that despite the separation of business checks from homeland security checks, the number of calls for service has continued to rise in response to other complaints. She said there were 1,250 calls for service to the bus terminal in 2000, 1,576 calls for service in 2001, and by 2005, there were 1,702 calls for service.
From 2004-2005, the total number of calls for service rose by 42 percent, she said.
Despite an increased focus by federal and state authorities on suspected terrorism, McGilloway said that quality of life crimes continue to be the predominant criminal activity reported at the bus terminal.
“In the past month there were five service calls [that] were mostly disturbances, [with] intoxicated parties arguing,” she said. “There were multiple homeland security checks, one first aid call, one motor vehicle stop, and one transit bus on fire. The major problem is intoxication [since people] will go inside the terminal during the cold weather.”
McGilloway offered the following advice for holiday travelers using bus service at the terminal:
• Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings, particularly when using a cell phone.
• Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Use a credit or debit card instead. If a credit card or a debit card is lost, it can be canceled and replaced.
• Park in a well-lighted area.
• Avoid having your hands full when walking to your car. If possible, use a shopping cart to carry gifts or possessions so your hands are free.
• Always shop or travel in familiar surroundings whenever possible so you are not distracted if lost.
• If you need to walk through a parking lot to get to your car, keep your keys splayed between your fingers.
• When making a purchase in a store, take out only the cash you need, not what you are carrying.
“Property is property and property can be replaced,” McGilloway said. “Your greatest concern should be for your safety.”