In what is probably not mere coincidence, census data reveal that Sussex County has some of the worst work commutes in New Jersey, along with the highest rate of people fleeing their towns.
According to the U.S. Census, Vernon, which tops the state in population loss, also has the fifth-longest commute to work (tracked at 42.3 minutes, which apparently doesn’t take into account traffic on Rtes. 80, 15 or 23 at almost any time of day). Hardyston (41.7 minutes) and Sparta (40.7) also make the Top 10.
Despite decades of studies, plans and promises, public transportation in Sussex County remains spotty and ineffective. Twenty-nine thousand residents work within the county, but those transportation services that exist mostly funnel workers to transportation hubs that offer access to New York City—where fewer than 2,000 of the county’s residents work.
The bulk of the county’s commuters work in Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties, and most of them have to drive to get their. A search for NJ Transit transportation from Sparta to Morristown, for example, results in having to travel at least 6.6 miles just to get to a connection; there is limited private bus service from Sparta to Parsippany; Skylands Transit will take residents to and from Newton Park and Ride, but only with 48 hours notice, and after 6 p.m., which is early for most workers to be back in Sussex County, you’re on your own.
Lack of public transportation and long commutes are a major reason young families especially are declining to move to the county—parents want to spend time with their children, not sitting in their cars for hours a day—and others are moving out.
It’s well past the time when the penny-wise, pound-foolish Republicans who run Sussex County begin to understand that investment in accessible and reliable public transportation is vital to the future economic health of the area.