HOBOKEN - Lawmakers are taking a closer look at regulations surrounding jitney buses after an accident in July that took the life of a baby girl in her stroller.
The state Assembly Transportation Committee gathered at Steven's Institute to listen to testimony and get more details about the rules for jitney buses. The committee hopes to increase safety surrounding the buses.
Angelie Paredes was killed in a chain-reaction accident in West New York back in July.
Authorities say a bus veered off a street and struck a light pole, which fell onto the stroller and killed the 8-month-old girl. The driver is accused of using a cellphone at the time.
Committee members argued that the "jitneys" that operate along Bergenline Avenue where the infant was killed are actually buses by definition, since they carry 25-30 passengers. As such, the committee says, they should follow federal safety guidelines.
"It's not acceptable in the name of public convenience to allow an unregulated industry to operate as recklessly as this industry does," says Assemblyman John Wisniewski .
Assemblyman Ruben Ramos believes all bus drivers should have commercial driver's licenses. "Here, they didn't have any CDL licenses, it's not uniform across the board," he says.
Assemblyman Charles Mainor introduced Assembly bill 3993 to increase insurance requirements, and force jitney bus drivers to have commercial drivers licenses and get drug tested.
Elvin Dominici represents the drivers who say the problem is that there are too many buses on the road. The drivers rent the buses for $110 a day. After gas, they keep what they earn, which creates a race on the roads for passengers. "What that creates is chaos, because everybody wants to make a profit," Dominici says. "Everybody rushes to go to the next passenger."
This is just the first of many public hearings to be held on the bus lines. The final bill is likely to include fines for drivers and companies who don't keep to the new regulations.