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New Bus Ferries Staten Islanders

Staten Island -

Angela Huggins works in Staten Island, but lives in Jersey City, N.J. For her, commuting to work was a hassle.

The 47-year-old used to take the Journal Square-World Trade Center PATH train into Manhattan, then the 1 train to the Staten Island ferry terminal, followed by the ferry to Staten Island, where she would finally take a bus to her job.

But thanks to the new S89 bus route, which connects Staten Island and Bayonne, N.J., via the Bayonne Bridge, Huggins’ commute is now 20 minutes shorter.

“I love it,” she said while riding the bus home one warm, late October evening, a month after the S89′s debut. “This bus is like a savior.”

The S89, the first interstate bus route run by New York City Transit, connects Eltingville, Staten Island, with the 34th Street Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station in Bayonne. It was created to improve Staten Island transportation and provide access to jobs in Jersey City and Hoboken.

“This service will benefit the region by improving access to the growing job market along the Hudson waterfront and by giving Hudson County residents a new commuting option for reaching Staten Island,” said Richard Sarles, NJ TRANSIT executive director, in an NYCT press release.

The S89 is a limited-stop bus, making only 15 stops in the direction of Bayonne and 14 toward Staten Island. It only runs during morning and evening rush hours, from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Passengers use their MetroCards to board the bus, but for now have to pay a separate fare for the light rail. A one-way ticket costs $1.90.

Richmond Avenue on the island and Route 440 in New Jersey are the main streets serviced. Along the route, stops include the Eltingville Staten Island railway station, Eltingville Transit Center and Staten Island Mall.

The idea for the route has been around for a couple of years, said Charles Seaton, an NYCT spokesman.

The night Huggins took the bus was an average day. The 12.5-mile route was quiet and started at the intersection of Hylan Boulevard and Richmond Avenue. The first bus was scheduled to leave at 3:55 p.m.

William Fodor, a retired railroad worker from Tottenville, waited for the S89. He said he was curious to “see what the hell it’s like.”

The bus arrived at 3:59 p.m. and left a minute later. Winding through mostly residential Richmond Avenue, the bus picked up a woman, its second passenger, near the Staten Island Railway station. The bus again turned into a residential area.

Turning left on Arthur Kill Road, the bus pulled into the Transit Center, a major bus stop.

Jack Wheeler, the driver, slowed down. “Nobody?” he said to no one in particular. He pulled out and onto Richmond Avenue.

Wheeler, a 21-year veteran of the Yukon Depot, which operates the S89, said the bus was a good route because of little traffic. He said it was good for people working in St. George, which is in northern Staten Island, or at the mall because before people went roundabout.

After several more stops, Wheeler announced Walker Street was the last Staten Island stop. Wheeler got onto Route 440 and went over the gray, steel-arched Bayonne Bridge.

Coming off the bridge, 440 turned from a highway to a street in an industrial area. Soon after passing Ninth Street, the bus reached 34th Street. Wheeler pulled into the light rail station parking lot, the last and only New Jersey stop, at 4:48 p.m. The trip took about 50 minutes.

A light rail train, looking like a white bullet, passed by. Huggins said the train goes right by her house, and got off the bus.

An S89 in front of Wheeler pulled out at 4:50 p.m. with about 20 people on board, so his was the last bus out of Bayonne.

Wheeler bid on the route because it was new. He wanted a challenge. He said other drivers did not bid because they did not know what to expect.

During the ride back, passengers got off little by little. The major stop was the Transit Center. Continuing south, all but one got off at the Staten Island Railway station.

The S89 swooped into the terminal at 5:55 p.m., before the sun finished setting.