What should have been a quick trip to the mall turned into a hellish nightmare for a paralyzed Bergenfield mom.
Kathy Moore -- who is trying to raise money to buy herself a handicap accessible van -- ended up riding her electric wheelchair nearly two miles home in the cold Saturday due to problems with NJ Transit buses.
Moore became paralyzed nearly 20 years ago after surviving a nearly-deadly stabbing by her ex-husband in Hackensack.
She raised both of her sons alone and yearns to live an independent life -- working, volunteering and running errands.
The public transportation system has not made things easy, she says.
"I want to make sure people are aware of the aggravation people like me go through because buses are not showing up and the lifts are not working," Moore told Daily Voice.
"I wish someone would follow me and see what I go through.
Moore formerly of Teaneck says last Saturday was among the worst days of her life.
The hell began around 1:20 p.m., when the 186 NJ Transit bus showed up to the Teaneck Road Walgreens with a broken lift. Moore instead took the 756 to the Bergen Town Center in Paramus.
The elevator there was out of service, so she rode her wheelchair up Route 4 and along Forest Avenue to the mall. The construction made Moore's trip just to get inside the mall even longer.
Once she finished shopping, she waited for the 753, currently chartered by Saddle River Tours for NJ Transit.
The 753 would have taken her to the Teaneck Armory, right around the corner from Moore's house.
The first bus didn't show up. Neither did the second.
Saddle River Tours President Jim Murphy said the buses were experiencing mechanical issues.
"We've had some challenges with regard to buses received from the previous operator (Coach USA) that we're trying to work through," Murphy said.
"Only about a third of the buses are working buses because of maintenance neglect."
Coach USA Director Corporate Affairs (North America) Sean Hughes said when the company was outbid by Saaddle River Tours for the NJ Transit contract last month. At that time, all of the buses were authorized for sign-off to Saddle River Tours by NJ Transit inspectors.
Of the 34 buses, there was one bus still experiencing mechanical problems in the engine.
"That bus was then fixed, monitored and reviewed by NJ Transit," Hughes said, "and transferred to Saddle River Tours."
While waiting for the 753 bus around 5:30 p.m. still at the mall, Moore reached out to Access Link, NJ Transit's carrier service for people with disabilities.
Although Access Link is appointment-based, Moore figured she would try her luck.
"They told me they wouldn't be able to send a bus until 7:15 p.m.," she said. "If I knew what I was about to go through I would have just waited."
Moore ended up taking the 168 to the Hackensack Bus Terminal and the 780 to Englewood.
When she arrived at Palisade Avenue ready to go home, the same 186 bus with the broken lift showed up.
"The driver looked at me and right then I knew she wasn't even going to stop. She just kept going," Moore said.
"I won't forget that one. Right then and there I just lost it. I just cried."
NJ Transit Spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said the company would be looking into the matter thoroughly.
Moore's hands were freezing as she waited in shock at The Monument in Englewood.
Her wheelchair was running out of battery. But Moore was desperate to get home.
"I only had two cells left on my battery, which means I'm in trouble," she said.
Moore rode her wheelchair all the way up Palisade Avenue to Rensselaer Road -- up to Ward Plaza, Liberty Road, Ivy Lane and finally home on Howard Drive (more than 1.5 miles -- SEE MAP ABOVE).
"Through a miracle, four hours later I got home with no more cells on my battery," Moore said. "I made it through the front door of my apartment. My fingers were hurting so badly -- burning."
Moore says it's up to her to address the issue.
"If I hadn't been the woman I am, I don't think I would have had the determination to actually do what I do in this wheelchair," she said.
"I know that my sons wanted me to be strong, and I just had to because I didn't want them to see a weak mom."
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