TRENTON >> Bedbugs are supposedly receiving free fares on New Jersey Transit buses in the capital city.
An employee tells The Trentonian that many of the NJ Transit buses that operate in the Mercer County area are infested. Backing up the claim, another employee provided two photos of what appear to be the blood-sucking parasites in recent days on the recognizable orange, purple and blue pattern fabric seats on the buses.
Both employees remained anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“All the buses that you see in Trenton are infested,” one NJ Transit worker alleged. “And now I just brought home bedbugs from working on these damn buses.”
The employee claimed to spend $700 treating his house after he brought home the hitchhikers from work.
“I had to wash every article of clothing, every piece of bedding, throw certain things away, an exterminator sprayed, and I had to buy a special bedspread for my box spring, mattress and pillows,” the worker described of the painstaking process to get rid of the bugs.
The employee said he is not alone. At least 15 other employees, such as maintenance workers, bus drivers and foremen, have brought the critters home, the employee alleged.
“The company won’t do nothing, the union won’t do nothing,” the employee claims. “Everybody is scared to speak up.”
In a statement, a NJ Transit spokeswoman said the agency has “no knowledge of any bedbug problem” on the buses.
“NJ Transit buses are treated regularly by a pesticide vendor,” spokeswoman Lisa Torbic said Wednesday in an email. “If there are signs or complaints of bedbugs being present, the bus is immediately removed from service and treated by the vendor.”
Employees contend the regular treatments do not combat bedbugs, and when a bedbug is found, only the affected bus is treated and not the whole fleet. If an employee finds a bedbug on a bus, he or she is to put the parasite in a jar and bring it to the foreman, workers claim.
Trenton has been a hotbed of bedbugs in recent months.
The Trentonian recently reported three state office buildings were infested with the parasites, and the Trenton welfare office is dealing with an ongoing issue of bedbugs.
The Mercer County Board of Social Services welfare office in Trenton has went to the extreme of making infected employees wipe down with dryer sheets, even though there is no scientific proof if that method works.
NJ Transit operates roughly 70 buses in the Mercer County region.
“The capital city is infested with these damn things and now everybody is bringing them home,” the NJ Transit worker said. “And all the people that ride these buses for state jobs, I would figure this is contributing to the problem.”
The worker says there is a solution that NJ Transit started but did not complete for all the buses to remedy the bedbug problem. One bus was refitted with blue hard plastic seats after numerous bedbug complaints on the vehicle. Bedbugs predominantly live on fabric surfaces.
“They were supposed to do all the vehicles like that and then they just stopped,” the worker said of the improvements that occurred on the one bus two years ago. “Trenton is going through an epidemic right now with bedbugs, you would think they would want every bus with that.”
Like the dryer sheets method, NJ Transit implied the plastic seats will do little.
“The plastic covers on seats that you mentioned are not a treatment option for a bedbug problem,” the NJ Transit spokeswoman said.