The Weekend Train: Way Off-Peak

Until just about a year ago, residents along the Montclair-Boonton NJ Transit line who wanted to get into the city on weekends had 3 options:
1) Take the bus; 2) Take the car; 3) Skip it.

In November 2009, NJT began running very limited service as far as Bay Street, but even that requires switching at Newark Broad if you don’t want to end up in Hoboken.

Why is it so hard to get from the middle of Baristaville to the heart of the NY-Metro region? According to NJT spokesman Dan Stessel, “Historically, there had been community opposition to weekend service on the Montclair Line,” he said. “To put it another way, the interest in weekend service on the Montclair Line is a relatively new phenomenon.”

A look at the available statistics on passenger demand among the major train routes places Montclair-Boonton in second-to-last place, just behind the Pascack Valley line with fewer than a million passenger trips in the second quarter of 2010 (as compared with 3.6 million for the Morris & Essex line).

But these data suggest a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario: Does the fact that people don’t want to ride the Montclair-Boonton line on weekends lead to the lack of service, or does the lack of service keep people away from the train? “I welcome that NJT has started to provide some means of getting in via train on the weekends, but it’s not enough,” says Glen Ridge resident Ted Bongiovanni. “I’d prefer to take the train in, but when they’re only running every couple of hours we find ourselves driving into NYC.”

Has the traditional community opposition to trains running through Montclair on weekends obscured the voices of people like Ted? Or has the past year’s partial weekend service whetted local appetites to trade a bit of traffic and noise for an upgrade in transit convenience? Take our poll and tell us what you would like to see in the near future from the folks who draw up NJ Transit’s schedules.

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  1. Having lived in Summit for almost 2 years, I really enjoyed the ability to take the train into the city on the weekends with no weird schedule or having to switch trains.

    Now if I want to go in on the weekends, I have to drive to Bay Street (I usually walk to Walnut Street for my weekday commute), and switch trains at Newark. A direct shot would be a heck of a lot more convenient.

  2. jerseygurl, I hear you. My biggest wish is for a train in between the 7:41 and the 8:18 from Walnut. 8:18 is consistently late, tho today it was actually a double-decker *and* a couple of minutes early into NYP, which was shocking on both counts.

    That probably means that something is going to go wrong and the evening commute is going to suck.

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  4. For those who want more train service, why doesn’t someone get ridership data from DeCamp and see how many folks use that service on weekends? Seems to me that all weekend Midtown Direct trains will do is draw people away from the bus. The bus is no less convenient, and if their use is low, I don’t see how many more folks will ditch the wheels.

    The other problem is that when folks DO go to the big bad city on weekends, they are probably MORE likely to go to several destinations; whereas on weekdays, people go to and stay at their offices etc and don’t need to move across town much.

    Whatever happens, I hope they add / increase service so when I sell my house back to the bank next Spring, the ‘perceived value’ will be higher.

  5. I’d have to disagree with you there, arrowsmithnj.

    If I decide at the last minute to go to a show in NYC and want to take the non-existent late night train, no problem: I can buy a ticket either at an ATM or even on the train itself.

    If I want to take the bus in: I’d better have purchased a ticket in advance (and not being one prone to giving DeCamp my money, will never have happened) because you can’t buy tickets on the bus and any place that would sell the tickets is probably closed before 8 or 9pm.

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