Tempers Flare Over NJ Transit Summer Train Schedule

Everyone is angry and bitter about the announced summer reroutings to Hoboken for NJ Transit’s Morris & Essex trains—even the announcements about the reroutings.

The official news release from NJ Transit about the planned six-week shuffling of all M&E trains scheduled for Penn Station begins on a pissy note: “NJ Transit rail customers have been forced to deal with delays, derailments and unreliable service because Amtrak, which owns the tracks our service relies upon, has neglected the maintenance of its critical infrastructure for years.”

The announcement goes on to say, “Long overdue Amtrak track repair work will significantly disrupt travel this summer for customers who normally travel on the Morris & Essex Midtown Direct service to and from Penn Station New York.” (All Midtown Direct trains on the Montclair-Boonton Line will operate on regular weekday schedules with minor time changes to/from PSNY.)

And NJT’s approach was actually more civil than the one taken earlier on Tuesday by Gov. Chris Christie. The New York Times reported that Christie said, “We know we can’t trust Amtrak,” in an article that added, “Mr. Christie expressed no faith in Amtrak’s ability to keep any trains running on time. He said that he agreed with Mr. Cuomo that the long-term solution to the frequent disruptions and derailments at Penn Station is to replace Amtrak as the station’s operator, ‘given Amtrak’s duplicity, their dishonesty and their inability to keep this infrastructure in a state of good repair.’”

In addition to those who are mad at NJT and Amtrak are officials who are taking issue with the singling out of the M&E line for rerouting to Hoboken (all other train lines will still go to Penn Station, though with expected delays). Maplewood Mayor Vic De Luca and South Orange Village President Sheena Collum co-wrote a letter to Gov. Christie and the heads of NJ Transit that said, “We are registering our objection to the decision…we completely understand that these repairs are necessary but feel this decision will disproportionately affect our residents who work in New York City.” The letter notes that the decision to reroute only MidTown Direct trains “was made without any consultation with the elected leaders of the towns affected.” (Read the full letter here.)

Inevitably, there are those who are just tired of the ongoing debacle of NJ-to-NY train service and are giving up. Reuters talked to Montclair resident Jessica Pansini, whose “scheduled 45-minute commute through Penn has slowed to 2.5 hours,” leading her to make a big change: “She was offered a lateral job in New Jersey and said news that summer track repairs was ‘80 percent’ of the reason she accepted, ditching her dream job in Manhattan.”

How are you reacting to the planned changes to NJ Transit’s approach to the summer Penn Station repairs (and the inevitable congestion/delays)? Fits of rage? Weary resignation? Are you making other plans for summer commuting?

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  1. The work has to be done. Is it too long coming? Yes. Has the communication about it been terrible? Yes. My getting an email every day saying that there are 30 minute delays in/out of Penn aren’t productive, but somehow it makes NJT feel better. I know that blame is being laid exclusively at the feet of Amtrak, but the blame for the failure of this rail system is not entirely theirs. Our esteemed Governor drained NJ Transit of … what is it? … $90M? Some genius decided to park the fleet in a lot under sea level during Hurricane Sandy. The Gov vetoed the new tunnel going into NY. It is horror upon horror upon horror. Who pays? We do. So, yes, towns probably should have been consulted and this should have happened before now, but if not now, when? Derailments will get worse and injuries to passengers and crew will get worse. It is inconvenient, to be sure, but honestly – what is the alternative at this point?

  2. The neglect of the tracks into Penn Station, which are Amtrak’s, is 100% an Amtrak problem. There are valid criticisms to be laid at the feet of New Jersey Transit and our political leaders, but the condition of the Penn Station tracks are not among them.

    In my opinion, the Governor made the right decision not to proceed with the Access to the Region’s Core project as it was then presented. The new tunnels (dubbed the “Tunnels to Macy’s Basement”) would have led to a new station, disconnected from Amtrak and Long Island Railroad. The whole point of ARC was to allow New Jersey Transit to go to Grand Central, but the plan the Governor rejected did not include that key element.

    As a longtime commuter, what I lament most of all is that in 2009, when the Obama Administration pressed for and won a nearly $1 trillion “stimulus package,” our representatives in Washington could not obtain funding for what had to have been the most shovel-ready and worthy project in the country. Just where in the heck did that money go if none was available to build a critically needed new rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey, to supplement our 100 year-old tunnels?

    Remember that this summer’s disruptions are just the appetizer. The entree comes when we have to close one tube at a time to facilitiate the Sandy damage repairs. That will take four years, at a minimum, with one track in and one track out, and no room at all for errors or malfunctions.

  3. This Summer is just Part 1. They will need to repeat this again during the Summer of 2018. This is separate from the tunnel repairs. So, you can bet the Boonton Line will have its turn in S’18.

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