Glen Ridge commuters like Brian Hughes don’t welcome the latest NJ Transit disruption.
“It’s standard for NJ Transit to just screw with people’s daily commutes,” said Hughes.
He will be among about 5,000 daily riders whose train schedules will change — lengthening their commute a half-hour each way to and from New York Penn Station from June 17 through September 6.
“Adding a half-hour to my daily commute on a daily basis is just problematic because it takes away time that I have with my family,” said Hughes.
“My wife takes it every single day, back and forth, into the city, and it takes her about an hour as it is,” said Glen Ridge commuter Marcelo Cabrera. “Now it’s going to take an hour-and-a-half. I don’t want to go home and tell her that.”
“We feel their pain and we’re doing everything we can to adjust for that and to accommodate that and make sure we inform them well enough so as to have a minimum impact on them,” said NJ Transit executive director Kevin Corbett.
Supposed to be nothing like the ‘Summer of Hell’
Corbett explained that NJ Transit had to shake up service to work around Amtrak’s scheduled repairs at New York Penn Station. The work will take two tracks out of service there and include major construction. Corbett described the scale of this summer’s service disruption as only a fraction of the so-called Summer of Hell in 2017 when 70 Morris and Essex Line trains were diverted from New York Penn Station to Hoboken.
“You have to do maintenance work, that’s part of all the infrastructure, and we try to do that in a way that is least inconvenient to people,” Corbett said.
“I don’t mind,” said Brooklyn commuter Cynthia Ashton. “It’s safe, and it’s safe for the tracks and the passengers are going to be safe.”
The major changes: NJ Transit will divert 10 peak-hour Midtown Direct trains — eight on the Montclair-Boonton Line and two on the North Jersey Coast Line to Hoboken — where commuters will have to catch the PATH or take the New York Waterways ferry into and out of the city.
On the Morris and Essex Line, Midtown Direct trains will not stop at Newark’s Broad Street Station from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. That means Broad Street customers must use trains from Hoboken or use Newark Light Rail to catch a train at Newark Penn Station. NJ Transit will discount fares and help offset the cost of PATH or ferry service from June through September.
None of these plans take into account disruptions from continued engineer shortages and other issues.
Weinberg: Agency should include public in discussion
“It’s certainly a change — five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, a half-hour — that’s going to change a lot of people’s schedules, whether it’s an issues of child care, getting to and from their first job, second jobs for some New Jersey residents and just quality of life issues. This is something that NJ Transit needs to hear firsthand from customers exactly how these changes will affect them,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s deputy director Janna Chernetz.
Chernetz said the agency’s new customer advocate needs to meet with rail riders over this.
“This would be a major step forward for NJ Transit, to include the public in a discussion. And they’re required by law to do that, actually,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen).
NJ Transit spokesperson Nancy Snyder said that “adjustments do not meet the criteria for required public hearings” but that the agency will host “comment and information sessions in order to receive public and stakeholder input.”
The information sessions will be held in Hoboken on May 15, Penn Station New York on May 16, Montclair on June 4 and Morristown on June 6.