What We Learned from the Mass Transit Superbowl

By now, everybody knows that New Jersey Transit suffered a defeat at the “Mass Transit Super Bowl” on Feb. 2 that was almost as humiliating as the one that the Seattle Seahawks inflicted on the Denver Broncos in the Meadowlands. On Feb. 24, Commissioner and Board Chair James S. Simpson announced that the NJT Board of Directors will conduct a review of the Super Bowl situation.

The Lackawanna Coalition has submitted its own questions for the committee to ask. On Game Day, we had several observers in the field, watching the operation that took a long time to move thousands of fans to and from the Big Game. We believe that NJT management should consider the following suggestions:

  1. Carefully estimate a range of people to expect, and then plan for the most. It’s like planning a party on a big scale: you never want to run out, no matter how many people show up.
  2. If you have expertise, trust your judgment instead of trusting people who know less than you do.
  3. Make the maximum use of the resources you have, especially if problems can occur.
  4. It’s an old saw, but “Always expect the unexpected!” You never know what random chance may do!
  5. “Planning for every contingency” means just that, and no less.

Transit management may be able to use this information to avoid making similar mistakes in the future, but there are also positive lessons that we learned from the experience, and hope they did, too.

For the first time, NJT offered an “all-mode” comprehensive ticket, good on all rail, bus and light rail lines. It was only offered for Super Bowl week, but the precedent has been set. We suggest that NJT consider offering daily, weekly and monthly “all-mode” fares in the future. This would benefit both local residents and visitors to New Jersey.

On Saturday, Feb. 1, Amtrak kept both tunnels into Penn Station, New York open for trains, rather than closing one of them for track work. NJT ran half-hourly service as far as Summit on the Morris & Essex Line, South Amboy on the North Jersey Coast Line and New Brunswick on the Northeast Corridor. We commend NJT for running this level of service, and we know now that, with two tracks available to and from Penn Station, the line can accommodate any reasonable amount of expansion of weekend service in the future. We have been calling for construction of a third tunnel to Penn Station as quickly as possible, and we now know that a third tunnel will allow the amount of weekend service that NJT riders in North and Central Jersey should have, whether or not they currently have weekend service to Penn Station, New York.

Detailed coverage of the Super Bowl from a transit perspective was provided in the author’s extensive coverage of the event in the Feb. 3, 10 and 17 editions of  Destination: Freedom, formerly to be found at www.nationalcorridors.org.

Originally posted on Lackawanna Coalition Web site on 5 March 2014 by author David Peter Alan.

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