On the Rails with the Coalition

On Friday, May 20, folks from the Lackawanna Coalition teamed up with some folks from the Senior Citizens and Disabled Residents Transportation Advisory Committee (SCDRTAC) on an inspection trip on the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines. We left from Newark Broad Street on the 2:16 P.M. Montclair-Boonton train and stopped in Dover for dinner at Ohh Que Rica, an informal Colombian restaurant a short walk from the station. A few of us turned back there, having early-evening appointments, while the rest went on to Hackettstown. There we had a half-hour layover; a few of us stayed at the station or on the train: others braved the oncoming rain to head downtown for a quick beer.

We returned on the Morris & Essex line, some of us peeling off at stops along the way, others going as far as Secaucus, where adventures ensued.

Our travelers included disabled riders: one person is blind, one uses a scooter. Arriving in Secaucus, despite crew having assured us that they would get a bridge plate to our car, our scooter user jumped the (small) gap on his own—it was taking a while, and as he said, “I didn’t want to go to New York.” As he powered forward, we looked for crew members, and we did see them coming with bridge plates from both directions— should have trusted them!

Next was a transfer to a southbound North Jersey Coast Line train to Newark Penn Station, then to a Northeast Corridor train to Hamilton Station and buses home (or, as it turned out, to a car ride to their homes). The train was expected on Track B, so I ensured that folks got there (up, across, and down, a bit more complicated needing an elevator, but doable, and we had time—though signage could have been clearer: the elevator is at the far end of the platform, facing the direction in which the train moves—one is almost ready to give up before looking around that last wall).

As I was upstairs grabbing a snack, I heard an announcement that the train scheduled for Track B instead was to arrive on Track 2—ACK! It was only a minute or so from arrival, so I hot-footed it to Track B to find my colleagues already gone. The NJ Transit employee at the gates said that they had indeed made it, so I relaxed, and headed for the Pascack Valley line.

Arriving home much later, I found an e-mail detailing the further adventures: the 3 did get to the elevator, though signage was bad and it took a while, then made it to Track 2—but they had missed the planned connection! NJ Transit policy, we heard when reporting this to SCDRTAC, is to wait for folks who had been waiting on the original platform to make it to the new one—a practice missed that evening, leading to them catching a later NEC train, avoiding the Newark transfer but at the expense of arriving in Hamilton too late for any of the bus connections.

The final verdict? A good time was had by all; NJ Transit employees along the way were helpful, courteous, and friendly; NJ Transit policies are better on paper than in reality; and South Jersey residents hoping to get home in time to make connections have to leave really, really early!

We did document some station observations on the Lackawanna Coalition’s station-inspection report form, now in beta testing on our website—watch this space for info about its prime-time debut!

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