Aside from announcing that Quiet Commute Cars will soon be offered on trains to and from Hoboken during midday hours on weekdays, New Jersey Transit Executive Director Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim said there are some other changes coming to the agency soon.
In a move for which members of our organization have recently been calling, NJ Transit has announced the expansion of its Quiet Commute program outside of rush hours, according to a report from Mike Frassinelli. The trial program will begin with midday trains to and from Hoboken Terminal on weekdays staring May 5. The quiet car will be the same position in the train as the existing rush-hour Hoboken trains — that is, the first car of trains to Hoboken and the last car of trains departing from there. NJT Executive Director Ronnie Hakim added that this program is a part of a new initiative called COR (“Civility, Order and Respect”). “This seemed like the right time to undertake a bit of a public education campaign — a reminder, really — to people that we want to have a very calm, civil, respectful environment in our transit system,” she said. “It’s going to cover the gamut. Because I’ve been on the train when you hear young people using foul language, for an example, and it’s not pleasant and it’s not appropriate.” We at the Coalition look forward to seeing a reduction in loudness and rowdy behavior on trains, which has been far more common outside of peak hours.
Read Mike Frassinelli’s article here.
Does it seem like almost every other day that there is a delay on trains to New York? Based on data from NJ Transit’s e-mail alerts, there have been delays, more often than every third day, reported to this rider, whose home station is Mount Tabor, on the M&E Line west of Morristown! In the 92 days from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, I received 49 delay alerts on 33 different days. The vast majority, 41 alerts on 27 days, affected Midtown Direct service. I believe this is due to the sheer number of trains going through the two Midtown tunnels. At least three times, the Midtown tunnels were so jammed that all Midtown trains on the M&E were redirected to Hoboken.
In a move members of our organization have been calling for recently, NJ Transit has announced the expansion of its Quiet Commute program outside of rush hours according to a report from Mike Frassinelli. The trial program will begin with midday trains to and from Hoboken Terminal, on weekdays staring May 5. The quiet car will be the same position in the train as the existing rush-hour Hoboken trains — that is, the first car of trains to Hoboken and the last car of trains departing from there. NJT Executive Director Ronnie Hakim added that this program is a part of a new initiative called COR (“Civility, Order and Respect”). “”This seemed like the right time to undertake a bit of a public education campaign — a reminder, really — to people that we want to have a very calm, civil, respectful environment in our transit system,” she said. “It’s going to cover the gamut. Because I’ve been on the train when you hear young people using foul language, for an example, and it’s not pleasant and it’s not appropriate.” We at the Coalition look forward to seeing a reduction in loudness and rowdy behavior on trains, which has been far more common outside of peak hours.
Read Mike Frassinelli’s article here.
There have been a number of significant developments concerning NJ Transit’s performance in getting fans to and from the Super Bowl game last Sunday. At first we reported that NJT had done an “incredible” job of moving everybody. There were no wrecks or injuries, so they deserve credit for that. Still, as we found out late Sunday night, thousands of fans were left at the Meadowlands Stadium, and it took hours to bring them out on the shuttle trains NJT was running between the stadium and Secaucus Station.
We have presented some updates since the game, but we have learned more since the last update. Transportation Commissioner James Simpson told Karen Rouse of the Bergen Record that there were 60 to 80 buses ready to help evacuate fans from the stadium after the game, but they were not deployed for the purpose. A report in the New York Daily News on Thursday placed the number of buses at 100 and called NJT “bus boneheads.” If these reports are true, this is a massive service and planning failure, costing fans up to an extra hour of waiting time after the game. Martin Robins, the original Executive Director of NJT, who spent most of his career at the Voorhees Transportation Institute at Rutgers University, told NJTV that NJT’s capacity was limited to bringing about 13,000 fans/hour to the game and back to Secaucus, and that NJT should have insisted to the NFL that its capacity was limited to that number. Joseph Clift, our technical director, believes that the actual crowd could have been accommodated, but it would have taken better planning, more rapid transit-oriented rail operation, and extensive use of buses to supplement the rail service. NJT reported that almost 28,000 fans used the trains to get to the stadium, and that over 33,000 used them to leave after the game. We do not understand how so many more fans could have used the train to leave than to arrive at the stadium, given the security restrictions in place for the event.
As an organization representing NJT’s rail riders, the Lackawanna Coalition is deeply concerned about NJT’s apparently substandard performance. Our mission is to represent the riders who use the Morris & Essex (M&E), Montclair-Boonton and Gladstone Lines, and connecting transportation. All M&E trains outside peak commuting hours stop at Secaucus, and Montclair-Boonton and Gladstone Line riders can get to Secaucus by changing trains at Broad Street Station (Newark) or Summit. Therefore, any trains that operate to or from Secaucus are within our purview, and lie within our area of concern.
Essentially all media reports indicate that the “Mass Transit Super Bowl” was a fiasco. The Sporting News, which has no reason to cover a transit story on any other occasion, called it an “apocalypse.” Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine, who attended the game, called for the ouster of NJT Executive Director James Weinstein. So did the Bergen Record in an editorial. We believe that it would be fair to give NJT management an opportunity to tell their side of the story. Therefore, we have prepared a list of questions and concerns to present to them. We will tell you what they say, if they respond. We will tell you what they have to say, so you can draw your own conclusions about NJT’s performance concerning this big event.
From our vantage point at Secaucus Station, it appeared that the rail operation was going smoothly. The rotunda was not jammed with people and, as trains from the stadium emptied their loads of fans at Secaucus, they were being directed appropriately to the proper platform and sent to their trains, mostly to Penn Station, New York. There was one mistake that caused some inconvenience: a train to the North Jersey Coast Line was announced for Track 3, but actually left from Track B, on the New York-bound platform. Most passengers had time to make the transfer from one platform to the other, although a few riders missed their train.
We were not in a position to observe the severe bottleneck at the stadium, where thousands of fans were still waiting to board trains that would eventually take them home, or at least to their destinations. None of our members had tickets to the game, and our request to NJT to go to the stadium to observe the departure of the fans was met with the response that there were no trains going there. We were told that the trains coming back from there were being stored on the Meadowlands Rail Link, so they could get to the Meadowlands Station quickly.
The Secaucus operation, which we observed, seemed to go well as midnight approached. We learned this morning, along with everybody else, that the problem was located in a different place.
The NFL and NJT again proved the great sports maxim attributed by baseball great Yogi Berra: “It’s not over til it’s over!”
THIS REPORT IS OUT OF DATE. FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS HAVE REVEALED THAT THE SITUATION HAD CHANGED SIGNIFICANTLY SINCE THAT REPORT WAS ISSUED. UPDATED COVERAGE HERE.
Last night’s game was a total disaster. It was utterly awful. I feel terribly sorry for the people who bought tickets to go to the game—but that’s primarily the fault of the Denver Broncos, and out of our purview. There’s a word for losing 43-8, but its not fit to print.
Certain issues notwithstanding, NJ Transit did an incredible job last night. They managed to move nearly 30,000 people through Secaucus to the Meadowlands, more than twice the 12,000 originally estimated. Despite the enormous over crowding, despite the blockages and back ups, this operation was conducted safely, and nobody was hurt. I applaud NJ Transit’s management and the 4500 employees who volunteered to help out. I especially applaud the private citizens who also volunteered to help out, too.
Despite all that, there were issues. I could justify it—and point out in truth—that it took only 4 hours to clear the stadium. That means that 30,000 people were moved on about 25 trains, or about a train leaving every 10 minutes. One of the issues, which greatly exacerbated this problem, was that NJ Transit was only using one platform to load trains of the available three. The only reason I could think of for this was overzealous security concerns. If they were permitted to use only one platform for loading, they did it about as fast as it can be done with the equipment chosen.
Still, just because NJ Transit did the best they could under the circumstances put in front of them does not mean that it couldn’t have been done better with more of an intelligent overall approach.
NJ Transit was told to expect 12,000 people on the line. Doing the math, long before the Super Bowl, we at the Lackawanna Coalition predicted very different numbers, and didn’t understand the ones the NFL had given. We predicted 25–30,000 people would take the train—and we were right. Had more accurate numbers been predicted, perhaps arrangements at the stadium could have been better configured to handle the actual number of people present leaving the game.
An unconfirmed and likely erroneous report of people passing out at Secaucus hours prior to the game, and hours prior to the first game train, surfaced through the vaunted reporting of the Associated Press. While the situation was likely not as bad as presented by them, the station was uncomfortably hot, and had NJ Transit been preparing for the actual numbers of people present, perhaps that could have been fixed.
A final problem is the NFL itself. The NFL—and other sports operations—are famous for setting up huge events for the ‘benefit’ of regions in which they take place. Those regions are largely required to pay for the improvements needed—and the sports operator then collects most of the money that comes in from hosting the event, giving little benefit other than prestige to the area hosting the event. This was especially egregious, since the event was hosted in and largely paid for in New Jersey, and the pregame events were hosted in and largely beneficial to New York City.
It was the NFL that largely commandeered the parking lot. It was the NFL that charged outrageous amounts of money to park near the stadium. It was the NFL that prevented rotating taxi, limo, and bus service from serving the game affordably. It was the NFL that set up the pricing structure that so favored NJ Transit Rail as the way to go. It was the NFL that largely organized this into what is being hashtagged by some as #TrainGate. And it was New Jersey and NJ Transit that got the blasted with the blame for everything that went wrong because of it, and has to clean it up.
I feel sorry for the people who were stuck on line for four hours. I feel sorry for the people who were uncomfortable at Secaucus and leaving the Meadowlands. I feel sorry for the poor schnooks who paid to go to the game. I feel really sorry for Denver Broncos fans. However, none of those things are really the fault of NJ Transit.
New York area transit operations have suffered through a difficult week. On the evening of Tuesday, January 28, an NJ Transit train inbound to New York got stuck in the tunnel, and it took hours to pull the train into Penn Station, where it arrived after 1 a.m. Fortunately, only 23 riders were aboard the middle-of-the-night run. But just hours later, in Wednesday’s morning rush, an inbound train from Dover became disabled in the Jersey Meadows. This time, 800 riders were aboard, and it was hours before the train was finally dragged by a “rescue engine” to Hoboken, not to its original Manhattan destination. Delays persisted for hours, with the system back to normal at about 10 a.m., only to be followed in midday with several hours of delays as “ice patrols” occupied the Hudson River tunnels, delaying regular service. But travel woes weren’t over; for the day; in the evening rush, gremlins returned as a Long Island Rail Road train encountered smoke and lost power in the East RIver tunnel to Penn Station; NJ Transit also uses the tunnels to store some trains in Sunnyside Yard in Queens, east of Manhattan. The LIRR suffered the most dramatic impact, cancelling 19 outbound trains and suspending inbound service completely for a period. But NJT was also affected, and things got worse when NJT’s 5:43 departure to Dover had mechanical problems and was delayed, apparently in Penn Station, for about 45 minutes. Since every track in Penn Station is used continuously at peak periods, any disruption causes cascading delays that can continue for hours. Unfortunately, this reporter got caught up in the mess; read on . . .
David Peter Alan and I met up today at South Orange aboard a Gladstone train for the express purpose of touring the entirety of the Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton, and Gladstone branch. Including a fine lunch at an Indian restaurant in Montclair, this went off without hitch or problem, from my leaving my doorstep in Roebling on NJT’s RIver Line light rail between Trenton and Camden, through the trip to Gladstone, back to Newark Broad St. station, out to Montclair, on to Hackettstown on the the Montclair/Boonton Line via Dover, and back to Newark Broad via the M&E. Even the trip from Broad St. Station to Newark Penn on the Newark Light Rail was timed perfectly . . . to deliver me into the depths of hell.
Upon arrival at Newark Penn, I encountered a scene the likes of which I have not encountered before. Despite the fact that this was 7 p.m. and I have been to Newark before, for people- and train-watching in the depths of rush hour. This time, thousands of people were crowded throughout the concourse. Police with dogs were everywhere, complete with signs claiming an intent to search anyone with bags beyond a certain point, although they were set up so haphazardly, what that point was was unclear. Avoiding the signs, intending to avoid the hassle of a police search, I got on the Platform 3-4 escalator and rode it up. The waiting room was so crowded, I literally had to push the clueless lady in front of me out of the way, lest I and the people behind me on the escalator get fouled and disaster occur. Why the escalator had not been stopped due to this overcrowding is beyond me.
I moved through the crowd to the exit door for that waiting room to see literally thousands more standing on the platform.
Not long after, a train announced as the 6:32 New York to Trenton run arrived at the station; it was around 7:00. I bulled my way through the line and boarded the train: I justify this action because I was starting to reach the end of my tether to catch the last River Line train to Roebling; any further delay might strand me in Trenton. The train to Trenton was completely standing-room-only, and crowded to the gills. The train stopped at Newark Liberty Airport, then ran express to Metropark, where enough of the crowd had left so I was able to find myself a seat.
Upon leaving Metropark, the train then slowed to a crawl. It is scheduled to make the run from Metropark to Trenton in 50 minutes. It ran 15 minutes over. I made, through sprinting, the 8:28 River Line train, and got home around 9:00.
New Jersey Transit says it is ready for the Super Bowl. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. However, it does not seem to be ready to handle the fairly standard woes of the five-day-a-week evening commute (They’ve only done it approximately 7800 times during their history!) during the perils of a cold winter, which comes every year (They’ve only endured 90 months of it so far!) in a reasonable and flexible manner.
Amtrak reported today that it would stop selected Northeast Corridor and Keystone trains at Secaucus Station on Sunday, February 2nd, for the Super Bowl game. At Secaucus, customers will be able to take special shuttle trains operated by New Jersey Transit (NJT) to the Meadowlands Station, adjacent to the stadium. This marks the first time that Amtrak has stopped at Secaucus in revenue service. Amtrak stopped Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s funeral train there for a ceremony, but has never used the stop for a revenue train before.
In addition, Amtrak says that the maintenance program, which normally closes one of the tunnels between New Jersey and New York Penn Station, will be suspended that weekend. That will allow NJT to operate extra trains on Game Day. Amtrak did not say which trains would make the extra stop at Secaucus. Northeast Corridor trains run between Boston and Washington, D.C., and Keystone trains run between New York and Harrisburg, through Philadelphia.
Customers from the Morris & Essex, Gladstone, or Montclair line can take the M&E train bound for New York and get off at Secaucus to change for a shuttle train to the game. These trains normally stop at Secaucus.