Essex County has announced that it is developing a transportation plan for 2045. An announcement from the county said, “To support this effort, we want to understand the needs of our transportation system users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders so we can address emerging issues in mobility, access, safety, economic opportunity, social equity, and post-COVID-19 needs.”
On Friday, August 12th, the Lackawanna Coalition, along with members from SCDRTAC, made an inspection trip on the North Jersey Coast Line. The weather was warm and sunny, and none of the trains was empty. We chose this itinerary to accommodate anyone coming in from Southern New Jersey or Philadelphia to have enough time. This trip was more inspection than excursion, as our stopovers in Red Bank and Bay Head were 60 minutes and 45 minutes, respectively, not enough time to see the towns.
As a public transportation agency, NJ Transit has an obligation to meet the needs of all riders, regardless of their mobility, visibility, or auditory challenges. Over time, we have reported on how well—or not well—they are providing services. We know that Access Link, which provides services to medical appointments and other destinations for those unable to independently ride scheduled transit, shadows NJ Transit bus lines—but what about those who can, with reasonable accommodation, navigate regular bus and train routes? One thing that is imperative for such individuals is good signage—where am I, where are elevators or restrooms, when is the next train coming, etc? Our inspection trip to Hackettstown showed the deficiency of such signage at Secaucus, where finding the elevator was a noted challenge. We also learned that NJT policies, which look good in theory, are not always put into practice—a number of our South Jersey members missed their connection when it came in on a different track than originally planned.
In addition to my role as Lackawanna Coalition chairperson, I am a member of SCDRTAC, the Senior Citizens and Disabled Residents Transportation Advisory Committee of NJ Transit, and I find more and more common concerns. At the last SCDRTAC meeting, member Sara Thompson gave a presentation on issues that affect riders with hearing limitations, and they are some of the same issues that have been discussed recently on our informal e-mail list: quality of PA announcements on trains and in stations; use of the visual station announcement system on railcars, and even the translucency, rather than transparency, of train windows, especially on the newer dual-level cars.
The Rail Users’ Network (RUN) held their annual spring conference virtually on Friday, April 29. The theme was “Look West— here’s where advocates are fighting to restore/expand rail service in the Western U.S./British Columbia.” Seven advocates from the Rockies, Southwest, Pacific Coast, and British Columbia gave presentations on their specific region’s transit situation.
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.
Accessibility—something important to all of us. Some, temporarily able-bodied, need not concern themselves with it on a daily basis, able to simply take for granted that their chosen mode of transportation will not present barriers to free travel.
Any agency providing public service, however, must take into account the various barriers that people might find in attempting to use their services. For transit, some of the obvious concerns are good signage, audio announcements for those with vision-related issues, staircases vs elevators for those using wheelchairs or scooters (and lifts for such devices on buses, as well as bridge plates for train platforms—which need high-level platforms), digital material easy to read via screen readers (PDFs are notoriously difficult for screen readers).
Friday, June 17 was a difficult day forNJ Transitrail riders, including many forced to wait hours for their train. Worse, NJT cancelled service between 7:30 and 8:00 P.M. on most lines; the only later trains were those returning to inner terminals such as Hoboken or Penn Station.
The cause was a rash of calls from engineers who are members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), who called in sick. The Star-Ledger reported that 205 engineers called to mark off on Friday, 143 on Saturday, and at least 133 on Sunday. BLET does not have a contract with NJT, although unions representing employees in other crafts do. The dispute was over holiday pay for Juneteenth, which New Jersey observed that Friday, although the federal holiday was the following Monday.
It has been a hectic month, including a wildcat strike that disrupted service for Juneteenth/Father’s Day weekend, with almost 500 engineers calling out, some 300 trains cancelled, and thousands of passengers scrambling to make alternate plans. NJ Transit filed a request for an injunction (on Friday) but did little to help passengers caught up in the mobility disaster. Shutting down all cross-Hudson trains for hours—virtually the entire system, and not even opening phone lines to assist routine rail riders with alternative options—shows a lack of concern for customers that is simply not acceptable.
Today, I had a ticket to an New Jersey Symphony 1:30 p.m. concert at NJPAC in Newark. I always try to go by train, and usually would take the Pascack Valley Line. But midday service on the Pascack Valley Line is currently being bustituted, so I decided to drive to Radburn and take the Bergen County Line instead.
Train #1166 arrived three minutes late at 11:37 a.m. It was pushed by Engine 4028 and included cars 6017, 6759, 6573, 6762 and 6501.Continue Reading Breakdown at Radburn