A Train Trip to Hike Mills Reservation

Yesterday, I took the train to Mills Reservation and did a two-mile hike there.  Mills Reservation is one of the few hikes in New Jersey accessible by train.  I’ve gone there by train several times in the past, taking the Montclair-Boonton Line to the Montclair Heights station and walking up Normal Avenue to the park.  But this requires an 0.4-mile roadwalk along Normal Avenue, a rather narrow and heavily trafficked street, which lacks sidewalks for part of the way.
For yesterday’s trip, I decided to detrain at the Mountain Avenue station, the next stop to the south.  This way, I had only a short road walk on Laurel Place—a dead-end residential street with sidewalks.  From there, I could climb a grassy slope and follow the Lenape Trail to the park at the crest of the ridge.  This ended up being a far more pleasant and safe route.
Yesterday was a perfect day to visit the park, which affords magnificent views of the New York City skyline:

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Falling Tree Pulls Wire Down—
No Service on M&E Lines for Seven Days

Service was suspended on most of the Morris & Essex (M&E) Line, along with the Gladstone Branch, for an entire week, beginning on Monday evening, March 7. A strong storm blew a large tree onto the elevated M&E right-of-way near Jefferson Avenue in Maplewood, between the Maplewood and South Orange stations. It pulled down the overhead wires (“catenary”) that power the trains running on the line and damaged the wires’ supporting structure. On Tuesday, nothing ran anywhere on either the M&E or the Gladstone Branch. By Wednesday, hourly service (different from and slower than normal) had been established between South Orange and New York Penn Station. However, there was no service at all—not even limited diesel service—past South Orange.

Continue Reading Falling Tree Pulls Wire Down—
No Service on M&E Lines for Seven Days

M&E, Montclair Restored after Storm

 Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines are scheduled to restore service at noon, Saturday, Feb. 9; service had been suspended at 8 p.m. on Friday during  the snowstorm.  NJT attributed this action to the vulnerability of those lines to tree damage, citing the experience of Superstorm Sandy in October (which has resulted in continuing reduction of service on those lines).  It had originally been announced that service would remain suspended through Saturday.

 NJT’s action appears to conflict with weather forecasts that, at the time of the announcement, were actually becoming less severe; once the storm began to abate on Saturday morning, total snowfall reports did not exceed 12″ in the M&E territory, although wind gusts remained a threat on Saturday, especially with tree limbs already weighted with snow.  In general, however, the experience in the M&E territory was no more severe than elsewhere on the NJT system, which remained in operation.  Bus services north of Interstate 195 (that is, all of north Jersey) were also suspended at 8 p.m. on Friday, and restored at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

The short suspension may be attributed to an overabundance of caution, but the selection of the M&E and Boonton lines for suspension suggests that NJT may not have enough equipment to keep all lines running during an emergency.  Weather forecasts were equally severe or even worse for other lines, which were not suspended.  The NJT press release announcing the suspension noted a lack of “system redundancies”, which supports the notion that the system is stretched thin after Hurricane Sandy, and that the suspension of the M&E and Boonton lines was a question of priority-setting rather than prompted by unusual risk to those lines.

NJT Posts New Rail Schedules without Notice

New Jersey Transit has just posted new schedules for all rail lines to their web site, as service takes another step toward returning to pre-Sandy levels.  The new weekday schedules take effect this Monday.  There are improvements on the Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton, and Gladstone lines, although there are still some serious gaps in service, and the level of weekday service to Gladstone is still far below pre-Sandy levels.
While we compliment NJT on increasing the number of trains, we remain concerned that NJT has refused to discuss any potential schedule changes with us, as the representative of our riders and our communities.  We are also concerned that the new schedules were posted on the business day before they are slated to take effect.

NJT Relaxes Some Weekend Bicycle Restrictions, but It’s Little Help on Our Lines

New Jersey Transit announced on Monday, August 6th, that it would relax some of the weekend restrictions against the use of bicycles on trains, beginning on Saturday, August 11th.  The restrictions that went into effect in July prohibited bicycles on all inbound trains that would arrive at their terminals in Newark, Hoboken, or New York between 9:00 and 12:00 in the morning, and leaving those terminals between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.  The regulation does not apply to trains going in the opposite direction, which would carry New York-based cyclists to New Jersey.
NJT announced that the weekend restriction would no longer apply to trains that terminate in Hoboken, or Raritan Valley Line trains that terminate at Newark.  The restrictions on weekend bicycle use on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast, and Morris & Essex (M&E) lines remain in full force and effect.
Cyclists on the M&E line must take the 7:05 train from Dover, or an earlier train, to reach their destination before the restricted period begins.  They must also leave Penn Station on the 4:11 train, or wait until 8:11; a gap of 4 hours.  Although trains on the Gladstone Branch may now carry bicycles, Gladstone trains terminate at Summit on weekends.  Cyclists cannot use M&E trains east of Summit during the restricted hours, so they are subject to the same restrictions as M&E riders.
The only improvement for riders on our rail lines is that cyclists getting on trains at Bay St. (Montclair), Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, or Watsessing Avenue can now use 2 trains to Hoboken and 1 train from Hoboken that they could not have used before.

Severe Service Disruptions Plague Northeast Corridor Line, Affecting M&E Line Riders

Three severe service disruptions in as many days made commuting difficult for New Jersey rail riders on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, June 21st, 22nd, and 23d.  Although the difficulties originated on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Line, some commuters and other riders on the Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton, and Gladstone Lines were affected.  These lines use NEC track for some of their route to New York Penn Station.
Lackawanna Coalition Chair David Peter Alan has called for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit to upgrade the electrical system on the railroad, which was built in the 1930s and has been blamed for the disruptions.  Alan also said that the railroad should be brought to a state of good repair before pursuing major expansion projects.

Dual-Mode Locomotives Make Their Debut

NJT has unveiled its first ALP-45 dual-mode locomotive.  The engines will be able to run under electric wire and will also run on diesel fuel for nonelectrified operation.  They may be used to provide through service to Penn Station from points west of Dover on the Morris & Essex Line and west of Montclair on the Montclair-Boonton Line.  The new engine is not certified for service yet.  It has not been announced when it, and others yet to be delivered, will be placed into service.

Quiet Commute Cars Come to Hoboken

New Jersey Transit has announced that the car nearest to Hoboken on every peak-hour train will be a Quiet Commute Car, effective June 1st.  Cell phone use will be prohibited on those cars, and conversations must be kept at low volume.  Quiet Commite cars will be designated on all Morris & Essex, Gladstone Branch, and Montclair-Boonton Line trains that arrive in Hoboken between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m. and those that leave Hoboken between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m.
The Midtown Direct trains on the M&E, Gladstone, and Montclair-Boonton Lines, which go to New York Penn Station already include Quiet Commute Cars.

More Cuts in Newark Light Rail Service

New Jersey Transit again reduced service on the Newark Light Rail LIne between Penn Station and Broad Street Station on Labor Day week-end.  Weekday service outside of peak hours now runs only every 30 minutes, increasing waiting times for transfer between Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Line trains and the light rail to Penn Station.  Weekday service had operated every 15 minutes until this past spring, when it was reduced to every 25 minutes.  Cars now run every 20 minutes on Saturdays and every 25 on Sundays.

Service Cuts Not as Severe as Feared

Rail service cuts were not as severe as feared.  Although we reported apprehension about expected severe cuts in the January-February issue of the Railgram, the actual service reductions were modest, averaging a train or two on most lines.  The most hard-hit will be the Atlantic City Rail Line, which will lose one of its busiest trains.  One train on the Montclair-Boonton Line will be eliminated, including the first inbound train in the morning.  The M&E Line will lose one train in each direction, while a midday train will be suspended temporarily west of Summit to allow installation of an improved signaling system between Summit and Morristown.  The Lackawanna Coalition has asked for the signal improvements in the area for several years and compliments NJT on their decision to install the upgrade.