As an “Alberta Clipper” snowstorm blanketed New Jersey on Tuesday, January 21, transit riders rushed to NJ Transit’s website to ascertain whether their trains were running—but for more than 3 hours in the middle of the storm, the website was largely unavailable, according to reporting in The Record newspaper by Karen Rouse (January 22). At first, NJT said the site had been taken down for maintenance reasons; a notice to that effect greeted users, along with a very limited set of capabilities. Later NJT admitted that technical problems caused the outage. Many commuters decided to stay home on Tuesday, fearing they wouldn’t be able to get home as the storm intensified in the afternoon. On Wednesday, though, the storm was over, and many headed back to work – only to discover that NJT trains were operating on an “enhanced weekend schedule.” Savvy riders consulted the printed weekend schedule and guessed that “enhanced” meant that additional trains that usually run only on holidays would run on Wednesday. However, those who visited the now-repaired website were greeted by instruction to type in a future date, February 17, to get the right information. Instead of modifying the website to display the actual schedules in effect, customers were told to pretend it was a future holiday: February 17, President’s Day, when the “enhanced weekend schedule” was already set up. Many were mystified. NJT promised to discuss website issues with their contractor, but meanwhile observers speculated that the outage on Tuesday may have resulted from high demands on the site during the snowstorm, and wondered if the same thing could happen during Super Bowl Sunday, February 2 – less than two weeks away. NJT expects to carry thousands of first-time riders to the event, and many may visit the website for guidance.
The complete story formerly was found at http://www.northjersey.com/news/A_malfunctioning_NJ_Transit_website_raises_concern_for_Super_Bowl_transportation.html
While NJ Transit rail service has been returning slowly after the massive damage of Hurricane Sandy, riders’ frustration has been mounting, and not just over the lack of service, writes Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (November 13). The riders are also angered by what is perceived as a lack of communication from NJ Transit about the situation and when riders might expect relief.
The lack of information flow seems to arise from a desire by NJ Transit not to raise false hopes by making promises they might not be able to keep. NJ Tranist Executive Director James Weinstein says, “We have been conservative in predicting what service is going to be available, because we don’t want to say something and have people sort of plan their lives around that and find we can’t deliver.” The complex flood-related problems means “we’re dealing with a situation nobody has had to deal with before; there’s not a cookbook for this stuff.” However, Josh Crandall, founder of Clevercommute.com, said that NJT could do better. “To say, ‘We don’t know, and we don’t know when we’ll know,’ that doesn’t work,” Crandall said. He noted that although schedules were posted on the NJT Web site, they were so tiny that they couldn’t be read.* Frassinelli’s article also notes that while 257 rail cars and 65 locomotives were damaged in the storm, Director Weinstein said that this was not a big problem: “We have more than enough equipment”, Weinstein said—and NJT hopes to resume service between New York and Long Branch on the North Jersey Coast Line later this week, good news for hard-hit Jersey Shore riders.
*The schedules are in PDF format; perhaps Mr. Crandall had a computer problem, as we had no trouble reading and printing a hard copy of the schedules. However, we did find that they were quite difficult to locate within the NJT Web site.— Editor
Update: printing the standard schedules does give the problem that Mr. Crandall cited; one must know where to look for the printable versions, which are different PDF files.—SJG, chairperson, 12 June 2021.