Report from the Chair

RAILGRAM Nov-Dec 2022v3

Our Website update had the unexpected consequence of knocking our forum offline temporarily—we are getting that restored to its old spot on the original Website, as connecting it to the new site will take some creativity and technical magic (we do have someone working on the latter option; watch for updates as we figure out what is possible). What is working well on the new site is our updated Station Inspection form. The Lackawanna Coalition is reviving our 1990s practice of checking on station conditions and reporting our findings. Members will be watching their local stations, and we hope all our readers will take advantage of the form to let us know what is good or bad at their local station and at others that they visit, so that we can compile information for NJ Transit. We and NJ-ARP have been advocating for riders for a long time, and with your help in documenting station conditions, we can make our case—and yours—at NJ Transit.

Earlier this month, I attended a virtual meeting held by our host municipality, Millburn Township, about planned improvements around the Short Hills train station. Although I looked for the video recording on the town website, it has apparently not yet been posted, so my thoughts later in this article are from my participation late in the program. What was clear is that community suggestions are being accepted and given due consideration.

Short Hills Station Traffic Improvements Planned

Checking on room availability for our October meeting, I noticed two information-gathering sessions by the Millburn town council: one in person, on October 26, and one virtual, on November 1. The sessions were listed as discussions of the concept plan for proposed pedestrian and circulation improvements in the vicinity of the Short Hills train station. Consideration is being given to traffic and parking patterns at busy intersections near the station. Residents are being asked for their perspectives on the plans that are being developed, as well as their own suggestions and concerns. Although I could attend only the last half of the online presentation, it was clear that residents were engaged and informed, with questions raised about pedestrian safety, congestion, and pick-up locations. Both automobile routes and pedestrian pathways are being considered to ensure the optimum decisions are reached. Residents provided information based on their experience with the Short Hills station and its surrounding roads and intersections.

The portion of the meeting that I attended covered the western side of the station, and a possible one-way traffic pattern was discussed. Questions were raised about possible unintended consequences of drivers finding short-cuts to avoid a longer one-way trip. One resident suggested that an additional, onsite session at the Boxcar at the station would be helpful, and that suggestion was well-received. It is clear that the planners are putting a lot of thought into the options to make arrival, departure, and movement through the area as efficient as possible for pedestrians, rail passengers, and motorists alike.

Train #6674, Oct. 24, 2022

Last night, I attended a meeting of the Lackawanna Coalition in Millburn.  David Antonio of Essex 2045, a planning initiative for transportation in Essex County, was the invited guest, and most of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of bus and rail transportation in Essex County.

As usual, I left the meeting about 9:10 p.m. so that I could catch Midtown Direct Train #6674 to Secaucus, where I would transfer to Bergen County Line Train #1281 to Radburn.  Train #6674 arrived in Millburn on time at 9:23 p.m. and departed one minute later.  It consisted of nine multi-level cars, of which three were open to passengers (and these three cars were far from full).  Everything went smoothly until after we departed Brick Church, our last stop before Newark, at 9:39 p.m.  We proceeded for some distance, then came to a stop.  The stop lasted for at least five minutes, after which we started backing up.

During the backup move, one of the conductors made an announcement about the reason for the delay, which I could not understand.  So I walked back two cars to find the three conductors seated at the front end of the third open car.  I mentioned to one of the conductors that I could not understand the announcement, whereupon another conductor commented that he could not understand it, either.  I was then informed that there was some problem with the signal at the interlocking, so we had to back up and then move forward again.  I didn’t fully understand the explanation, but we did soon start moving forward, and we arrived at the Newark Broad Street station at 9:56 p.m.  Our ride from Newark to Secaucus proceeded expeditiously, and we pulled into Track 2 at Secaucus at 10:06 p.m., 12 minutes late.  Even though we were significantly late, my Bergen County Line train is not scheduled to depart until 10:28 p.m., so I had plenty of time to make my connection.

I’m still not quite sure what happened that required us to make the backup move between Brick Church and Newark.

Schumer: Time Short for New Hudson Tunnels

According to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), if plans for new trans-Hudson rail tunnels are not made final soon, the tunnels may become much more difficult to construct.  According to reporting by Illya Marritz on WNYC (transportationnation.org), Schumer said that the problem lies in a new multiuse real-estate development, Hudson Yards, being planned for the west side of Manhattan on Long Island Rail Road property: Schumer said that Amtrak engineers have determined that the only practical route for the new “Gateway” tunnels would be under the LIRR property, and, he said, once the new buildings are being built, it may be impossible to route the tunnels under them.  Schumer said that the Related Companies, builders of Hudson Yards, are prepared to cooperate with Amtrak and the federal government to coordinate the tunnel project, but since the new development will start construction by the end of this year, Schumer said that the window to coordinate may be as short as 6 months.  Schumer pledged to seek federal funding for the Gateway project.

The Lackawanna Coalition believes that new tunnels under the Hudson will be essential for a rational regional transportation system, and that they should be built so as to afford maximum use by both NJ Transit and Amtrak, and eventual access to Manhattan’s East Side.