Report from the Chair: Jan./Feb. 2023

A new year starts this month: my 3rd as Lackawanna Coalition chairperson, and NJ Transit Rail’s 41st. The Coalition has a new Web site, the forum is back in operation, and we are looking forward to being the advocate host of the Rail Users’ Network’s in-person conference in the spring. Our resolution supporting the expansion of weekend service on the Montclair-Boonton line caught the attention of Board Member James Adams, who asked Kevin Corbett to look into the possibilities and interest of local communities. We continue to look for more transparency from NJ Transit, something for which we have advocated for years, if not decades.

The lack of a so-called Customer Advocate has become almost absurd; every meeting, there are at least a few members of the public asking about it, yet no progress—possibly because they have written a job description impossible to fill. How about just expanding telephone support hours? 6 a.m. to midnight would be great; we’d settle for a 10 p.m. closing, instead of the current 5 p.m.—actually earlier, as I have had the switchboard shut off at 4:50 when I was holding. Wouldn’t you expect that operators would answer the questions of those on hold before leaving? We all like to leave our office on time, but providing the best customer service means giving just a little extra. However, that should only rarely be a consideration: one would expect that shift schedules would allow workers to answer all waiting calls and still clock out on time.

Coalition Calls for Hourly Weekend Service for Montclair and Hoboken

At its November meeting, the Lackawanna Coalition passed a resolution calling on NJ Transit to start running hourly service between Montclair and Hoboken on Saturdays and Sundays, no later than the beginning of the next fiscal year this coming July 1.

The principal “Resolved” clause says: “the Lackawanna Coalition calls for New Jersey Transit to implement hourly weekend passenger-rail service between Hoboken and Montclair State University stations, scheduled for connections with Morris & Essex Line trains at Broad Street Station in Newark, as the trains that run on the current schedule are scheduled for such connections. . .”

Continue Reading Coalition Calls for Hourly Weekend Service for Montclair and Hoboken

Metro-North Boosts Off-Peak, Weekend Schedules

On NJ Transit, schedules have been largely unchanged for years, with minor changes from time to time, and elimination of many off-peak trains to Hoboken the major event.  However, on many off-peak trains, particularly on weekends, traffic continues to build, often threatening to reach train capacity.  On New York’s Metro-North Railroad, off-peak traffic is also building, but Metro-North has the spare capacity into Grand Central Terminal to do something about it: substantial increases in off-peak service have been announced by M-N, with the first round coming on October 14, when 79 new trains per week will begin to operate: all off-peak weekdays and on weekends.  A further increase of 151 trains per weeks is slated for April 2013.  The new trains focus on the New Haven and Harlem lines of Metro-North; on the New Haven line, there will be 15 additional trains on weekdays, and 30 trains on weekends, and on the Harlem, 24 additional weekend trains.  In addition, on the NJT-operated Pascack Valley line, which originates in Spring Valley, N.Y., there will be a new round trip each weekday, plus a new Friday-afternoon-only pre-rush-hour “getaway” train.  Finally, existing trains that are overcrowded on the Grand Central lines will get additional cars to address the problem.

MTA says the new schedules will provide half-hourly service at weekend key-ridership hours at many stations on the Harlem and New Haven lines.  The railroad also announced a substantial schedule of holiday shoppers’ trains to reduce crowding during the preholiday period.

The Lackawanna Coalition believes that off-peak and weekend service on the Morris & Essex lines needs study and improvement.  Many trains are close to capacity, with hapless riders forced to take long treks through the train in search of seats.  Service is hourly at best; as Metro-North has learned, such infrequent service discourages ridership.  NJ Transit’s policy of discouraging off-peak and weekend travel via the Hoboken Gateway has exacerbated the situation; weekend service to Hoboken runs on an unacceptable 2-hour headway (with an astonishing gap from 8 to 11 p.m. returning from Hoboken, just when those out for a “night on the town” need to return).  There seems to be an NJT unwritten policy to favor service at peak hours, when most riders travel at the lowest rates, and ignoring all others; new trains are seldom added, following the idea that “since we lose money overall, every new train will just increase our deficit.”   A more business-oriented approach is needed.

Montclair Weekend Service Begins

New Jersey Transit now runs trains to Montclair on weekends.  The service, which began on November 8th, runs as far as Bay Street Station every 2 hours during the day and every 3 hours in the evening.  This marks the first Sunday service since 1959 and the first Saturday service since 1966.

The Lackawanna Coalition and other rail advocates had pushed for this service since the Montclair Connection was opened in 2002, and town officials began to push for the service earlier this year.  The Lackawanna Coalition has asked that service be extended to the Montclair State Station and run every hour.  Trains connect with Morris & Essex Line trains at Broad Street Station and provide service to Hoboken as well as Montclair.

Montclair Pushes for Weekend Service

Montclair Mayor Jerry Fried and several residents from his town have called for weekend rail service on the Montclair-Boonton Line.  They call for service to be operated to and from Hoboken.  Passengers on these trains could easily connect at Newark’s Broad Street Station with Morris & Essex Line trains between New York City and Dover.  This marks a major change for Montclair, which originally objected to the Montclair Connection.