Why Should I Care?

Despite NJT’s “95% On-Time Performance” stat, your train is constantly late.

Averages can hide mountains of inequality, and in few statistics is this truer than On-Time Performance.  Getting NJT to disclose inconvenient facts can be like pulling teeth, but back in 2010 The New York Times managed.  They found the numbers to back up what we all knew: if you commute to/from New York Penn Station during the rush hours, your on-time performance is vastly worse than the average [1]. Dover–NYP trains were late a stunning 1 out of every 6 trips during the morning rush, while the evening rush trains were late 1 in 11 times [2]. Put another way, your trains would be late between 43 and 67 work days per year.

What we’re doing: We’re advocating a plan that gets another tunnel into New York Penn ASAP.  We want to see NYP’s platforms and access points redesigned to flow better—the trains can leave sooner, and it won’t make you miss them.

NJT should spend more money on the Amtrak route every New York train uses, not on new locomotives and cars.

How often have you heard the latest delay blamed on “Amtrak Switch/Signal/Power Problems?”  Although it’s true that the offending infrastructure (some of which is 80+ years old) is owned by Amtrak as part of its Northeast Corridor backbone, NJT runs far more trains over it than Amtrak.  We believe that NJT has an obligation to do its part to fix the problem, yet in the last few years they have spent less and less money on Northeast Corridor upkeep.  Worse, much of that money has gone to the parts furthest away from New York, where it benefits the fewest commuters.  Think about that the next time your shiny new multilevel train is delayed due to Amtrak power problems.

What we’re doing: We’re advocating for significantly more investment in Northeast Corridor improvements, especially in the most heavily used stretch (from Newark to New York).  We’re also advocating a plan that gets another tunnel into New York Penn ASAP.

New York Penn Station is a mess at rush hour.

As if aging rail infrastructure that isn’t getting fixed and terrible on-time performance weren’t enough, NYP has major passenger flow issues, too.  It takes an engineer’s eye to spot these problems, but fortunately the Coalition has one: Joe Clift, a former planner for the LIRR.  Here’s what he found: there are heaps of obstructions on NJT’s platforms, and thick metal doors that passengers have to hold open to get into the concourse—and as much as we all love them, NJT’s preference for escalators is a liability: they can handle fewer passengers for the same amount of space as the stairwells they replaced, and when they break down they become mediocre staircases with uncomfortably-tall steps.  Next time you have some time to kill at NY Penn, walk over to the LIRR side and go down to one of their platforms.  You’ll be amazed by how much wider and more open they look (despite being exactly the same width as the NJT platforms), because they’ve been optimized for moving people.

Tip: if you want to avoid some of the crowds during the evening rush, go to the Amtrak side of the station on 8th Ave.

What we’re doing: We want to see NYP’s platforms and access points redesigned to flow better— the trains can leave sooner, and it won’t make you miss them.

By marginalizing Hoboken, NJT is ruining the New York commute.

I know what you’re thinking: “I ride Midtown Direct trains to avoid Hoboken and PATH.”  Plenty of your fellow passengers are going to upper Manhattan, but there are a growing minority that aren’t: local riders going to Summit, Morristown, and Basking Ridge, professionals headed to the growing job centers in Newark and Jersey City, and even commuters headed to Lower Manhattan who can get there faster via PATH despite the cattle-car crowding.  Ideally, none of these people should be on the overcrowded New York trains, but because NJT has pared back Hoboken service, many are forced to do so for part or all of their commutes.  Everybody wants less-crowded trains, and more frequent Hoboken service is the answer—and who knows: in a few years, you may find a job in one of these locations, too.

What we’re doing:  We want to see more Hoboken trains run, and for connectivity between New York and Hoboken trains to be built into the schedule.

Sometimes you need to get home outside of rush hours.

You unexpectedly got out of work early.  One of the kids got sick at school.  You stayed in New York to see a show.  If you’re used to the rush-hour schedule, you may be in for a rude awakening—especially if you live on the Gladstone or Montclair-Boonton Lines.  Some locations have always had infrequent “off-peak” service, but many others lost it within the last several years as a result of NJT’s cost-cutting.  For example, Mount Tabor station on the Morristown Line lost 40% of its trains in 2008, and has not gained a significant number back since.  In our humble opinion, off-peak service is an imperative, a matter of basic mobility.  Even if we don’t use it every day, we want the comfort of knowing it’s there when we need it.  For too many of us, it isn’t.

What we’re doing: We’re advocating that NJT improve their off-peak schedule.