NJ TRANSIT has heard from our customers that their lives have been turned upside down by the almost daily delays resulting from Amtrak’s emergency repair work that is going on at Penn Station New York (PSNY). This is before the continuous summer work that Amtrak will perform in July and August.
Amtrak has acknowledged that it must do extensive and disruptive work to its tracks and infrastructure at PSNY this summer due to years of its neglect. NJ TRANSIT has challenged Amtrak to make the necessary repairs and Amtrak maintains this work must be done now.
Amtrak’s summer repair and renewal work will reduce the number of trains that NJ TRANSIT can send in-and-out-of PSNY, particularly during peak periods. With Amtrak taking out multiple tracks that NJ TRANSIT uses every single day, NJ TRANSIT developed a modified summer rail schedule that will be in effect from July 10th through September 1st. The location and extent of Amtrak’s work means that instead of being able to send 21 trains into New York during the busiest hours of the morning rush, NJ TRANSIT will send 15.
Even under these constraints, NJ TRANSIT’s experienced transportation service planners were able to develop a service plan that allows three-quarters of our customers to continue to experience their regular travel pattern into New York. Nearly all customers traveling on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line, Raritan Valley, Montclair-Boonton, Pascack Valley, Main/Bergen and the Port Jervis Lines will continue their same travel pattern as they do today.
However, there is an impact to having fewer trains per-hour into New York during this two-month period; some of NJ TRANSIT’s customers will move to a two-seat ride into-and out-of Manhattan each weekday.
Recognizing the inconvenience of the affected customers on the Morris & Essex Lines, they will be charge much lower fares – 50 to 63 percent less than the price they usually pay for tickets and passes. To provide the maximum number of travel options, we are also developing a strategic increase to bus service in affected areas; light rail service will be adjusted and NJ TRANSIT will offer free cross-honoring with PATH and the ferries.
Customers will see a robust communication campaign in concert with the release of schedules and travel alternatives the first full week of June through all traditional and social media outlets available to us. NJ TRANSIT employee ambassadors will be out at key terminals including Penn Station, Hoboken, Newark and other locations beginning next month, to answer questions and hand out information to help prepare customers for the continuous Amtrak outages that will impact them this summer.
For the summer, NJ TRANSIT has insisted on having a Joint Station Operations Center at PSNY for better crowd management and customer communication. NJ TRANSIT has also insisted Amtrak have rescue engines crewed and ready to respond if there is a breakdown or disruption this summer, to keep one delayed train from creating a cascade of misery for the customers on many other trains.
NJ TRANSIT also insisted on a number of other steps to benefit New Jersey customers this summer, including:
That the west end concourse at PSNY be opened for NJ TRANSIT customers.
That the blanket 10 mph speed restriction now in place near PSNY be lifted prior to July 10.
That NJ TRANSIT is allowed to perform field inspections of the renewal work.
That Amtrak provide daily written progress reports.
And that an NJ TRANSIT representative be involved in day-to-day dispatching decisions.
Longer term, NJ TRANSIT will demand that New Jersey have more input on Amtrak’s priorities for repair and replacement of infrastructure, to ensure that state of good repair efforts – those projects most directly tied to the safe and reliable service, are being advanced where they are needed most, so that NJ TRANSIT’s customers can have safe, reliable service, day in and day out.