TRANSPORTATION

Commuters can’t complain as track work begins at NY Penn Station

The most sorely affected by the days of delays are riders of the Morris and Essex Line whose trains now terminate in Hoboken. Brenda Flanagan was there for the morning rush.

It was pretty OK, I think. We are live here at the terminal. This is where those Morris and Essex NJ Transit commuters got their first taste of the major change in the schedule. The schedule was changed, of course, to deal with the repairs of the tracks and signals over at New York Penn Station. That’s going to take all summer. At that point 25 percent of those rail lines could be offline. That’s a significant disruption. NJ Transit just told us 87,000 of those Morris and Essex riders had to find a different way to work today. And of course the delays and the crowds were baked right in.

“So far, not bad, not bad,” said commuter Yvette.

Yvette joined a tide of humanity that poured out of NJ Transit trains on the Morris and Essex Line. It suddenly ended in Hoboken, instead of continuing to New York Penn Station.

An estimated 16,000 extra commuters had to navigate another way into Manhattan. They found 150 yellow-vested helpers from NJ Transit guiding the way, their tickets cross-honored.

“People should be prepared for a bit of waiting, a bit of confusion. There are going be a lot of new folks getting off here in Hoboken who probably sailed through the station before and never really paid attention,” said NJ Transit Spokesperson Charles Ingoglia.

Most riders trudged downstairs to PATH service — which added four extra trains per hour, so another ride arrived every five minutes instead of every seven. Lines moved slowly, but they moved. Transit advocates are still worried.

“We ran some numbers and found that running every five minutes would accommodate about 3,300 additional riders during the peak 60 minutes. We do not believe that will be sufficient,” said David Peter Alan, chair of the Lackawanna Coalition.

“This is really crowded. But the trains, they added extra cars, so it was okay,” said New Providence commuter Michaela Rupp.

“It’s a little more crowded, but so far so good. And I think communication has been good,” said River Edge commuter Karen Vander.

Besides PATH, commuters lined up to board additional ferry service offered by NY Waterways from Hoboken to 39th Street. At peak rush hour from 7 to 8:30 a.m. about 800 people chose the water route, said NJ Transit, which also offered a third option: extra buses to the Port Authority. Most commuters appreciated it all.

“I mean, it’s difficult, but I feel like NJ Transit’s at least putting in a lot of effort to make it as painless as possible. And they gave discounts on tickets, so it’s okay. We just have to make the best of it,” said Maplewood commuter Moraa Muyeka.

“Everybody’s eyes are on it, so they’re doing the best they can. But what they really need to do is revamp the entire system. The whole system is dysfunctional,” said Jerry Aroneo.

The trip home will be different for some 3,400 commuters who caught four early bird Midtown Direct trains into Penn before 7 a.m. will have to join the crowds on PATH, ferries and buses back to Hoboken. But both riders and officials figured that day one wasn’t horrible.

“There was some backup on the PATH. The PATH should probably run a few more trains. But I expected chaos and we did not see chaos, so I’m pleasantly surprised,” said Alan.

“We’re pleased with what we saw. The plans we put into effect seem to be working and most importantly our customers seem to have done their homework and made their choices quickly this morning and gone about their business,” said Ingoglia.

Now, if you look at today as a sort of test day, essentially this was the second half of the evening rush. We talked to NJ Transit and they told us that things look to be moving smoothly. They’re hopeful that with a few minor tweaks they’re going to be able to count on this as a smooth commute again tomorrow.