By Briana Vannozzi
Commuters could be in for a long week. For the second day in a row, NJ Transit riders were hit with delayed trains, canceled schedules and platforms packed like cattle cars. It’s the second train derailment in as many weeks and today, the state agency was unable to commit to a timeline for repair.
“There is still overcrowding, I admit that. The service that we ran, and we heard today in the board meeting, is something less than we would like to have to accommodate all of our customers, but it is the maximum amount of service that we were able to operate based on the conditions, the track conditions that we had,” said NJ Transit Executive Director Steven Santoro.
The cause of Monday morning’s derailment at New York Penn Station is still under investigation. Santoro says a Northeast Corridor train experienced a slow speed derailment while pulling into Track 9. There were only a few minor injuries, but damage was found to track switches. Eight tracks were out of commission as a result. And it took Amtrak more than 24 hours to remove the disabled train.
“Amtrak may not have the money to fix its problems but NJ Transit as a concerned tenant could,” said Lackawanna Coalition Vice Chair Steve Thorpe.
At today’s board meeting, tolerance was running low.
“MTA and NYC Transit has a schedule department that prepares schedules for practically every contingency and it’s done on short notice if necessary. And I just don’t see that here. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have run a better schedule out of New York. They’re running two trains an hour. They must know how many riders they have on a daily basis,” said Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council Chairman Randy Glucksman.
The agency placed most trains on a holiday schedule. That means frequency of rides are nearly cut in half. Others were diverted to Hoboken, which had its own problems today after track issues for the PATH caused delays, with more than normal ridership.
“To make a statement that customers are unhappy with us, yes there is a significant amount of customers that may be unhappy with us on any given day or any given incident. But the customer surveys reported that 75 percent of our customers are willing to recommend NJ Transit to their friends to ride,” Santoro said.
NJ Transit is receiving $140 million as part of the additional Transportation Trust Fund money Gov. Chris Christie approved. Former LIRR Director of Planning Joe Clift has some ideas for that.
“Start doing work toward another tunnel and improvements at Penn Station. The derailment yesterday may or may not have been a problem because of the age of the infrastructure at Penn Station, but it certainly needs improvement,” he said.
So crews are continuing to respond to the site of the derailment, making improvements to the track and infrastructure, but as far as that commute to and from work? Director Santoro says it’s still too soon to say when the system will return to normal scheduling.