We may lose our trains very soon. After five years without a contract, NJ Transit’s rail workers could walk off the job, or management could lock them out. On Sunday, March 13, and maybe for a long time after that, the only trains in New Jersey besides light rail, PATH or PATCO in South Jersey, could be Amtrak trains running between New York Penn Station and points far beyond Trenton.

That would cause an economic catastrophe for the region; only short of the devastation that a work stoppage on the New York City transit system would trigger. Motorists would still have mobility, at least in theory, but the roads would be clogged. Bus riders would face the same problem, along with the additional burden of rail riders attempting to crowd onto the buses. Whatever contingency plans that NJ Transit might implement would do little to alleviate the overall loss of mobility. Their plan to run commuter buses form temporary park-and-ride lots would do little to help motorists who could get to those facilities, and absolutely nothing for people who depend on transit, without access to an automobile. People who depend on transit will suffer more than anyone else; they will be stuck.

It is absolutely essential that cooler heads prevail, and a work stoppage does not occur. People who depend on transit are being used as unwilling pawns in a monetary chess game being played by politicians who have access to automobiles and do not need to ride transit. The Republican Christie Administration and the Democrat-controlled Legislature have literally decimated support for transit; cutting it by 90% since the Christie Administration took office. It is easy to understand why NJT management says they cannot afford a labor settlement like the ones recommended by the Presidential Emergency Boards. That does not get us to where we need to go, however. We, the riders, do not need political posturing. However the details are worked out, we need our trains.