New Jersey Transit announced its contingency plans today, if a strike or lockout should halt all NJT rail service beginning Sunday, March 13th. While all train riders in North and Central New Jersey will feel the pain, our primary lines of concern will be among the hardest-hit. There are few bus routes on NJT that run from points along our lines to New York City, and the NJT and privately-operated bus routs in the area will not be able to accommodate most of the riders who now take the train. Some places on the lines have buses to Newark and other localities, but these buses will not be able to absorb many of the train riders, either.

There will be enhanced service on certain bus routes, and the primary change is that there will be four temporary park-and-ride bus services: Ramsey-Route 17 Station to the Port Imperial Ferry in Weehawken, Metropark Station to Harrison for connection with PATH trains, Hamilton Station to Newark Penn Station and a shuttle bus between Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands and Port Auithority Bus Terminal. Academy Bus will also serve a park-and-ride lot in Monmouth County. These services will operate only during weekday peak-commuting hours, and only in the direction going toward New York City.

It is difficult to blame NJT management for this schedule, even though it offers very little for riders on the Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton or Gladstone Lines. The Port Authority Bus Terminal is crowded to capacity at peak-commuting times, and there is little room for extra buses. The highways will also be clogged with motorists who commute by train. The situation will be difficult for motorists, and people who depend on transit will have very little mobility.

NJT essentially acknowledges this. In materials issued this morning, the agency said: "Approximately 105,000 customers make up the total New York-New Jersey, rail-based interstate market -- including customers who transfer from NJ TRANSIT rail to PATH trains at Hoboken Terminal and Newark Penn Station." Of those, 16,000 will be accommodated on the NJT buses and another 3000 on privately-operated buses, along with an additional 21,000 park-and-ride customers. This means that NJT expects to accommodate on about 40,000 or 38% of the 105,000 rail commuters who normally take the train toward New York City. The other New York commuters will NOT have alternate transportation. There was no mention of local riders, who will also have to fend for themselves.

Further reading:
Updated: Your guide to the limited existing bus service along the Moristown, Gladstone, and Montclair-Boonton Lines

If the trains stop running, it will be difficult for motorists, and much more difficult for transit-dependent persons, to get around. In addition to the advice NJT offers, we have some of our own. Do not travel during peak-commuting hours, if you can possibly avoid it. Plan to spend much more time traveling by bus, especially if you must make one or more connections, than you normally spend on the train. Buses are much slower under the best conditions, and most bus routes in New Jersey are not scheduled to make convenient connections with other routes. Do not count on being able to get to many of the destinations that you can normally reach. There may not be any service, or the trip itself may take too long. For example, the one-way train trip from Newark to Trenton normally takes slightly more than one hour. A similar trip, using five buses that are not timed to connect with each other, takes over six hours.

We have two pieces of advice for you that we suggest with the seriousness befitting the occasion. Watch this web site for updates. NJT does not tell you about the privately-operated buses, but we can. Also, if you do not absolutely need to go somewhere, STAY HOME!

The Lackawanna Coalition has repeatedly called for both sides in the dispute to find a way to reach an agreement, if at all possible. Whatever harm may come to labor or management if a strike or lockout occurs, the harm to the riders will be far worse; especially for riders who depend on transit for their basic mobility. We hope peace comes to NJ Transit, its employees and its riders.

We also wish all NJ Transit riders the best of luck in this difficult situation.

Chair, Lackawanna Coalition