Photo of NJT's Hoboken Terminal
NJT's Hoboken Terminal

Amtrak's work program at New York's Penn Station began July 10 and will run through September 1;  all carriers using the crowded stations have announced service reductions and alternative travel options. The burden of service changes will fall on riders onNJT's Morris & Essex lines -- the Morristown and Gladstone branches, where almost all weekday trains running to and from New York will be diverted to Hoboken. North Jersey Coast Line trains normally serving Hoboken will terminate at Newark Penn Station instead.  Amtrak required NJT to cut 6 from its maximum of 21 trains in or out of Penn Station each hour; NJT said this would disrupt the trips of 7400 passengers each day. Information regarding the temporary schedules are available on NJT's website; for the most-affected Morris & Essex Lines, printed timetables for the new services are available at stations and were distributed on many trains on June 29. To download the latest schedules for the work period, visit www.njtransit.com, click on "Schedules and Fares," select "Train" from the dropdown box, then scroll down to the section "Upcoming PDF Schedules." (The M&E schedule, for example, is here.)  NJT announced a number of alternatives for affected riders to reach their destinations, and private carriers have also begun to offer alternatives. And some commuters vowed to drive in to Manhattan, or just work from home. 

Handy Guide

NJT has published an online handy guide for M&E riders during the work program; it's available in PDF format here.

NJT Rail Schedules

New weekday schedules have been released for all lines affected. This mostly involves schedules for the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines. Weekend and holiday schedules are not affected. On the M&E, all trains to and from New York Penn Station (the "Midtown Direct" service) are rerouted to Hoboken, except for four inbound trains arriving before 7:00 a.m. On the Montclair-Boonton, trains will continue to run to and from New York, but in peak hours these trains will skip Newark Broad Street, which will make it impossible for M&E riders to transfer in peak hours -- which might have led to dangerous overcrowding. For both the M&E and M-B, significant schedule changes are in effect, so it's important for riders to consult the new timetables before traveling starting July 10. On other lines, the changes are minor; some connections have changed for travelers transferring at Secaucus Junction, and North Jersey Coast Line trains to and from Hoboken will terminate at Newark Penn Station, to make room for the additional M&E trains routed to Hoboken. Outside of peak hours, it will be possible for M&E riders to reach New York Penn via the remaining Montclair-Boonton trains that still stop at Newark Broad St.; these are listed in the revised M&E timetable. Riders are cautioned that late-night PATH service can be very inconvenient to Hoboken; M&E riders should consider the Montclair-Boonton line trains from New York to Montclair State University, and connect at Newark Broad St.; however those holding the reduced-fare Hoboken tickets may be required to buy a ticket reading from New York, or to pay surcharges on board. Off-peak Raritan Valley Line trains operating to and from New York will continue, with minor schedule changes.

"Plan B" Alternatives Appear

While NJT has planned extensive options for riders affected by its reroutings, competing options were reported by Larry Higgs for NJ Advance Media. One option is offered by Boxcar Bus, inbound in the morning from Madison, Chatham, Short Hills, Summit, and Millburn; tickets cost $13.99 and must be purchased via Boxcar Bus's smartphone app. According to the Higgs article, Our Bus is planning service from West Orange and Livingston, and is using crowdsourcing to determine pickup points; as of July 6, however, the new service didn't seem obvious on their website. From Morristown, Skedaddle will offer nonstop service between Morristown and 370 7th Avenue in Manhattan in both directions, three buses each way daily; tickets cost $17 and can be reserved on their website. Morristown officials are promoting the Skedaddle service, but not subsidizing it.

Reduced Fares

To compensate M&E riders for the loss of service, reduced fares will be available to Morris & Essex Lines  (Morristown and Gladstone lines) riders during the work period. A fare table is included in the M&E temporary schedule; all fares to Hoboken have been reduced by approximately 50%. This includes weekly, monthly, and single trip (adult and reduced senior/disabled) fares. Fares to New York and Newark Broad St. are unchanged, but riders to Newark should be able to purchase a cheaper Hoboken ticket and use it to Newark.  These reduced-fare Hoboken tickets will be valid only during the work period and cannot be used on other NJT lines. Monthly ticket users on the M&E should buy a Hoboken pass instead of a New York ticket for July; for the period July 1-9 these tickets will be valid to New York. Weekly and monthly tickets should be available through agents, ticket machines, and online apps; the one-way tickets will be available starting July 9.  The reduced-fare Hoboken tickets will not be honored to or from New York, except on the four early-morning (before 7 a.m.) inbound M&E trains.  The reduced-fare Hoboken tickets will not be honored weekdays to or from New York, except on the four inbound weekday trains arriving before 7:00 a.m. On weekends, weekly and monthly tickets will be honored to or from New York, but single trip riders must buy tickets to New York to travel there. 

NJT-Announced Connecting and Alternative Services

NJT announced a number of connecting and alternative services, including ticket honoring arrangements.  Passengers traveling via Hoboken will have their tickets cross-honored via PATH, New York Waterway, and NJT's #126 bus line to and from New York.  On PATH, inbound riders can use their NJT tickets at Hoboken; returning riders must board PATH at 33 Street or World Trade Center only to use their NJT tickets. PATH said it would add extra trains, and would be capable of handling 9000 additional riders daily. New York Waterway will offer a special peak-hour (7-10 a.m., 4-8 p.m.) ferry service between Hoboken and West 39 Street in Manhattan, every 15 minutes. At Newark Broad Street, there are several options.  Newark Light Rail service between Newark Broad St and Newark Penn will run on a 10-minute headway in peak hours (6:30-9:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 8:00 p.m.);  Hoboken monthly and weekly passes will be valid, but not single Hoboken tickets on the Light Rail; however, riders wishing to continue to New York via NJT rail service from Newark Penn will have to buy a ticket reading to NYP. Contracted bus services from Newark Broad, South Orange, Maplewood, and Summit to New York in the morning peak only (7-9 a.m.) will also be available to Hoboken ticketholders. NJT rail tickets will also be cross-honored on NJT and private bus lines, including DeCamp, Lakeland, and Community Coach lines (Caution: one NJT site says this requires New York tickets). NJT announced that enhanced service will be available on three of its bus lines: #107 from South Orange, #108 from Newark Broad, and #126 from Hoboken, with extra buses on standby at South Orange should overcrowding develop.

Frequently Asked Questions

NJT has a list of FAQs on its website.  Most of the answers are covered in this article, but here's a few miscellaneous topics:  A Hoboken pass or ticket will be honored on most alternative travel options, including buses, PATH, ferries, and the early morning M&E trains into New York; but if you really need to travel on other NJT lines or use other trains into New  York, consider buying a ticket or pass valid to New York; however, note that weekly/monthly (only) reduced-fare Hoboken passes will be honored on weekend trains to and from New York.  When updates to the work program are required, NJT will disseminate the information on its website, on social media (Facebook, Twitter, MyTransit alerts, texts to customers' cell phones, radio, TV, and PA systems at stations.

Weekend Service Not Affected

Weekend trains will operate normally; on the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines, the main service on weekends is to New York Penn, with Hoboken service operating only every two to three hours.  NJT announced that weekly and monthly tickets reading to Hoboken will be honored on M&E trains to New York; however, single-trip riders will apparently have to purchase tickets at the regular prices and won't be able to use the special half-price tickets.

Gladstone Weekday Busing

Coincidentally with the Amtrak work program, midday busing on the Gladstone Branch also began July 10 and extends to September 1. Buses will replace trains for six midday weekday trains in each direction between Summit and Gladstone, from approximately 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information is included in the special summer timetables; note that in some cases bus stops are a few blocks from the rail station. Eastbound passengers should note that the bus departure times are 15-25 minutes earlier than the trains they replace. Weekend Gladstone busing (all weekend trains), in effect since March, continues until sometime in the fall.

Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak Also Plan Service Changes

Long Island Rail Road, the other commuter service using New York Penn Station, also announced reductions in service and rerouting of trains to the line's other western terminals. LIRR also announced alternative bus and ferry services. Notably, LIRR's service changes were spread across the LIRR's various lines, in contrast to NJT's approach which mostly focuses on rerouting trains on the Morris & Essex lines.  LIRR also announced that there would be 25% discounts for riders diverted from New York Penn to the line's alternate terminals, Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn or Hunterspoint Avenue in Queens.  Amtrak, which owns Penn Station and will be conducting the repair program in July and August, announced a reduction in New York-Washington service, and cut back of some of its Harrisburg trains to Philadelphia or Newark, N.J.; and three round trips between Manhattan and upstate New York, Amtrak's Empire Service line, will switch to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan instead of using Penn Station.