Photo of NY Penn Station Entrance
M&E Trains Return to NY Penn

With the completion of Amtrak's summer-long work program at New York's Penn Station, normal schedules have returned on the area's rail lines. NJ Transit issued new timetables effective September 2, which basically restored the schedule in effect in early July before the work program began. Morris & Essex Lines weekday trains to Penn Station will begin running again on Tuesday, September 5, after the Labor Day weekend; weekend and holiday schedules were unchanged during the summer. Coincidentally with the restoration of regular service, weekday midday busing on the Gladstone Branch came to an end; regular trains will now run all day on weekdays.  (Weekend busing on the Gladstone will continue until sometime in the fall.)

NJ Transit and the other rail operators into Manhattan generally received high marks for handling the schedule changes. A typical media report, by Patrick McGeehan for the New York Times (Sept. 2), says that the "summer of hell" widely predicted for commuters never materialized.  The article quoted NJT Executive Director Steven Santoro's testimony at a recent hearing in Trenton: Mr. Santoro said that New Jersey Transit riders “made an almost seamless transition from their old travel patterns to the temporary ones that were in effect throughout the Amtrak repair outage.” Riders on the Morris & Essex lines enjoyed a bonus of fare reductions of roughly 50%, and free transfers to and from PATH trains and NY Waterway ferry services from Hoboken. The experience of using Hoboken instead of New York as their gateway to Manhattan left some riders impressed with the alternative; the Times article quoted Karen Roth, a commuter to Manhattan from Rockaway, N.J., as saying that while she would resume riding to New York Penn once the trains began running again, she said that "the difference is I’m no longer averse to just getting on the train to Hoboken to get to work."  And while crew shortages caused the cancellation of many trains during the summer, Ms. Roth said that she had not encountered a single cancellation on the trains she rode.

According to Mr. Santoro, the cost to NJ Transit of the rescheduling, and for paying for riders' PATH and ferry fares, was about $25 million; he said NJT might seek partial reimbursement from Amtrak for NJT's expenses.  But he said there would be no NJT fare increase during the current fiscal year.

The Lackawanna Coalition believes that NJ Transit did a credible job during the summer work program; however, the Coalition believes that even better services could have been offered if NJT had solicited advice from commuters and their advocacy groups in the planning stage.