As part of our continuing effort to keep you informed about events that concern our rail service and transit generally, we will post our statements from time to time, along with other documents that we believe you should see.

We received significant media coverage after I made a statement at the meeting of the NJ Transit Board on August 8th.  Here is the statement as I submitted it for the record.

Since that meeting, riders on the Atlantic City Rail Line and their advocates have kept up the pressure on NJ Transit to announce a definite date for the return of the trains to their line.  In response, at a public meeting held in Atlantic City on August 20th, NJT Executive Director Kevin Corbett said that the line would be back in service by January 1, 2019.  We look forward to the trains coming back, and we hope it happens by then. 

At this writing, there is no similar "date certain" for the return of one-seat-ride service to and from Penn Station, New York on the Raritan Valley Line.  We call for the restoration and expansion of that service as quickly as possible.

 

LACKAWANNA COALITION STATEMENT FOR NJT BOARD MEETING 8-8-18

The changes in our right to address this Board, which begin today, include a significant reduction in the amount of time available to us. Instead of the two five-minute opportunities to comment that we had before, we are now allowed only a single five-minute statement. We could say that for giving up this opportunity to be heard, we will no longer be forced to wait through the entire executive session; a feature that discouraged the sort of expression that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is designed to protect. The current start time has shortened our wait by sixty minutes, which is a step in the right direction. We must insist on another change, which is an assurance from you, Commissioner, that if an executive session is still ongoing at 10:00, it will recess until the public portion of the meeting is concluded, so we will no longer suffer the inconvenience of being forced to wait through an entire executive session before we are permitted to exercise our right to speak.

 

Concerning today's agenda, I addressed the budget issues last month. I have submitted a copy of my statement as an exhibit, and I incorporate those remarks by reference as part of today's record.

 

There are other issues that must be dealt with immediately. I have been riding the Morris & Essex Line and other lines now operated by NJ Transit for more than sixty years and have advocated for your riders for more than 33 years, and our transit has never been worse. I have been informed that the entire Morris & Essex Line schedule ran last Saturday. That used to be commonplace. Now it is rare. There have been so many annulments lately that we can no longer count on the transit specified in the schedules, which we consider the contract between NJ Transit and us, the riders. I said that to Paul Mulshine in my personal capacity, and I stand by it factually today. This epidemic of annulments inconveniences commuters, who might not get to their jobs on time and must endure overcrowded trains. For those of us who depend on transit, the situation is even worse. On week-ends, we have been forced to endure gaps between trains of two, three, and even four hours.

 

You motorists who decide how much mobility we are permitted to have are not affected by any of this. But when you reduce the amount of mobility that you dole out to us who depend on transit, as if we are welfare recipients whose benefits you can reduce at will, you interfere with our lives. This is absolutely unacceptable.

 

The impending suspensions of of the Atlantic City Rail Line and the New York trains on the Raritan Valley Line are very troubling, because those discontinuances may be unlawful, and because we do not see how this level of inconvenience to your riders will be very helpful in alleviating the shortage of engineers. Advocates from South Jersey helped get Atlantic City rail service restored in 1990. Now you plan to eliminate all of it without a hearing, which might violate N.J.S.A. §27:25-8(d), a provision that does not distinguish between temporary and permanent elimination. Through a campaign that we support, the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition has fought for years to get direct service to New York, and you now plan to eliminate it, also without a hearing. This leads to the conclusion that, if advocates pushed for a service enhancement, it will forever be vulnerable. We do not see how this inconvenience to the affected riders will help alleviate the engineer shortage, either. Cutting back all Raritan trains to Newark might free up one engineer at a time. Killing Atlantic City service can only make as many engineers available as are qualified to operate on the Newark or Hoboken Divisions, which are a long distance from South Jersey. We don't know how many there are. In other words, the affected riders could be forced to pay very dearly for only a small benefit. We strongly urge you not to eliminate these services.

 

We are also deeply concerned that nobody of appropriate authority at NJ Transit has specified a date certain on which you expect full service on the affected lines to be restored, if you do eliminate them. If these cuts are truly for a limited time only, you can tell us exactly when those services will come back. We remember the express train from Hoboken to Gladstone that was eliminated in 2001, purportedly temporarily to accommodate track work in the Bergen Hill Tunnels. That train never came back, as Amtrak service between New Orleans and Jacksonville was “suspended” for Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and never came back, either.

 

We are concerned that we will lose those trains permanently, and we are also concerned that we cannot count on any particular scheduled train actually running. We want to work with you on solving this mobility crisis, but that is possible only if you are forthright with us, your riders, when you think of cutting our transit.

 

DAVID PETER ALAN, Chair