The Lackawanna Coalition is still alive and looking our for you, the riders on NJ Transit.  We have succeeded in convincing NJ Transit to run more trains for those of us who still need them and ride them.

Historically, we met at Millburn Town Hall since our organization was founded in 1979.  At the moment, most of the world is locked down, and our normal meeting room is closed.  That does not mean we are out of action, though.  We are meeting by telephone conference at our normal meeting time, 6:45 pm on the fourth Monday or every month (the one exception being May 18 because of Memorial Day).  We will keep "meeting" by phone every month until our regular meeting room is available again. 

We still have presentations, the latest news from the Morris & Essex and our other rail lines, and a lively discussion at every "meeting"; just as we did when we met in person.  We hope to meet in person again soon, but in the meantime, wel invite you to participate in our phone conferences.

If you wish to join us on the phone, please send an e-mail message to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we will assign a phone number that you can use to call us at the appropriate time.  

We also hope that you will join the Coalition and help us with our efforts to keep our transit going during these difficult times.  Our dues for individual members are still only $15 per year!

In the meantime, don't forget to check our forum on this web site for more of the latest rail news.

 

We are making a lot of changes at the Lackawanna Coalition these days, and we are doing it for YOU, our constituents!

Things have changed in the last few weeks, since the COIVID-19 virus struck our area.  People are traveling less staying home more, and not holding face-to-face meetings at all.  That includes us, as we have been meeting on the phone until Millburn Town Hall opens up again.

New Jersey Transit is still running, and we still have the level of train service that we have historically had on week-ends, plus some extra trains for the remaining commuters; thanks to an effort by your advocates here at the Lackawanna Coalition and our colleagues at the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP).  

We want to keep you informed about the latest rail news and give you some thought-provoking comments, too.  That is why we are bringing this portion of our web site back.  It's all part of an effort to improve our communications with you, our constituents.  Whether you still commute, ride occasionally, or are staying home on a hiatus from commuting, we are still here for you and your community. If you are involved with the life of your community, we will keep you informed about what is happening on the railroad and on other matters concerning your transit.

So check in with us and find out what our members have to say.  We welcome your comments and suggestions, too.  Send us a message at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., if you wish to comment!

DAVID PETER ALAN, Chair 

A controversial deal in which the Port Authority leased the North Bergen park-and-ride lot to NJ Transit for just one dollar a year may be coming undone, and it may have implications for NJ Transit fares, according to reporting in the Star-Ledger by Steve Strunsky (March 20). The deal is under scrutiny because of conflicts of interest allegations involving Port Authority Chairman David Samson, whose law firm had been retained by NJ Transit to help maximize revenue from park-and-ride lots. If the deal were evaluated according to the market value of the lot, NJ Transit might have to pay a lot more, monies that would have to be raised from NJT's fare revenues. The plot thickened when NJT's chief of real estate and development, Michael Francois, said that NJT might consider privatizing its park-and-ride lots, leasing them to private operators.  This raised eyebrows of Port Authority directors, who said the PA might be interested in a cut of any rental income NJT would derive from renting out a lot that the PA owns and was providing to NJT essentially for free.

NJ Transit Executive Director Veronique "Ronnie" Hakim opened by stating that she considers herself the company’s rider advocate, and recognized the dedication of transit advocates such as the Coalition in promoting the interests in passengers. She highlighted that in her own past experience as a bus commuter and parent, every morning meant going through a “risk assessment” of how much parenting time she could fit in and still make the bus. To that end, NJ Transit is working toward the goal of putting the most timely and accurate information available in the hands of riders.  She also brought up the issue of on-time performance statistics, acknowledging that the single number was often unrepresentative of riders’ experiences, and added that Rail Operations management is working on delivering station by station numbers.

Hakim expressed the view that NJ Transit needed to improve (and is actively working on improving) its relationship with partners such as the Port Authority, NY Waterway, and Amtrak. On the Port Authority front she mentioned an effort to eliminate a part of the holding pattern that buses that don’t have space available at PABT go into, which causes them to go a substantial distance away from the terminal before doubling back through city traffic. She also mentioned trying to build a taskforce of all the players whose decisions affect the flow of buses (such as the NYPD).

On the subject of Trans-Hudson mobility, she stated that all options are on the table, and that NJ Transit is doing what it can to help Amtrak with planning Gateway and the MTA with considering a possible extension of the 7 subway line to Secaucus. She also noted that she has been making an effort to get NY Waterway – a trans-Hudson link that is running at under 25% of its capacity – to promote itself in order to take a greater share of the riders crossing the “[Hudson] Ocean” (echoing a joke one of our members had made earlier).

Her comments on New York improvements were threefold: first, NJ Transit is actively participating in the Northeast Corridor Raceway project of improvements that Amtrak is making between Trenton and New Brunswick. She acknowledged that NJ Transit’s main interests were further north (i.e. the part of the line that all New York bound trains merge into), but felt that investment here could still benefit from a reduced number of late trains – both NJ Transit and Amtrak – that cause substantial delays when they get to New York. She also stated that NJ Transit had a vested interest in ensuring that the process was being expedited as much as possible given the disruption its construction is causing at Princeton Junction and Hamilton. Second, she highlighted an effort to get more timely track assignment information from Amtrak’s New York Penn dispatcher. Third, NJ Transit now has 6 customer service employees on the 7th avenue concourse (the NJ Transit part of the station) whose duties include ensuring the escalators are operating in the right direction.

 

I think I speak for the entire Coalition in expressing our hope that the efforts at improving NJ Transit service for all its riders continue, and that transit management continues to engage us actively as representatives for and of their stakeholders, the riding public.

Responding to a Federal Railway Administration(FRA)  critique of the railroad's "safety culture," which the FRA characterized as "deficient," Metro-North Railroad president Joseph J. Giulietti raised the possibility that the line's attempt to cope with mushrooming ridership may have negatively impacted safety. Quoted in reporting by Matt Flegenheimer in the New York Times (March 15), Giulietti said of mushrooming demand, "That's a fantastic problem to have . . . if you're a well-run railroad." He said that M-N would study whether the increasing ridership had caused it to neglect safety. The total number of weekday trains the railroad operates increased to 690 in 2013, a 15 percent increase over 2004. "At some point, this culture turned into one of, 'How many trains can we get in there and how fast can those trains get in there," Giulietti said.

Metro-North parent Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that more trains were not necessarily unsafe, but that an important factor is how the schedule is arranged to allow tracks to be taken out of service for maintenance.  FRA administrator Joseph Szabo also wondered whether the railroad was trying to run too many trains, and said that he was confident that M-N sister road Long Island Rail Road did not appear to have the "depth of challenges" found at Metro-North.  This may be due to LIRR ridership, which has actually declined somewhat in recent years. But it also could be that the "safety culture" on other lines, including LIRR and NJ Transit, really hasn't been evaluated: the study by the FRA of Metro-North was an unprecedented review of a passenger railroad; the "code name" of the study, Operation Deep Dive, suggested that the FRA had conducted a more penetrating study than usual.

Read the complete story at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/nyregion/metro-north-to-study-whether-surge-in-riders-affected-railroads-safety.html