This year, the Lackawanna Coalition has been celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Midtown Direct service into Penn Station New York. As our former Chair, Albert L. Papp, notes, the service has been far more successful than New Jersey Transit had expected, even though the Coalition expected that level of success.

Ten years later, on July 17, 2006, the one-mile extension of the Newark Light Rail line (formerly the Newark City Subway) between Penn Station and Broad Street Station opened for service. According to NJ Transit, the project cost $207.7 million. When the new segment opened, service ran every 10 minutes during peak-commuting hours, every 15 minutes during mid-day and most of the evening on weekdays, and every 20 minutes on weekends.

A news release recently issued by NJ Transit claimed that service on the extension was “thriving” and quoted Executive Director Dennis Martin as saying: “The Extension provides a faster, more convenient commuting option for the thousands who are going to downtown Newark or points beyond.” Today’s level of service on on the line renders Martin’s claim questionable. Since 2010, the line runs only every 15 minutes during peak commuting times and every half-hour at other times on weekdays. Cars still run every 20 minutes on Saturdays, but only every 25 minutes on Sundays. The result is that riders who wish to connect between Morris & Essex Line trains at Broad Street Station and Trenton or Raritan trains at Penn Station on a Sunday can only make those connection once every five hours without needing an additional 60 minutes to make their trip.

The Lackawanna Coalition has called for NJ Transit to restore former service levels on the Extension, so riders will again have the connectivity that the line’s original schedule promised. We have also called on NJT to establish a special fare for riders using the Extension between the two train stations. Current fare rules do not allow riders to use the line between the two stations in Newark for train connections at each end, unless they pay a Secaucus fare, which is the same as a New York fare.