Silence Is Golden: New Jersey Transit Quiet Cars Now a Fixture

So far, New Jersey Transit has found silence to be golden in the Garden State.

The agency added the so-called quiet cars to all peak period, peak direction trains that begin or end at New York Penn Station or Newark Penn Station. The special cars -- one at each end -- will be tacked on to trains that arrive at those destinations between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and depart between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

NJT has made the quiet car a permanent feature of its service and will continue to poll riders about the pilot program -- which now covers the busiest train lines -- with an eye toward further expansion to trains that begin or end their trips at Hoboken Terminal.

Commuters surveyed have shown enthusiasm for the sonic liberation from "cell phones, pagers, games, computers and other electronic devices." Riders on quiet cars are also required to speak in a "subdued voice." Policy violators -- who rip fellow riders away from gazing in silence at the lace-winged egrets fishing the shallows in front the oil refineries -- can expect a conductor to pass along a business card emblazoned with a gentle reminder.

In September, transit riders first came across a Zen-like mantra -- "No cell, no song; low talk; in peace we travel; arrive calm" -- printed on pale blue placards posted in cars deemed "quiet coaches." Prior to the pilot program, commuters were left to dole out icy stares or worse when confronting loud-mouth passengers.

To close, a bit of hushed history from a New Jersey Transit press release giving credit where it's due -- to another train line:

"The Quiet car concept was born in late 1999 when a small group of regular Amtrak commuters asked their conductor if one car of their early morning Philadelphia-Washington train could be designated as 'cell phone-free.' The conductor agreed and Amtrak quickly expanded the concept. Within months, most weekday Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor featured Quiet Cars."