Storm-Hobbled NJ Transit Bulging with Above-Average Ridership

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Lines at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Tuesday, 11/6/12 (photo by Alex Goldmark)

New Jersey Transit is running trains on a damaged rail network,on reduced schedules, through stations with limited or even no electricity.

And ridership is up 15 percent above normal.

NJ Transit spokesperson Nancy Snyder told Transportation Nation her agency carried 150,000 people Monday into New York City during the morning rush. The normal weekday ridership into Manhattan is 136,000.

Riders who normally take PATH trains into Manhattan looked for other options since one of two PATH tunnels remains out of commission.  The Holland Tunnel is restricted to buses only, so drivers had fewer options as well. The result was a packed commute from New Jersey into Manhattan, one so crowded it closed some NJ Transit rail stations due to unsafe conditions.

"We closely monitored how our [plan] worked out. There was congestion in certain areas, we realigned our resources. ... This morning it went a lot more smoothly," Snyder said.

"In and around the South Orange, Irvington, Maplewood area ...  we are adding more buses to accommodate that increased demand. We are also looking at other key areas," she said.

NJT is running "emergency bus" service from park-and-ride locations like shopping malls shuttle carry passengers to places where they can grab alternative transportation to NYC, either by ferry or bus. Those locations were condensed, and some of the buses deployed to areas that experienced especially bad wait times for buses, like South Orange.

"Today was markedly improved in South Orange, N.J. at the morning commute, but I am still dreading the evening commute," said South Orange resident Ritu Pancholy. She said she would leave work in Manhattan early today to avoid what she feared would be excessive waits at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. She hoped to get home in time to pick up her son at daycare and still making it to her polling location to vote.

On Tuesday night at 6pm, lines at the Port Authority Bus Terminal were lengthy -- and growing. Some passengers on line for the 107 to South Orange said they had been waiting for almost an hour and a half. Still, some said, it was better than Monday's commute.