Streams

Why Commuter Trains Aren't Getting Any Less Crowded

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 04:00 AM

WNYC
Riders disembark from a Metro-North train. (Frank English/MTA)

Ridership on New York's three commuter rail lines exceeded or approached record levels last year. Those growing numbers cause crowding at rush hour, and beyond. But the railroads say stubborn physical and political constraints will probably prevent them from adding seats or service any time soon.

As the economy recovers and bridge and tunnel tolls keep rising, riders are flocking to transit. That's placing a strain on Long Island Railroad, Metro-North and New Jersey Transit, whose documents acknowledge that some train trips are all but guaranteed to have standees.

Veteran commuter Barry Wadler, who was in Penn Station recently awaiting a train to Merrick, described conditions on Long Island Railroad. "Any train going to Hicksville is crowded," he said. "Any train going out to Suffolk, Ronkonkoma is crowded. The Merrick trains on the South Shore, the Bablyon line is crowded."

Long Island Railroad's Hydra-Headed Challenge

Riders like Wadler wonder why the railroads don't simply add more trains. The answer is limited track space. Long Island Railroad has nine branches that converge on a three-track bottleneck beneath the East River that it shares with Amtrak trains. Railroad president Helena Williams says most of those trips end at Penn Station, where track space is at a premium. "We only have so many opportunities to put trains through our system and into Penn Station," she told WNYC during an interview at the MTA's Midtown headquarters.

Wadler's next suggestion is to make trains longer. But that raises the problem of the railroad's many short platforms. Emptying 12-car trains onto 8-car platforms requires passengers to move from car to car before exiting. That adds minutes at each stop and clogs the schedule, which means fewer trains.

And there's another difficulty. The morning rush runs more trains in a shorter span of time than the evening rush. To add more service in the morning, you have add more space to the rail yards for trains to turn around and line up one after the other, ready to go. Or as MTA board member Mitch Pally put it at a recent railroad committee meeting: "The more yards you have, the more trains you can run."

But LIRR president Helena Williams said not only are the trains overcrowded, the rail yards are, too. "It's the storage issue. If we want to increase service, for example, from Huntington [traveling] west, we need storage for electric cars," she said.

The railroad has tried to buy land for rail yards near Huntington and in Suffolk County. But local homeowners and elected officials have stopped them—just as they stopped an effort to add a third track to the railroad's main line, which would've increased service and lessened the number of standees.

Metro-North's Quasimodo Problem

Metro-North has six fewer branch lines and more rail yard space than Long Island Railroad. But it, too, has short platforms and is bursting with passengers, especially on the New Haven Line. Metro-North would like to add double-decker trains, which carry more people and are used by commuter lines around the country, including the LIRR and New Jersey Transit. But spokesman Aaron Donovan says the issue is not enough headroom—for the trains.

"Grand Central Terminal is served by four tracks that lead in from the north on a four-track tunnel," he said, referring to the Park Avenue Tunnel, which runs from 97th Street to 42nd Street and was built in the 1870s. The tunnel's low ceiling means Metro-North trains serving Grand Central can't be taller than 14 feet, 11 inches tall.

"It causes us a capacity constraint because we are not able to run the tall double-decker coaches," Donovan said, adding that Metro-North has looked into designing custom double-deckers with steeply sloped roofs and other modifications. But that's years away, at best. The railroad's next generation of train cars are designed to be single-level. And it's probably impossible to turn New Haven line cars, with their rooftop electrical systems, into double-deckers.

NJ Transit: Tunnel Poor

New Jersey Transit has dozens of double-decker trains that fit through tunnels under the Hudson River. The problem is the number of tunnels: two. Spokeswoman Nancy Snyder says those two tunnels carry all of the Amtrak and commuter train traffic between Manhattan and points west.

"Peak period track slots into and out of New York City are all filled," she said. "No additional trains can be added into the city during peak hours. If something goes wrong then trains become quickly backed up."

The obvious solution is to double capacity by building another tunnel. That's what the ARC tunnel was designed to do before New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed it in 2010. Amtrak is working on a substitute called the Gateway Tunnel, but that's a decade or more away.

That leaves commuter rail riders to pack into trains not designed for standees, the way subway cars are. And while most subway rides last 15 to 25 minutes, commuter train rides can be more than two hours one way. Snyder says NJ Transit is trying to alleviate crowding by buying more double-decker trains and beefing up the light rail system that siphons off riders to the PATH train. "It reinforces and supports our effort to spread the ridership on different modes," she said.

And that would seem to be the message, for now, from the railroads to their combined annual ridership of 245 million: If you don't like standing on a jammed commuter train, try other ways of getting to work while we figure out how to add capacity.

Take a ferry, maybe?

Several WNYC listeners raised good questions about crowded commuter trains and what might be done about them. Reporter Jim O’Grady responds to a few of the issues raised in a discussion with host Soterios Johnson.


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Comments [35]

xplorer

When you look at the people running transit system most are political animals and really don't understand that our transportation is a particular profession. Also the designers and planners have to work under them and the prejudices of the staff. Note: NJT did not use double deck cars and then it did, now they are the greatest thing to them. Agencies like the LI RR have diesel hauled double deck cars but the huge M-7 order is all single deck cars now. Why not double deck MU's? NJTransit wanted to produce them and were stopped by a political appointee. We have to have railroad technocrats run the business.

Feb. 27 2014 12:45 PM
Bronx from NYC

"and the same thing with that so-called rescue plan, which was to once again bring up toll on all the crossings that didn't have them but also failed. As for subsides for driving, only the roads and highways are actually subsidized, but so many others that I pay for such as insurance, licensing, maintenance, inspection, and so many other fees that aren't subsidized at all not to mention go up very frequently as well."

Sorry but THAT DOESN'T CUT IT. Your driver fees, DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT cover the expenses of driving. That applies to all aspects of automobile ownership. Without roads and highways your automobile is useless.

"One other thing, many highways are at least county owned, not city owned, so it's a whole county that is paying for them, not just a single city, plus NYC has plenty of state and interstate roads and highways that my tax dollars go to as well, so you're not alone here."

NY State is BROKE. NYC is the bread bringer and subsidizes upstate living.

"BTW, transit is heavily subsidized, which is why the fares are so low compared to the tolls. For the record, I do support improving and expanding mass transit, but I feel that the riders are the ones who should really be covering the costs more just like how I feel that use the roads more should be covering th"

Highway tolls are also subsidized, along with gas and other expenses such as emissions inspections (should be significantly higher considering environmental damage).

Mass transit is the lifeline of the New York City metropolitan area. Without, this city would not work. If this city was inefficient, the state would be in an even deeper hole than it already is, and the ripples would affect the entire United States.

Feb. 26 2014 07:47 PM
Bronx from NYC

Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY;

"If you take apart where the MTA gets their funding, the majority of it does come from motorists living throughout downstate NY rathr than those that actually use their transit."

False, the funding comes from other revenue sources.

"Just to let you know, the MTA is a state agency as it has been since 1965, so I do get a say in whatever they do because my taxes also go to them."

No one is arguing that you are not entitled to representation. However, the MTA should be controlled by New York City.

"Believe or not, the raising of the base fare on the subways and city buses are peanuts compared to how much the tolls go up, but some will act apathetic to that because they aren't the ones driving."

Driving should be expensive. The infrastructure cost are higher per capita and the net effects of excess usage are overwhelmingly negative (and expensive).

"Again, the original purpose of the tolls was to pay off whatever they were placed on and be removed afterwards, not created as a revenue source to fund anything else."

Negative, tolls were created to help fund roads. That includes maintenance and possible expansion. Unfortunately, they don't come close to covering them. Thank the auto lobby and sprawl.

"I've been on a number of tolled crossings and there is so much traffic with ongoing roadwork on them than the free ones, so it makes me feel where that money is really going to"

Did you ever take into consideration that tolled roads are often more heavily utilized and therefore need frequent maintenance?

"Keep in mind that the fight to create a tax known as congestion pricing lost in a humiliating fashion to help fund transit when so many just saw it as making others footing the bill for the riders as always,"

Congestion pricing was met with positivity in New York City. However, it was not even voted upon at the state legislature. Obviously the sprawling state doesn't give a damn about New York City issues, which is way the local government should be allocated power to enact such legislation. Meanwhile, New York City is the bread bringer of New York State (and the greater US really).

Congestion pricing would have fully funded the Second Avenue Subway. This is turn would have reduced traffic on the East Side significantly over time, in collaboration with CBD tolling. Drivers and non-drivers alike would have benefitted from reduced traffic and net effects (collisions/air pollution).

BTW, drivers are heavily subsidized as well.

Feb. 26 2014 07:47 PM
Ralph Engel from Larchmont, NY

On the New Haven lines the trains are constantly late, and have been for many months. This happens in good weather and bad, on a daily basis, without any apparent cause, and with no explanation. In addition the promised new cars are not appearing at any reasonable rate, and trains starting and ending in New York, as to which commuters did not demand bar cars, still have bar cars, with far fewer seats than normal cars have.

Instead of spending money to get more new cars and to get them operating, or, until that happens, to fix up the old cars and keep them operating, and on adding more peak-hour trains, Metro North, for some undisclosed reason, is replacing the railings on its recently renovated stations with new railings, although there is no indication that there was anything wrong with the old ones.

One change that would help commuters is to treat Metro North trains as late when they are late, rather than only if they are late by more than five minutes. Doing that would make Metro North's abysmal actual on-time record public, change the totally unrealistic figures in the totally unnecessary waste-of-money publication Metro North drops on its seats every couple of months, and, maybe, serve to encourage Metro North to get its trains to run on time.

Feb. 26 2014 01:34 PM
David from New Jersey

Public Transportation is not going to change anytime soon because the people we have elected to serve us for in the tri-state area have not done their jobs.

Feb. 25 2014 10:19 PM

I've said it before and I said it again...get these businesses and companies on a clocked TRACK SYSTEM.

ASK if some people want to come in a bit later...say 9:30am or 10am...just stratify the people coming in.

Most of the time...a lot of office jobs COULD be done slightly later...and have people stay slighlty later. Some people will love it. Especailly the night owls or the non morning people!

IF everyone got on this bandwagon..you would see an immediate decline in the HERD and SHEEP effect on trains and platforms.

hey..some people want to come in earlier..give them that option!!!

Feb. 25 2014 07:47 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I don't think that everyone who opposes transit expansion are necessarily NIMBYs, some of them might be opposing them, because it's going where they actually live or work, which is really fighting against it due to displacement rather than living with it. Would anyone really want to give up their property just so that a transit agency can build there? If the MTA or PANYNJ must place something they need, they should at least give input from communities as well as state good reason why they need that property, otherwise many will just see them as land grabbing. Also, it's not just these agencies, but this extends to all other public sectors who need land for something of their's as well, plus some of this can extend to private developers. Honestly, it's easy to support placing something somewhere when it's either not where you live or work, or even when your not in the path of the wrecking ball. Try understanding the causes for once rather than the effects.

Feb. 25 2014 07:43 PM
Andrew Clearfield from Glen Ridge, NJ

The problem with the proposed tunnel from NJ was that there was NO PROVISION for the Federal gov't or New York to contribute anything to the cost overruns, which are always huge in projects like this. New Jersey would have gotten stuck with 100% of the bill, which was estimated to be two to three TIMES the amount allocated by the Feds. Moreover, the planners in their infinite wisdom decided upon a more expensive proposal which created a new, all NJT station under 34th St. next to Macy's, which made the project more expensive and less convenient for those who might need to transfer to trains at Penn Station; NJT travelers (including many with luggage) would have to walk several blocks underground to get to Penn Station. There were cheaper alternatives (the biggest bottleneck isn't platform space, it's those two single-track tunnels), but these were discarded because the planners thought they had a gold mine in the Federal grant, even though it was severely capped.

The Moral: ask for too much, and you might get nothing.

Feb. 25 2014 06:58 PM
Gone

If the LI Railroad needs more land, why can't they take it by eminent domain?

Feb. 25 2014 06:49 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Sorry Bronx, but some of what you said are nothing more than reflections in the mirror here. If you take apart where the MTA gets their funding, the majority of it does come from motorists living throughout downstate NY rathr than those that actually use their transit. Just to let you know, the MTA is a state agency as it has been since 1965, so I do get a say in whatever they do because my taxes also go to them. Believe or not, the raising of the base fare on the subways and city buses are peanuts compared to how much the tolls go up, but some will act apathetic to that because they aren't the ones driving. Again, the original purpose of the tolls was to pay off whatever they were placed on and be removed afterwards, not created as a revenue source to fund anything else. I've been on a number of tolled crossings and there is so much traffic with ongoing roadwork on them than the free ones, so it makes me feel where that money is really going to. Keep in mind that the fight to create a tax known as congestion pricing lost in a humiliating fashion to help fund transit when so many just saw it as making others footing the bill for the riders as always, and the same thing with that so-called rescue plan, which was to once again bring up toll on all the crossings that didn't have them but also failed. As for subsides for driving, only the roads and highways are actually subsidized, but so many others that I pay for such as insurance, licensing, maintenance, inspection, and so many other fees that aren't subsidized at all not to mention go up very frequently as well. One other thing, many highways are at least county owned, not city owned, so it's a whole county that is paying for them, not just a single city, plus NYC has plenty of state and interstate roads and highways that my tax dollars go to as well, so you're not alone here. BTW, transit is heavily subsidized, which is why the fares are so low compared to the tolls. For the record, I do support improving and expanding mass transit, but I feel that the riders are the ones who should really be covering the costs more just like how I feel that use the roads more should be covering that.

Feb. 25 2014 06:31 PM

This just proves to me more and more that the PANYNJ, our supposed regional planning authority is inept, corrupt and needs to be disbanded in favor of something new. We are a huge metropolitan area with no solid, long term, focus on transit as a region - with integration efficiencies, and costs in mind. Start making tolls and gas taxes represent the true costs of cars and trucks in our region and we'll see people start to like trains and buses more and more.

The fact the NIMBY can derail a third track on LI and inept politicos and they cronies (Christie) can foil economic growth for a generation is so offensive it makes my blood boil. I live near the HBLR and I'd start digging myself to get a stop on the north end of hoboken/weehawken edge.

Feb. 25 2014 06:04 PM
Bronx from NYC

Tal Barzilai is incorrect.

•Automobile tolls do NOT cover the infrastructure cost of driving, let alone mass transportation. In fact, driving is heavily subsidized period.

•Public transportation leads to more efficient movement of people in comparison to private automobiles. This of course makes the city more revenue due to increased commerce and reduced expenses. Automobile related infrastructure along with social, environmental, and health effects are significantly more expensive in comparison.

•Mass transit also benefits drivers because New York City cannot even sustain its existing vehicular population (Metro North feeds NYC). Imagine more congestion. Mass transit users do not benefit from private automobiles.

•One primary argument regarding fair hikes on mass transit is alienation. Low income people would be more so significantly burned. The benefits of subsidizing mass transit outweigh the con's.

•His argument in favor of proportional spending would actually greatly benefit mass transit users, considering that the vast majority of people that work in NYC (largest employment hub and destination of commuter rail lines) utilize mass transit. If we did do this, our subways and commuter rails would be granted significant new funding.

@Truth & Beauty

I disagree. Sprawl is not environmentally sustainable nor is it economically viable. We need more urban development within the five boroughs and disincetives towards suburban living, especially in the exburbs. If you want to live that life, you should pay it in transportation cost and time. Fortunately, this is happening.

BTW, public transportation has not failed. It works quite well within NYC.

Anyway, all public transit modes require require major reinvestment and expansion. It's long overdue.

Feb. 25 2014 05:17 PM
Eunice from JC

Ferry rides are expensive-they cater mainly to the Wall St crowd.
Also-there are no services at weekends-big bummer.

Feb. 25 2014 05:11 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I feel the real problems with improving and expanding mass transit has more to do with who will be footing the bill. Believe it or not, riders be it the subways or commuter trains don't cover the lion's share for the funding, it's actually the tolls that us motorists living downstate NY pay that gives the majority of it at 58% unlike the 42% given by the riders. Before anyone starts complaining about fare hikes, toll hikes are much more constant and they don't raise in quarters either like fares do. The original purpose of the tolls was to pay off whatever they are on and use the taxes for infrastructure to continue paying for it afterwards, but making them a revenue source especially for funding anything else besides what it's one is also a reason for why they increase so rapidly, which is why there is a call to remove them so much. It's so interesting that so many who use mass transit want the best, but they don't want to pay for it. Another thing to not forget that other cities that some like to boast about mass transit actually did raise fares to help improve and expand them, so this would be nothing new here. I think a better way to help fund mass transit is to make it proportional to who is using it the most, not least, so this way those of us who are using the roads will paying for what we use more. On a side note, not that long ago, there were those in Nassau and Suffolk Counties that told the MTA that they didn't want to give them anymore funds because hardly any of them were given to help transit in their areas, and the bulk of the funding always seems to go to the subways and city buses more than anywhere else, and I won't be surprised to hear the same in the Hudson Valley and western Connecticut for similar claims.

Feb. 25 2014 04:41 PM
Erin from Brooklyn, formerly NJ

Chris Christie made a huge mistake killing the ARC tunnel. With that and the GWB scandal, It's plain that the man neither understands nor empathizes with commuters.

Feb. 25 2014 03:56 PM
Alex from BPC

This is an excellent piece, Jim. "We" should consider reopening Grand Central as an intercity station and improve access to both stations for riders of all lines. Four train lines come into the City, five if you bifurcate the Amtrak Empire and Northeast Corridor lines. Why do four of these go into Penn, and currently only one into Grand Central? Compared to Penn Station, Grand Central has over twice as much usable track space which will NOT be affected by East Side Access, a new LIRR station. It will take an act of Congress to get Amtrak back to Grand Central, but it makes too much sense to not consider it.

NJT has the underused possibility of multimodal connections at the massive Hoboken Terminal. PATH service is already strained, true, which is why the ARC/Gateway tunnel is of utmost importance. But so too is the opportunity to extend the 7 line to Seacaucus Junction, or even create a shuttle between Seacaucus-Penn-Grand Central, opening up options for users to access the city and further lessening the load on Penn.

MNR has been exploring ways to access Penn Station through relatively low-cost additions to almost entirely existing and underused infrastructure in the Amtrak Empire Connection/West Side Line and the Hell Gate Bridge that is also currently run by Amtrak. If we were to further clog the Park Avenue tunnel with Amtrak trains, it would make sense to explore these options to allow Metro-North riders to access Penn Station. The proposed access of the New Haven line to Penn would also serve the transit-starved East Bronx population with new stops in places like Co-op City and Hunts Point with access to the West Side.

LIRR is getting East Side Access, which puts it in a privileged position as compared to Metro-North and NJT. But they apparently have no plans to roll back any rush hour service into Penn Station. In the interest of regional efficiency, they should consider using, or building, a station in Queens similarly to the way it has been suggested NJT use Hoboken terminal. This way you can have a seat for most of the ride, but probably stand for the last stretch under the river.

A lot of the infrastructure to run our commuter lines already exists, but we need to manage them more comprehensively to increase efficiency.

Feb. 25 2014 03:22 PM
AMHess from Harlem

"New York's three commuter rail lines"? Surely you mean three commuter railroads. There are a great many more individual lines than that.

There are actually FOUR tracks beneath the East River (three serve traffic in the peak direction, as is true for the four Metro-North tracks along Park Ave). Freight traffic does NOT travel under the east River--it uses the New York New Jersey Rail car float between Bay Ridge and Jersey City.

Feb. 25 2014 01:26 PM
JOSEPH P. WALL from BRONX

I listened to your story on overcrowding on the commuter railroads. Look, I know it was the job of the reporter to point out all the excuses the M.T.A might have to not make the improvements that so desprately need to be done but, the M.T.A should stop making all the excuses and start looking for the funds needed for these expandsion projects. I also worked in Jersey City for a time so I also know a thing or two about delays etc, and what needs to be done in the expansion area for mass transit. For example, New Jersey Transit has been mentioning for almost forever that the PATH from Jersey City was going to be extended into Liberty International Airport. Well, for the information of those in management in the railroad but,the PATH is not going to extend itself into Liberty International Airport.Why not extend the Light Rail into Liberty International Airport? Too many people in my opinion, somehow think that train operators operating a light rail train somehow get permision to toy around with the train horn. WRONGO! Whenever a light rail train operator sounds the train horn, it is for safety reasons ONLY! Then you have the silly people who invoke the privacy laws or, not in my back yard laws so, the light rail does not get built or expanded. From the area I used to work in in Jersey City, the Light rail should get equal treatment as far as expansion is concerned. The M.T.A should stop counting heads when there is a question of expansion. Or, maybe the head honchos at the railroads are simply waiting for a real riot or somebody to get killed dead befor they do someting in my opinion.

Feb. 25 2014 12:17 PM
Greg

One simple way to add capacity would be to run through trains from, say, Long Island to Westchester. Through trains do not need to turn around, and therefore consume less track capacity for less time at Penn Station. This would, however, require coordination between LIRR and Metro North, which are administered as separate bureaucracies.

Feb. 25 2014 11:36 AM
Hudson from Northern NJ

Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn: Agree with all but "...Partially because of the high cost of union workers - who start well above the minimum wage." When I'm riding public transit, my life and those of my nearest & dearest depend on those who maintain the tracks, inspect & repair the the mechanicals, signals and drive the trains and buses. I expect them to be adequately trained & decently paid - as we all should be. A few trips on the dollar vans to New Jersey can illustrate the difference. Last year a West New York family's child was killed by an untrained van driver in an unsafe van speeding up Boulevarde East - into a streetlight. Dry pavement. Clear skies. Child was with her family on the sidewalk. Weehawken: 2 dollar van drivers think one is taking passengers from the other. The 2 guys stop their vans, loaded with passengers, at 7:50 in the morning. Where? in the traffic lanes of Boulevarde East & Highwood Ave. There they punch each other out. In the the intersection. I take the dollar vans when I'm desperate & say a prayer. The upper management of NJ Transit seems to be a patronage mills. Port Authority is more interested in helping political cronies & real estate developers.

Feb. 25 2014 11:34 AM
Connie from Larchmont

Why not add cars to increase capacity and label them regarding which stations they will "platform" at. For example, if you live in Cos Cob, you will know when you board the train car that you cannot be in the last 2 cars.
My ride is packed every morning and the only suggestion the conductors have is to take a different train!

Feb. 25 2014 11:21 AM

Agree with all of the comments that support expansion and improvements to all the elements of public transit in the metropolitan area but "Truth and Beauty from Brooklyn" really rankles me. Of course there is glut at the higher levels of administration, this is true of most public sector organizations; and yes, better distribution of jobs across the area would be a boon to all Tri-State residents; but union wages are not the problem, low entry-level wages in every employment category are. A living wage in our area is not even the $10.00 per hour current goal! A single person can't live on that in anywhere in the boroughs on their own even in a weekly room.
How can a family of any number do so? A living wage in N.Y.C. starts at least $15.00 and progresses at no less than a $1.00 per every six months WITH a guaranteed 40 hour week and time and a half over 40. Anything less is servitude!

Feb. 25 2014 11:11 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

What keeps the trains crowded is the percentage of high-paying jobs in NYC that people need to feed their families, coupled with their desire to live outside the City proper. If the distribution of high-paying jobs were different, then fewer people would need to commute. Period.

As far as the transportation itself, it fails on so many levels. The idea of public transportation is that it should be cheaper and faster than driving, in addition to freeing up the roads, eliminating parking problems, and reducing emissions pollution. Because it does very little of any of these things, it has failed. Partially because of the high cost of union workers - who start well above the minimum wage - and the outrageous salaries at the top of the food chain, not to mention the increased cost of oil and electricity, fare prices, as well as subsidies, are too high and little of the revenue is used for upkeep.

Too bad. It's really a good idea gone wrong.

Feb. 25 2014 10:27 AM

I can't understand how some people actually agree with Christie's decision to kill the ARC project. The subways, PATH, LIRR, carry millions of riders a day, on infrastructure built over 100 years ago. How can you overpay to provide transportation for millions of people a day, for over a century? Unless, of course, your attitude is, "screw the future, I want smaller gas taxes now". These people remind me of the people who thought the Erie Canal was a wasteful project and disparagingly called it "Clinton's Ditch" (the Erie Canal turned the U.S. from a tiny, coast-hugging collection of states into a continental, if not international, power).
By the way, I recently read an interesting proposal to have a single ride from the LIRR to New Jersey, so that trains don't have to be stored, or turned around, at Penn Station. Still need more tunnels, though.

Feb. 25 2014 10:06 AM
Cathy from Hoboken, NJ

There is not a single media outlet that addresses the issues of commuters by bus. Yet a large percentage of the NJ population takes NJ Transit buses through the Lincolon Tuunnel to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. These facilities (both the tunnel and bus terminal, according to NJ Transit wer built to handle less than 30% of what they now do. The traffic and overcrowding (and deplorable condition of the bus terminal) are outrageous and bear some looking into. Why are only the issues of train commuters (and even delays) always addressed in the media.

Feb. 25 2014 09:50 AM
Erin from NYC

The Metro North situation is plagued by other issues in addition to the ones mentioned in the piece. The New Haven line is still running a number of the old trains although the new M8s are great when you get them. Does MTA intend to order more to completely replace the old trains? (Please). The Stamford station (2nd busiest after GCT) desperately needs to be renovated - given the number of commuters who pass through (and are sometimes stuck there due to the many delays on the NH line), I'm surprised there are no plans to update this station and add amenities a la the work that has been done at GCT. Having someplace to eat besides Subway and Dunkin donuts would ease the pain of not getting those double decker trains...

Feb. 25 2014 09:32 AM
Jim O'Grady

@JohnBartlestone You're right. Getting East Side Access on line should significantly boost capacity and ease bottlenecks on Long Island Railroad. Railroad president Helena Williams told me she expects it will eliminate most train changes at Jamaica, which simplifies logistics and saves time for riders. Of course, the East Side Access completion date has been pushed back yet again. The project won't be done until some time between 2021 and 2013.

Feb. 25 2014 09:04 AM
John on Staten Island from still on Staten Island

Sara Olsen in Bloomfield: All you need do is get elected governor of New Jersey. The New Jersey doesn't wait in Lincoln Tunnel (LT) traffic. He has the LT closed to other traffic so he can cruise right into New York. You could, too.

Feb. 25 2014 09:03 AM
John on Staten ISland from Staten Island

Jack from Jersey City seems to have nailed it. "The Gov let us down on the ARC tunnel. I agree with him that the costs would have gone out of control (really, a joint project with Amtrak, Port Authority, NJ Transit and MTA--what could go wrong?), but this would have been an opportunity for him to show leadership and apply some of that much talked about 'Republican budget austerity'."

Un-fortunately you, the New Jersey electorate, just re-elected Christie. Now live with him and his short-sightedness until he's impeached, his term is up, or he's elected President. You have no one to blame but yourselves.

Feb. 25 2014 08:56 AM
Sara Olson from Bloomfield nj

Another aspect not mentioned is the dismal situation for commuters at the PABT. Traffic gets continually worse and there is apparently nowhere for buses to wait before evening rush hour. This drives people to the train, making that situation worse too. Better infrastructure is needed to keep our area competitive.

Feb. 25 2014 08:49 AM

The author totally ignores the Hoboken option which provided NYC access via PATH for almost 100 years. Hoboken has 21 tracks in its Railyard, which allows civilized boarding instead of the NY Penn Station stampeded.
Hoboken also provides Ferry and Bus access to NYC but more importantly connects via the Hudson Bergen Light Rail from Bayonne to Tonnelle Ave.
Yet NJ Transit in their infinite wisdom has been axing Hoboken service for years - 2006 they cut Hoboken weekend Service on the Morris & Essex Line 50% with no hearing or notice and now it takes 2 hours to reach Hoboken on a weekend thanks to cuts in service. In 2008 Gov Corzine cut 18 weekday trains to Hoboken followed by another 10 trains cut in 2010 by Gov Christie.
I used to be able to take an express to Hoboken in 52 minutes with another 14 minutes on the PATH I could reach 33rd St 2 blocks from Penn Station faster or as fast as the fabled "Midtown Direct".
But Hoboken also connects to the many new jobs in Jersey City and all along the Hudson Bergen Light Rail as well as Liberty State Park for events.
I have analyzed train delays on my Line (the Morris & Essex and found 49 delays in the 90 days from Oct to Dec 31st - 33 of which were for Midtown Direct. Quite a number of times (last week again in fact!) Midtown Direct trains are so bottled up that NJ Transit reroutes those trains to Hoboken anyway!
So why not just restore the Hoboken trains cut since 2006 and even expand service on the Boonton Line off-peak and other lines?

Feb. 25 2014 08:38 AM
John Bartelstone from Manhattan

A big omission in the report was any mention of the the LIRR's East-Side Access project that is connecting the Sunnyside Yard (via extensions to the 63rd Street tunnel) with a new station deep under Grand Central.

Feb. 25 2014 08:29 AM
jack from Jersey City

Dont know why PATH just got a passing mention as an overflow option for NJ Transit. Apparently NJ Transit planners have not actually ridden PATH during peak hours when the trains are packed full.

Unfortunately PATH seems to share the same problems as the rest with tunnels built in in 1910, and the system running at full capacity.

The Gov let us down on the ARC tunnel. I agree with him that the costs would have gone out of control (really, a joint project with Amtrak, Port Authority, NJ Transit and MTA--what could go wrong?), but this would have been an opportunity for him to show leadership and apply some of that much talked about "Republican budget austerity". Building a successful and badly needed tunnel under the Hudson on budget would have gained him a huge amount of credibility, and maybe kept him too busy to mess with Fort Lee!

Feb. 25 2014 08:27 AM
Hal Reiser

There is one glaring inaccuracy in the NJ Transit portion of this piece.
There is absolutely no freight traffic that passes through the tunnels west of Penn Station. All freight traffic to and from east of the Hudson River crosses the Hudson near Albany. In fact there is very little freight traffic that runs over Metro North, NJT and the LIRR and it runs either during the middle of the day between rush hours or during the night.

Feb. 25 2014 08:14 AM
Richard Thornton from East Windsor, NJ

Poor NJ commuters - they apparently like a governor who doesn't like them and doesn't want them to have a new, safer tax subsidized rail tunnel.
But you lucky wealthy with your beachfront property, he really likes you, really truly likes you, shares your pain, and wants to make sure that you get all the federal tax dollars he can grab for you.

Feb. 25 2014 07:30 AM

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