Joseph Clift, a former director of strategic planning for the Long Island Rail Road, asked New Jersey Transit to take accountability of its upcoming reduction of service in reference to the impact on customers at a Wednesday meeting.
NJ Transit has announced that New York City Penn Station’s Tracks 14 and 15 will not be in service from June 17, 2019, to Sept. 6, 2019, resulting in fewer tracks for Transit, Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road.
Amtrak will repair and renew railroad interlockings at the east end of New York Penn Station that direct Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road trains into and out of the East River tunnels connecting to Sunnyside Yard in Queens.
You are increasing the pain on the extra three weeks on the Montclair-Boonton line. You are denying access and it is not fair.
– Joseph Clift
Clift asked NJ Transit to admit that all four peak Montclair-Boonton diesel train riders will lose access to New York City Penn Station. He asked Transit to give an explanation for its plans to divert trains to Hoboken, instead of rescheduling service through Newark Penn Station to squeeze out a peak train every 40 minutes, which would allow Montclair-Boonton New York City Penn Station peak trains to continue to operate, possibly from July 4 until Labor Day due to far more commuters being on vacation and resulting in fewer riders.
“The Long Island Rail Road is not killing access to New York Penn Station for a single rider, and neither should New Jersey Transit,” Clift said.
New Jersey Transit hired Stewart Mader in April to be a customer experience officer. Clift asked NJ Transit to have Mader report directly to the board of trustees, “where he will have a degree of independence from Transit management.” Clift said Transit has a history of opacity to the public and ignoring customer needs, calling them “major problems that have become worse under the current administration.”
“You are increasing the pain on the extra three weeks on the Montclair-Boonton line,” Clift said. “You are denying access and it is not fair.”
In other news, rider advocacy organization Lackawanna Coalition President David Peter Alan referenced that NJ Transit plans to restart the Atlantic City Rail Line and the Dinky shuttle in Princeton on May 12. This is earlier than Transit’s original estimated date of May 24.
“The 12 extra days of service came as welcome news, but the story is not completely upbeat,” Alan said. “The agency has drawn criticism for not restoring service sooner, and for not reinstating any of the services that riders in North and Central Jersey lost last year. Advocates in the region have repeatedly called for the return of those trains, but have also expressed concern that the ongoing shortage of engineers will prevent those trains from running again until next year at the earliest.”
NJ Transit directors also approved contracts for the construction of a new storm-resilient electrical substation at the Bay Head rail yard on the North Jersey Coast Line.
“The new Bay Head substation will provide New Jersey Transit and its customers with more reliable service in the face of future storms,” NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said. “Our resiliency projects, like this substation, are focused on minimizing the impact of storms as they occur, and returning to full service rapidly and safely afterward.”
The new substation, funded by the Federal Transit Administration, is replacing two existing Bay Head yard substations damaged during Superstorm Sandy. It will not only be protectively encased, but will also be elevated above anticipated saltwater storm surges and flooding levels.
Contracts were awarded to T.Y. Lin International and PKF-Mark III. The T.Y. Lin International contract for construction management services is not to exceed $3,059,350.52, and the PKF-Mark III contract for the construction of the substation itself is not to exceed $20,657,858.61.