Frustrating summer for NJT riders

August 16, 2010 3:13:11 PM PDT
The month of July was the worst in two and a half years for New Jersey Transit delays. Nearly eight percent of trains were more than five minutes late, leaving commuters steaming mad.

"It's been a big problem this summer," Pete Kelso said.

Kelso's commute from Princeton to Jersey City should take about an hour, but last Wednesday, when a fallen tree caused a five-hour shutdown of the Northeast Corridor line, he didn't bother going in at all.

"There's one way to get to the office and that's New Jersey Transit, (and if New Jersey Transit's not working) then you're not getting to the office," he said.

New Jersey Transit trains have been plagued with problems this summer: equipment issues due to the hot weather, falling trees, and four suicides on the tracks in nine days. In all, July 2010 recorded 12 major service disruptions, compared to just 3 in July 2009.

"You can't forecast anything. It eats into your day. You waste so many minutes during the week," Erica Vandell said.

Adding insult to injury, the month of heavy delays comes right after New Jersey Transit hiked fares by 25 percent.

"I feel like I'm paying more but the quality of service is getting worse," Anthony Williams said.

Along with the fare hike comes service cuts, meaning many New Jersey commuters need to leave earlier to even have a chance of making it to the office on time.

"I try to get in as early as possible and leave as early as possible to try to deal with that," Williams said.

A spokesman from NJ Transit told Eyewitness News, "We know that July was a challenging month... We want our customers to know that we are focused on reliability and continue to advance projects that will improve on-time performance..."

For the families waiting for their loved ones at home, the improvements can't come soon enough.

"We can't have a family dinner and my daughter has to wait up on school nights. It's really very unreliable," Renee Allen said.

NJ Transit just applied for almost 900 million in federal funding to improve the reliability on the Northeast Corridor. They'll also be adding capacity across the Hudson and Secaucus Rivers, but those projects won't be done for another seven or eight years.