New Jersey Transit commuters sound off on delays and cancelations, Amtrak asks for patience

N.J. Burkett Image
Wednesday, July 3, 2024
Continued concern for NJ Transit customers
N.J. Burkett has reactions from frustrated NJ transit customers.

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- With the holiday getaway now in full swing, there is continued concern this week from New Jersey Transit customers.

For weeks, riders have faced delays and cancellations at a seemingly endless rate and as the decades-old train line infrastructure continues to age, the problem is likely only going to get worse.

"If you're in this city and this happens, you're stuck!" a commuter said.

Trouble ahead. Trouble behind.

"I commute in twice a week and it's a nightmare," another commuter said.

"They make you come here and wait for hours and hours and hours and hours and then they go, 'Yeah, we don't have trains now,'" said Brendan McDonagh, a NJ Transit commuter.

New Jersey Transit commuters are pessimistic and with good reason. They're packing themselves onto a railroad that feels like it's falling apart.

"Sometimes I'm afraid to come to work and I don't know what's going to happen. There are days I walk in Penn Station and I'm like, 'Oh no, here we go again!' It's just terrible. The service is terrible and this has been the worst year," said Victor Velez, a NJ Transit commuter.

One-third of the trains are roughly 40 years old and they break down twice as often as they did a decade ago.

They cross the Hackensack River over a hundred-year-old portal bridge and descend into a hundred-year-old tunnel beneath the Hudson River where the overhead wires date back to the Roosevelt Administration.

"The performance of late, across the board, has been unacceptable," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Gov. Murphy convened NJ Transit officials and the leaders of Amtrak, which owns the rail network, who promised immediate action.

"We will fix these problems, and we will get to a place where the operations are much better than they've been in the last several weeks. And we're hoping that that's an anomaly that we don't have to have people experience again," said Anthony Coscia, Amtrak Chairman.

Preventive inspections are being stepped up, focusing on the overhead wires that power the trains and the pantographs above the locomotives that draw the power.

But, officials admit it will be years before the aging wires between central Jersey and Manhattan are replaced.

And, it will take fourteen years to build two new tunnels beneath the Hudson. Critics say it could have, and should have, been done by now.

"It's been easier to neglect those things. It's been easier to let those things go and figure we'll catch up down the road, later. And we're paying for it," said Micah Rasmussen, Rider University.

The portal bridge is being replaced with a fixed span and is expected to be completed within 18 months.

"That'll replace three and a half, roughly, miles of catenary and signals right here, in the most important part of this system, which is between Newark and New York, Penn Station," said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak CEO.

Gov. Murphy has increased funding for NJ Transit and pushed through a tax on the state's wealthiest businesses, which will do even more.

Asked when he last rode the trains, he told reporters it had been a while.

"I got to get back on it. My experiences have been outstanding," Murphy said.

Riders we spoke with say the governor needs to get out more.

"'Come ride the train.' That's what I would say. 'Come ride the train and see if you have a good time and, from your personal experience, see what you can do.' What's the harm in it, right?" a commuter said.

ALSO READ: Trouble ahead, trouble behind for frustrated NJ Transit commuters

N.J. Burkett has the latest.


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