In the past four days a petition to restore South Orange commuter train service to previous levels has garnered nearly 1000 signatures. Now commuters wait for NJ Transit to respond, perhaps by Friday of this week, according to an update provided by Scott Greenstone, who launched the petition.
The issue was the centerpiece of discussion at the Monday Board of Trustees meeting, with NJ Transit officials, state Sen. Richard Codey, Assemb. Mila Jasey, and Assemb. John McKeon in attendance. Since that time, County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo , Jr. has also weighed in, supporting the return of express service during the evening rush.
The South Orange station serves not only residents of South Orange and Maplewood, but is the jitney and shuttle stop for rail riders from Livingston and West Orange.
On Monday, NJ Transit officials told South Orange trustees January is the soonest a wholesale train schedule change could be made.
However, in response to a challenge from Village President Alex Torpey, the agency promised to look into adding a stop to an existing express during the 6 p.m. rush hour.
Officials also conceded South Orange service has decreased in the last week, since the new commuter schedule took effect.
Jasey noted South Orange has fewer double-decker trains than previously. More have been ordered, but will not be available until spring, she reported.
The soonest a large-scale schedule change could be made, said a NJ Transit spokeman, is January. Any changes made then would be as a result of "fieldwork," information gathering undertaken until mid-November. "This was a significant change to the service," said Paul Wyckoff for the agency.
New Jersey Transit has been touting the in the evening commuter. However, when questioned by trustee Mark Rosner, the spokesman acknowledged though there is a new train on the line, there are no additional South Orange stops. Trustee Nancy Gould further noted those trains that serve South Orange in the evening make more stops than previously.
Commuters have emailed and called NJ Transit and Village officials. NJ Transit has told commuters one reason for the change was to reduce overcrowding.
Codey asked why commuters couldn't have been told of changes ahead of time. "They were blindsided," he said.
Lee Pollack, resident and one of the commuters, said, "This will change the quality of my life." He will see his children less often, he noted. However, "There was nothing wrong with the schedule we had." He urged officials to "use everything in their power" to make changes now. "I implore NJ Transit to do something about this sooner rather than later."
Throughout the week, readers have tweeted their experiences on the trains that run in the 6 p.m. hour. "Sardines," said one reader. "Every single day."