Mona Sethi is angry enough to spit. New Jersey Transit's new commuter schedule, which took effect on Monday, has "added stress and taken away time" from Sethi's daily routine. The Livingston resident commutes daily from the South Orange station where she says many commuters are unhappy.
The schedule shows South Orange losing non-stop trains heading out of the city, though more trains than previously now stop at Mountain Station. In addition, scheduled departures have been altered, wreaking havoc with some residents' home schedules.
New Jersey Transit noted that the changed schedules adds a new train, the 6653 (leaving New York at 5:48 p.m.), and 1000 additional seats at peak evening rush hour. Spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said, "We are listening," urging commuters to contact the agency with their feedback. The changes, she said, come in response to commuter concerns about overcrowding, and allow for more seating, less crowding, and more transfer options.
Maplewood resident Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is blunt. "The evening is a disaster," she says. "Last night I took the 6:19 – which is an early departure for me. The prior 6:20 got in at around 6:55; the new 6:19 is a dreadful single-decker local that creeps and crawls and is jam-packed. Last night it arrived in Maplewood at around 7:10."
South Orange Trustee and daily commuter Mark Rosner notes, "It makes no sense to offer less express trains to South Orange than it did previously." Not only are Maplewood and South Orange in the top three for state ridership, says Rosner, but Livingston and West Orange run jitneys to South Orange.
One of the selling points of South Orange is the easy commute. The New York Times last year cited the community's three greatest attributes: the rich and varied architecture, the demographic diversity, and the easy commute into Manhattan.
Likewise, Livingston recently launched a mall-to-station shuttle bus.
Rosner notes that in an effort to correct problems of overcrowding on some trains New Jersey Transit has created additional trouble. "I urge everyone to write or call New Jersey Transit and demand that they make some adjustments. While we all agree the overcrowding was a problem," says Rosner, "there is no reason to make such drastic changes to our commute."
Weiss-Wolf concurs. "My commute is now a scheduled 16 minutes longer in the evening. It is missed time with kids, later dinner, hard to time getting home for 7pm meetings." Both she and Rosner agree. "Every minute counts."