The evening commuter train schedule will not change, according to a NJ Transit official. Paul Wyckoff, spokesman for the agency, today released a letter addressed to local resident , and to Village President Alex Torpey.
The letter reads (in full):
Village President Torpey and Scott,
As you know, we added a ninth car to the 6:19 beginning last night to ease overcrowding, particularly between Penn NY and Secaucus. The feedback we’ve gotten from customers is that this helped ease the congestion on board the train. However, people are reporting that the train is running late, which adds to the total time of the trip and to the hour at which the train reaches South Orange. I’ve also received concerns about not all doors opening, both at South Orange and Mountain. I am asking rail to investigate both these issues.
Next, rail planning has completed its review, and re-review of finding a way to stop the 6:21 express, or some other express, at South Orange. Unfortunately, this could not be done without changing the schedule for many other trains that follow.
We are just as disappointed at the infeasibility of this tack as I’m sure you are, because it would offer, on the face of it, such a straight-forward benefit. However, there are infrastructure realities that prevent it. Let me explain.
The M&E is a three-track railroad between Newark and Millburn. From Millburn west, it becomes a two-track railroad. And just as with a highway that goes from three lanes to two, or two to one, this creates a bottleneck that the schedules must take into account.
Adding an express stop at South Orange would mean that the express train might then get to Millburn after, instead of before, the local train that runs on the third track. The express would then have to follow the local from Millburn west, totally throwing off its schedule. There simply is no way around this, without revising the entire M&E schedule.
Revising the entire schedule has been suggested by a number of South Orange customers, who ask why we should not simply go back to the previous schedule. The answer goes back the reasons behind adjusting the schedule in the first place – balancing customers with available seats on all the trains on the M&E, and getting each train to its appointed stops at or about the appointed time, through infrastructure bottlenecks, Penn Station congestion and the like.
Please note, the lack of an easy “fix” for the express train stop does NOT mean NJ Transit has given up on pursuing other avenues to ameliorate the concerns of South Orange. The prime focus of the planners and schedulers now is determining if it might be feasible to shift some stops before South Orange, particularly Secaucus stops, to other trains, thus reducing the time the South Orange train(s) would take to reach South Orange. Secaucus is of particular interest for two reasons: first, given passenger volume shifting the Secaucus stop would reduce potential crowding on the S.O. train, and second, given the nature of operations at Secaucus, eliminating this stop on a South Orange train could reduce trip time by 3 minutes or more. And, as South Orange residents and customers told us loudly and clearly at the Trustee meeting and through emails, even a couple of minutes are important. As we said the other night, our deadline for that analysis is mid-November. Obviously, if we can finish that analysis earlier, we will.
As you will see from the header of this email, I am including the Legislators in the distribution list to keep them fully apprised.
In the meantime, please be aware that today and quite possibly Monday and perhaps into Tuesday, almost everyone here at NJT is focused on preparations for the weekend storm. Just as with the storm one year ago, NJT and many other state agencies are on, essentially, emergency footing. In our case, we are making preparations to position and protect locomotives, train cars, buses and other equipment so they are not damaged by high winds or flood waters, and can be returned to service as soon as possible. Should the storm get bad, power will be shut off to overhead catenary wires on the rail lines. Of course, we will use the media and other outlets to alert local officials and the public if service will need to be suspended, and if so, when it might resume.
Again, we remain committed to working with you and our South Orange customers to make our service as efficient and convenient as possible.
Chief of Government and External Affairs
This story will be updated as further information becomes available