In the ongoing attempt to ensure that New Jersey Transit modifies their recent schedule change which had a negative impact on South Orange commuters, the Village President, most recently brought the Village's and commuter's concerns directly to Jim Weinstein, the executive director of New Jersey Transit. President Torpey reported a cautiously positive discussion, which included discussing the community's concerns over train schedules, emergency preparedness and a number of other topics, as well as a discussion about moving forward with meeting to discuss development opportunities in the parking lot in front of SOPAC and other areas in South Orange that would support TOD (Transit Oriented Development) goals.
Between Mr. Weinstein's report and the feedback from Trustee Mark Rosner who had a recent meeting with officials from New Jersey Transit as well as several residents, Village officials feel that although guarantees were not made to the their complete satisfaction, they do believe that some commitments were gained and confirmed. The commitment from NJ Transit when they attended the October 22nd Board of Trustees meeting, to examine their numbers and report back to the Village, at which point NJT and the Village would discuss what changes might be needed was re-confirmed. This process was pushed back because of the storm and NJ Transit's extensive recovery process. However, when they complete the first two weeks of the analysis in January (taking counts during this holiday time yields little overall value), village officials will sit down with them and report back to the community what was found, and if their data suggests any changes, the Village, alongside state and county officials, will strongly advocate for this.
The Village also has a commitment from NJT, as was made when they came to the October 22nd Board meeting, to look at trying to take at least one express train that skips South Orange currently, and just add South Orange as a first stop. It has been reported to us that it's much easier to look at changing schedules post-NY Penn, such that the entire reconfiguration of hundreds if not thousands of trains going in and out NYC doesn't have to be changed. The Village has also talked with NJ Transit about adding extra cars onto existing trains and bringing in double decker cars on trains that are still experiencing overcrowding. This is complicated by NJ Transit's equipment which remains in a state of repair, especially the double decker trains, from flooding that occured during Sandy. The Village has heard reports from commuters that many of the crowding issues that were significant in the beginning of the of the storm recovery, have cleared up to some degree, though it is hard to determine whether that was due to better equipment provided by NJ Transit or by commuters changing their schedules to compensate for the overcrowding.
And although this concern is more of a convenience issue, it has been raised by a number of residents and commuters, which is that the Village also has a commitment of NJ Transit to look at seeing if they can put TV's with 'DepatureVision' in the South Orange station so commuters can more easily see when the next train is coming and find out about delays, etc.
Additionally, President Torpey is in constant communication with West Orange and Livingston's mayors who are also advocating on our behalf, as the quality of the schedules at the station impact all three of our communities jointly. Conversations between Village officials and our state assembly and senate offices, as well as the county executive's office, to help lobby for us will continue as they have been.
Furthermore, in the December 10th Board of Trustees meeting, the Board passed a resolution strongly urging New Jersey Transit to reconsider their decision about schedule changes, stressing the negative impact the schedule changes had on commuters that use that train station - which is over 3,500 a day from South Orange, Livingston and West Orange. South Orange has become, and is continuing to grow as a transit hub for Suburban Essex County, and the sustainable development happening in and around South Orange will only be made stronger the more accessible the train lines are.
More information will be posted on southorange.org as it becomes available.