NJ Transit Won't Restore Express Train for South Orange
Friday, October 26, 2012 • 9:41pm
SOUTH ORANGE – NJ Transit will not make any immediate changes to the evening rush-hour train schedule for South Orange, despite a petition with more than 1,000 signatures and efforts of municipal and state officials.
South Orange resident Scott Greenstone launched a petition for restoration of express train service between 5-8 p.m. after the schedule was altered on Oct. 14.
Earlier today, Paul Wyckoff, spokesman for NJ Transit, responded to Greenstone’s petition with a letter stating that no changes to service can be made at this time. Wyckoff said NJ Transit will continue to study South Orange train service, but if a solution is found, it would not be implemented until 2013.
Greenstone said that was an unreasonable amount of time to wait for a resolution to the issue with train service.
“I was surprised when I read the email from Paul Wyckoff,” Greenstone said. “I was confident that they would add at least one more train line to help South Orange.”
In his letter to Village President Alex Torpey and Greenstone, Wyckoff stated: “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, Greenstone said he believes the trains are still overcrowded. Greenstone commutes to and from New York Penn Station during the week. “Since we only have two modern double-decker trains (between 5-8 p.m.), the diesel trains seem to be more crowded with a lot of standing,” he said.
The letter from NJ Transit noted that it is not a simple fix and adding South Orange as a stop for an existing express train would throw off the schedule for trains that follow.
At Monday’s South Orange Board of Trustees meeting, Wyckoff and Tom Morgan, senior director of rail service planning, explained the process of train scheduling. “It’s almost like a Rubik’s Cube,” Wyckoff said at the meeting. (Read more about that meeting here.)
South Orange is one of the first municipalities to be designated as a transit village in New Jersey. When the Midtown Direct trains were introduced, South Orange was advertised as being only a 30-minute train ride into New York City.
“Families looking to relocate to a commuter-friendly village are looking elsewhere, negatively affecting South Orange property values,” the petition states. “South Orange has deeply invested in the success of our train station, only to be left in the cold with recent service reductions.”
Torpey was unavailable for comment because he is coordinating the village’s response to Hurricane Sandy.
The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.