NJ Transit’s ‘Summer of Hell’ starts Monday
NEW YORK — Ready or not, the "Summer of Delays" arrives Monday for NJ Transit riders.
Penn Station will shut down 3 tracks at a time as its infrastructure renewal project compresses the bulk of two years of track work into an eight week period scheduled to end on Labor Day weekend.
The work is focused on a maze of interlocking tracks and switches called 'A interlocking' used by NJ Transit, Amtrak and LIRR trains using the 112-year-old station.
The Morris and Essex Line will be impacted the most with an altered schedule that ends most inbound service at Hoboken Terminal. Tickets will be cross honored by PATH, NY Waterway and NJT buses for the ride into Manhattan.
NJ Transit Executive Dorector Steve Santoro "all customers should take a few moments to double check their commutes to see if times or station stops have changed as this will not be a normal summer of commuting." Santoro suggested commuters have a backup plan in case their normal commute runs into delays.
Decked out in their yellow vests, NJ Transit's customer service ambassadors will be available to answer questions at the Hoboken station as well.
NJ Transit and its Penn Station neighbors have worked out alternates for riders but Amtrak COO Scot Naparstek admits it won't be perfect. "I don't want to fool people that we're going to deliver 100 percent on-time performance. We're not bringing a new station to Penn Station, we're not replacing all the infrastructure, but the infrastructure we touch this summer should be much more reliable than it was before the summer."
Janna Chernetz, policy director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign New Jersey, is optimistic that commuters will eventually have a smooth ride to work. "It's going to take a few days for everybody to get used to the new schedules and figure out how they're going to commute. People might try different things, but ultimately people are going to figure it out. They have to. There might be people who get more creative about it, but you have to get to work."
The Northeast Corridor, Raritan Valley, Monclair-Boonton and North Jersey Coast Lines will be operating on a normal schedule during the work but riders should anticipate delays.
Santoro also suggested passengers stay cool and keep their cool.
"There will be days when the crowds seem larger than before or the delays longer than expected and that will take a toll on tempers and patience. But, if we all stay cool, respect the train crews and don’t let these frustrations take over, everyone will get to where they need to be," Santoro said.
South Orange will commemorate the start of the work with a send off breakfast hosted by mayor Sheena Collum. Commuters can also sign a banner urging funding for the Gateway Tunnel project.
NJ Transit and the communities have suggested commuters work out of the office if they can. Maplewood resident Justin Lew Black said his job as a video anchor means he has no choice but to make the trip into New York. But Michael Kasdan said he is going to try working one day a week from home.
Maplewood's public library will offer residents a place to work out of the office with expanded hours, quiet work rooms, free wi-fi and other office amenities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Share your “Summer of Delays” experience with New Jersey 101.5 and join our commuter panel. Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
More from WOBM: