Tuesday, August 09, 2011

NJ Transit Must Be Held Accountable For Today's Massive Delays

NJ Transit had what it later described as a minor derailment during this morning's rush hour. What it called a minor derailment caused massive delays throughout both the morning and evening rush hours. In fact, the delays spilled over to rail lines that should never have been affected but for the agency's massive failures.

There was no reason for the kinds of delays seen on the train lines running out of Hoboken. There was a time when Hoboken could handle traffic from the Midtown Direct trains and all of its existing rail lines (Bergen/Main, Pascack, Montclair-Boonton, and other lines) without succumbing to the delays seen today. In fact, there was more train traffic just a few years ago before NJ Transit cut service.

That goes to the incompetence of the agency to deal with the derailment.

Why couldn't the agency make the necessary repairs from what it considered a minor derailment in time for the evening rush hour? Why did it delay making repairs until after 8pm tonight, rather than trying to get everything fixed in time for the evening rush hour? Delays may have eased on the Bergen/Main line, but can riders expect a normal commute in the morning?

I doubt it.

Those are mistakes that cost riders real time and money and countless hours of aggravation.

NJ Transit deserves all the scorn and derision one can muster for its awful performance once again. It belatedly admitted that there was a derailment on the NEC; had it done so from the outset, commuters who know better than to trust agency pronouncements about delays would know better than to contemplate traveling altogether and/or preparing for a real long commute. Instead, it stuck to claims that there were 60-90 minute delays on the NEC and NJCL, while 15-20 minutes on the other lines. Problem is that the Bergen-Main line delays were self inflicted with extra time spent waiting at Secaucus for trains that were supposedly canceled or not operating.

It's absolutely inexcusable.

Meanwhile, all the talk about how the Gateway/ARC tunnel would have alleviated this mess is ignoring the fact that NJ Transit is hopelessly incapable of informing riders of delays or resolving problems in a timely manner. It has cut train service into Hoboken and yet it was forced to cancel trains on unaffected lines for no reason. It couldn't find train crews to man trains that were fully loaded. Those have nothing to do with Gateway or the lack of new tunnels, and everything to do with failure of management to deal with contingencies that it knows are likely.

It acted as though this was the first time that there have been problems on the NEC; when it's had problems on a weekly basis. You can't solve those problems with new tunnels alone - and with NJ Transit showing itself to be a poor steward of its capital program, the $1 billion in expected cost overruns for the ARC tunnel were going to seem like rosy projections. NJ Transit couldn't afford ARC, neither could taxpayers, and commuters would have had to shell out even more outrageous fares to cover the agency's multiple failures.

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