NJ Transit delays enrage commuters as fare hike set – ‘Nothing is being done about it’

Every day, radio producer Brandon Tagoe boards an early morning train from Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Manhattan’s Penn Station.

The short commute is supposed to give him more than enough time to get to his New York City “dream job” by 5:15 a.m., but Tagoe, 28, said the last line of New Jersey Transit’s problems and delays have made him chronically late — and that hasn’t put him in the good graces of his boss.

“Should have talked to me,” Tagoe lamented while standing in Penn Station last week. “I had a meeting with my boss about the importance of being on time and he was threatened with consequences if I continued.”

A spate of train delays and cancellations in recent weeks has angered commuters and left them fearing the service will only get worse. Michael Nagle

“It happens so often,” he said of the delays. “And nothing is being done about it.”

NJT has frustrated its riders for years. But a series of disruptions, delays and outright cancellations in June — combined with aging train cars, antiquated infrastructure and an ironic 15% fare hike starting Monday — has left commuters making the punishing trip from the Garden State in Manhattan it gets a little hotter. I hope it will get better.

“They could do better for sure,” Kanesha Hayes, a 39-year-old sanitation worker, told The Post during the worst of last week’s delays. “I’m paying $200 a month, they tell me it’s going up, but still the service is terrible.

“I can’t be late all the time,” she continued. “They write to me about being late. My job is about being on time and I don’t want to be out of work.”

Talia Crawford, manager of advocacy and organizing for the New York-based Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said many of the problems stem from years of funding shortfalls and budget neglect — even though the agency was allocated $2.9 billion in 2023. .

The delays were caused by a variety of problems with Amtrak and New Jersey Transit’s aging infrastructure. Matthew McDermott
The problems caused commuters to pile up inside the chaotic Penn Station in Midtown. Michael Nagle

“New Jersey Transit has been in a budget deficit for the last 10 years — and we’re almost in a billion-dollar hole,” she said last week.

But pushing more money into the agency’s coffers is tough, since it’s competing for the same dollars as every other state-funded department in New Jersey.

“Transportation is against, like, education and hospitals and other public services,” Crawford said. “I don’t think it got as much support as it does now because we understand how critical public transport is and how many people actually use it.”

The results of that chronic underfunding were on full display in recent weeks, when already frustrated commuters endured a series of nightmarish delays caused by problems with Amtrak’s overhead wires, electrical and mechanical problems with NJT trains, a wild brush fire in the Meadowlands and a tripped circuit breaker that knocked out power between stations in Newark and Midtown.

NJ Transit said help is coming in the form of 138 brand new cars — some of which could be in service by the end of this year. Getty Images
The state is also raising the corporate tax to help close NJ Transit’s large budget gaps. Michael Nagle
The delays left commuters angry and frustrated. Michael Nagle

In a statement last week, NJT President and CEO Kevin Corbett said he listens to riders’ complaints.

“We are as frustrated as our customers, and the frequency and impact these issues have on our customers’ quality of life is clearly unacceptable,” Corbett wrote, adding that the agency is working with Amtrak to find “the root cause of recent events, a host of incidents affecting the Northeast Corridor.

“What we can say is that we operate approximately 700 trains every weekday along hundreds of kilometers of track, on 11 railway lines, with the same equipment. And these incidents are mostly happening only on this stretch of road [Northeast Corridor] between Newark and New York,” he said.

Amtrak — which owns the infrastructure and charges NJT about $200 million a year to send its trains to New York — also acknowledged problems on the lines.

Transportation advocates say NJ Transit should be funded as the necessary service it is. Getty Images

In a June 21 letter to customers, Amtrak President Roger Harris apologized to “everyone who was inconvenienced” by the avalanche of problems and said the problems appeared to be “unique to the equipment and the area.”

“We have established a joint team with NJT to identify the source of this damage and implement improvements,” he wrote. “Regardless of the causes that led to these delays, you deserve better service and we are committed to providing it.”

Despite the cascading issues, there is help on the horizon.

A NJ Transit spokesman said the agency will soon receive 138 brand new multi-level train cars that will be far more reliable than others in the aging fleet. Some of them may be in service by the end of this year.

And late last week, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a state budget that included a 2.5% tax increase on the state’s largest corporations — the proceeds of which would go directly to closing the budget gap. of NJT’s nearly billion dollars, according to Politico.

Major improvements are also expected for the tunnels between Newark and New York. Tariq Zehawi/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

“You saw the drama that unfolded in New York City, New York State, with the MTA, where they were going to rely on third parties, basically, to solve their fiscal challenge in the transit system,” he said. governor, referring to the Big Apple’s failed congestion pricing plan.

“We all committed that we wanted to solve our problems within our own four walls, and sometimes that’s not without pain.”

Next is the $16 billion Hudson Tunnel Project, which will build a new two-track rail tunnel between Bergen Palisades and Manhattan, according to the project’s website.

It will also rehabilitate the existing River North Tunnel, which opened in 1910 but still handles around 450 trains each weekday.

That could lessen the lifelong sting of former Gov. Chris Christie’s decision in 2010 to scrap the $8.7 billion ARC plan, which would have built two new rail lines between New York and New Jersey.

Last summer, Murphy told NBC’s Chuck Todd that his predecessor’s move was “the biggest policy mistake of the last 50 years in New Jersey.”

New tunnels are also on the verge of construction, although they won’t be built for a decade. Michael Nagle

Of course, commuters may not want to hold their breath waiting for new rail lines — the Hudson tunnels won’t open until 2035 and the North River crossings won’t be fixed until 2038.

Crawford, the transit advocate, said New Jersey’s corporate tax hike — which is expected to bring in about $800 million a year — will help keep NJT afloat, but won’t fix it.

“It would just blow them out of the hole,” she said. “It does not address any of the service issues and improvements that NJ Transit needs. And it won’t add service.”

However, it is the first time the state is investing in public transportation as the necessary service it is, she said. And so it must continue.

“There needs to be prioritization and future funding … for riders to really see the changes we need and want,” she said.

Meanwhile, Amtrak and NJT officials jointly announced last week that they will increase inspections and maintenance work on a “variety of infrastructure and fleet systems” following the latest wave of service disruptions.

Many of the problems stem from aging infrastructure. Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

“This will be a comprehensive effort focused on both the Amtrak infrastructure, including the electrical traction system that powers the trains, the catenary (the system of electrical power wires that are part of the electrical traction system), the signals and switches — and the NJ equipment TRANSIT, including the pantograph system that connects to the catenary and draws power for the train,” the agencies said in a joint statement.

Riders, for their part, have little faith in the agency. And even less hope that things will get better.

“There are a lot of issues they need to work on to improve the service,” said Dalbert Artiles, a lab technician who takes NJT from Penn Station in Manhattan to his job in New Brunswick.

“It’s not going to get better any time soon,” he continued. “I expect it to get worse – and I’m worried about it.”

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