Delays to NJ Transit trains are increasing, and commuters are not happy, according to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (March 14). In all but one of the last 9 months, Frassinelli writes, NJT fared worse than in the previous year. February, in fact, was the worst month for train delays in 18 years, even worse than January’s experience, which was the worst month in 9 years. In February, just 87.4% of trains received an “on time” rating—but the standard used for determining whether a train is late allows arrival at the destination of 6 minutes later than the time printed in timetables, so trains can be behind schedule but not counted as ”late.” Of the 15,565 trains were operated in February, 2088 were late. Trains on the Morris & Essex Lines and the North Jersey Coast Line seemed to fare the worst, with only 74.6% of trains arriving within the 6-minute window. February was one of the worst months for weather-related events, which may explain why the overall performance was so bad.
Lackawanna Coalition member Tim Sevener has maintained a spreadsheet of travel alerts issued by NJT; he was quoted in the article. NJT issued 55 alerts in January and February, with delays ranging from 10 minutes to an hour. The weather also caused delays when Amtrak had to close one of the Hudson River tunnels at a time to do “ice patrol” maintenance in the cold weather. Newly arrived NJT Executive Director Ronnie Hakim blamed aging infrastructure, “The rail system is as good as its infrastructure. It’s old. It needs maintenance,” she said. Social media today allow riders with computers to do more than sit in frustration. Commuter David Speedie was able to send a dispatch from his delayed train: “As I write I am just outside Secaucus on an indefinitely delayed Montclair Direct, already almost 30 minutes late, with the excuse du jour (Overhead wires? Signal problems? Switch problem? Take your pick.) I have been in Third World countries with better transport systems.”