A Trip to the Symphony: NJPAC

This past Saturday night, I had a ticket for a performance of the New Jersey Symphony at NJPAC in Newark. The concert started at 8:00 p.m., and I decided to take NJ Transit to the concert.

My Pascack Valley Line train was scheduled to leave the Anderson Street station in Hackensack at 6:56 p.m. (Interestingly, I would be taking Train #2122 on 1/22/22!) I left my home in Teaneck at 6:47 p.m. and arrived at the station six minutes later, at 6:53 p.m. On weekends, you can park in the station parking lot right across the tracks from the station, and I did so. As I was crossing the tracks to the station, I could hear the bells from a distant grade crossing, and my train pulled into the station at 6:55 p.m. It consisted of four Comet V cars, of which only one was open to passengers. That car, though, was adequate to accommodate the 35 or so passengers on the train.

We arrived at Secaucus one minute late at 7:15 p.m. This gave me plenty of time to make my connecting Northeast Corridor Line train to Newark, scheduled to depart at 7:23 p.m. This was the last train I could have taken that would enable me to arrive at NJPAC by 8:00 p.m., so I was glad that my Pascack Valley Line train had arrived essentially on time. I looked at the departure monitors and discovered that all trains were departing from Tracks 2 and 3. After I went through the fare gates, I noticed that the entrance to the platform between Tracks A and B was taped off so that no passengers would mistakenly go down to that platform.

My Northeast Corridor Line train to Newark consisted of ten multi-level cars. We departed two minutes late at 7:25 p.m. and arrived on Track 4 at Newark Penn Station, on time at 7:32 p.m. I now had another close connection to the Newark Light Rail, with a train to the Center Street/NJPAC station scheduled to depart at 7:38 p.m. I went down to the light rail platform, and the train pulled in three minutes late at 7:41 p.m. The ride to NJPAC takes about three minutes, and we arrived there at 7:44 p.m., in plenty of time for me to get to my seat by 8:00 p.m.

To enter the concert hall, you had to present proof of vaccination. I showed the security person a printout of my vaccination record, and he let me go in without examining it very carefully. Since I had never received a ticket to the performance (I had purchased it for $18 online at a sale that New Jersey Symphony had in November), I went to the box office to obtain my ticket and then headed down to my seat. I was quite surprised to find that the auditorium was more than half empty. This is not normally the case for Saturday night concerts of the New Jersey Symphony at NJPAC, and I’m not quite sure why this concert sold so poorly. In any event, I had a very nice seat in Row H on the right side of auditorium, and no one else was sitting in this section of the row.

The concert began promptly at 8:00 p.m. It included two short works and a longer work by Dvorak for wind instruments, and was followed (after intermission) by an overture by Dvorak and a work by Aaron Copland about Abraham Lincoln. The latter work included a narration section, which was really well done by the narrator, who then presented a brief encore.

The concert was over at 9:41 p.m., and I promptly made my way down to the light rail station. I just barely made the train to Penn Station, which was scheduled to depart at 9:45 p.m., but actually departed two minutes early at 9:43 p.m. There were only two passengers on this train, and I was the only one to detrain at Penn Station. I walked upstairs to the platform serving Track 1, where I found that the next train to Secaucus would be departing about 20 minutes later, at 10:10 p.m.

My train departed two minutes late at 10:12 p.m. It was a nine car multi-level set, with six cars open to passengers, and the last three cars closed off. We arrived at the Secaucus station at 10:19 p.m. As I reached the fare gates, I noticed that a young man was attempting to push his way through the fare gates without scanning his ticket. He was promptly accosted by two fare gate attendants, who asked him what he was doing. When he replied that he just wanted to get out into the street, they explained to him that he needed to produce his ticket. He replied that he had a ticket but couldn’t find it. At that point, I walked away, and I don’t know exactly how the matter was resolved. But this is the first time in the many years I’ve used the Secaucus station that I actually saw somebody attempting to force his way through the fare gates without scanning his ticket.

Had there been a Pascack Valley Line train scheduled to depart Secaucus about 10:30 p.m., I would have easily made that train and would have been home in another half hour or so. But unlike the Bergen County and Main Lines, which now have hourly service on weekends, the Pascack Valley Line has many gaps of two hours, and the next train was not scheduled to depart until 11:27 p.m. So I sat down in the main rotunda, which I find to be a very attractive place to wait for a train. I took out my computer, checked my e-mail and did a few other things. Only a handful of people were waiting in the rotunda at this late hour.

About 11:15 p.m., I went downstairs to wait for my train in the small waiting room on the platform. I was surprised to find that I was the only one in the heated waiting area on the platform serving Tracks G and H. My train arrived on time at 11:27 p.m. It was a four-car train, but three of the cars were Comet II cars, which are not often used on the Pascack Valley Line. Only the cab car was a Comet V car. The last two cars were open to passengers, and I took a seat in the cab car.

At first, only a handful of people boarded the train. But we sat in the station for the next eight minutes, and gradually a number of additional people boarded the train, some of them running onto the train. Apparently, the connecting train from Penn Station New York was late, and our train was being held. Among the people boarding were a number of Rangers fans who presumably had attended a game at Madison Square Garden that evening.

When we finally pulled out of the station at 11:35 p.m., there were about 35 passengers onboard. The ride to the Anderson Street station was uneventful, and we arrived at 11:53 p.m., seven minutes late. I crossed the tracks, got into my car and drove home, concluding an enjoyable evening.

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