Breakdown at Radburn

Today, I had a ticket to an New Jersey Symphony 1:30 p.m. concert at NJPAC in Newark.  I always try to go by train, and usually would take the Pascack Valley Line.  But midday service on the Pascack Valley Line is currently being bustituted, so I decided to drive to Radburn and take the Bergen County Line instead.  

Train #1166 arrived three minutes late at 11:37 a.m.  It was pushed by Engine 4028 and included cars 6017, 6759, 6573, 6762 and 6501. 

Continue Reading Breakdown at Radburn

NJ Transit Board Announces Meeting Schedule

Unless otherwise indicated, meetings will be held at NJ TRANSIT’s Corporate Headquarters in Newark, New Jersey. The meetings will convene in the Board Room at NJ TRANSIT’s Headquarters, One Penn Plaza East, Ninth Floor, Newark, New Jersey.
The specific dates and times are as follows:

July 20, 2022 (3rd Wed.)
August 2022
September 21, 2022 (3rd Wed.)
October 12, 2022
November 9, 2022
December 14, 2022
January 2023
February 8, 2023
March 13, 2023 (2nd Mon.)
April 19, 2023 (3rd Wed.)
May 10, 2023
June 14, 2023

6:00 p.m. Evening
NO MEETING
9:00 a.m.
6:00 p.m. Evening
9:00 a.m.
9:00 a.m.
NO MEETING
6:00 p.m. Evening
6:00 p.m. Evening
9:00 a.m.
6:00 p.m. Evening
9:00 a.m.

A Train Trip to Hike Mills Reservation

Yesterday, I took the train to Mills Reservation and did a two-mile hike there.  Mills Reservation is one of the few hikes in New Jersey accessible by train.  I’ve gone there by train several times in the past, taking the Montclair-Boonton Line to the Montclair Heights station and walking up Normal Avenue to the park.  But this requires an 0.4-mile roadwalk along Normal Avenue, a rather narrow and heavily trafficked street, which lacks sidewalks for part of the way.
 
For yesterday’s trip, I decided to detrain at the Mountain Avenue station, the next stop to the south.  This way, I had only a short road walk on Laurel Place—a dead-end residential street with sidewalks.  From there, I could climb a grassy slope and follow the Lenape Trail to the park at the crest of the ridge.  This ended up being a far more pleasant and safe route.
 
Yesterday was a perfect day to visit the park, which affords magnificent views of the New York City skyline:

Continue Reading A Train Trip to Hike Mills Reservation

Report from the Chair

For the first time in 2 years, the NJ Transit board met in person on April 13, 2022. Much was the same: security check-in, label, escort to the 9th floor—yet there were changes: speaker check-in was done online before the meeting, for both phone and in-person speakers; in person, there was not the usual 2 sign-in sheets, speakers and attendees, but only an attendance sign-in sheet. No stacks of paper; similar reliance on the online agenda. The conduct of the meeting was familiar, and it was nice to see more than the portraits of board members, but to actually see them in person. Joyce Zuczek was missing, but Meghan Umukoro did an excellent job of conducting the meeting. During the public comment period, the main difference came after the in-person speakers: there were a number of people calling in via telephone—a welcome addition.

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NJT Board’s “No” Vote on the Proposed Contract with Academy Is a Huge Break from Tradition: COMMENTARY

The March vote by the NJ Transit Board to reject the proposed contracts that would have given Academy Express, LLC, the right to operate several bus lines in Hudson County for the next 3 was historic, and it represented a radical departure from the past 42 years of board practice.

The decision to reject Academy as an operator and instead award the contracts to Coach, USA, marked the first time that the Board had voted against an agenda item of major significance in the agency’s history, dating back to 1979. The vote was unanimous, in keeping with Board custom.

Continue Reading NJT Board’s “No” Vote on the Proposed Contract with Academy Is a Huge Break from Tradition: COMMENTARY

NJT Signs Contract for Cutoff Construction, but It’s No More than a Baby Step

At its April 13 Board meeting, the first “in-person” meeting in more than 2 years, NJT approved a $32.5 million contract for rehabilitating the Roseville Tunnel, located along the former Lackawanna Cutoff right-of-way, west of Port Morris Yard. The project is part of an effort to restore service on 7.3 miles of new track west of Port Morris (less than 8.3% of the former 88-mile line between Port Morris and Scranton), to a 55-space park-and-ride station in Sussex County’s Andover Township.

An NJT press release said, “The Rehabilitation of the Roseville Tunnel is a crucial element in restoring passenger rail service from Port Morris to a new station in Andover,” and touted the eventual return of service to the state’s Northwestern county, but current plans call for a low-capacity station and service during commuting-peak-hours only. The release made no mention of eventual service to Scranton.

Continue Reading NJT Signs Contract for Cutoff Construction, but It’s No More than a Baby Step

Remembering Orrin Getz (1939–2022)

Riders on Metro-North’s “West of Hudson” trains on the Port Jervis and Pascack Valley Line trains lost a friend when Orrin Getz left us on March 21. He was 82. Getz was a member of the Metro-North Commuter Council, representing Rockland and Orange counties in New York State. Metro-North, of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), owns the tracks on the New York side, while NJ Transit operates the trains. Trains to Port Jervis use NJT’s Main or Bergen County Lines between Hoboken and Suffern, N.Y.

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NJ Transit Plans to Proceed with Gas Plant Despite Gov. Murphy Request

This article was written for the Lackawanna Coalition by Ken Dolsky of the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition, which has been leading the effort to ensure that any new NJ Transit projects use clean, renewable energy as much as possible, in compliance with our state’s new environmental-justice legislation.  The views expressed are specifically those of the DGTM Coalition; the Lackawanna Coalition is in alliance with their goals.

NJ TRANSIT plans to build its own power plant in Kearny in order to power selected trains when it loses commercial power, as happened for several days after Hurricane Sandy.  NJT has $512M in grant money to build this system.  Its original plan was to build a 140MW gas plant.  However, in 2020 Governor Murphy directed NJT to redesign the project primarily using renewable energy.  NJT spent 2020 “reimagining” the framework for the project and issued an RFP at the end of 2021, which was expected to follow the Governor’s direction.  Instead, NJT’s RFP is only requesting a gas plant and appears to have never intended to follow the Governor’s directions.

The RFP requests proposals that utilize fossil fuels now along with an undefined transition to be “carbon neutral” by 2050.  The RFP is completely silent as to when this transition would occur or even start.  Even assuming this is to be a transition to clean renewable energy, this approach will allow the plant to burn gas for many years.

Unlike its specific design of a gas-based solution, the RFP left the design and specifics of a solar/storage solution completely up to the bidders.  It provides no design, no specs, no land, no support for acquiring land and no support for leasing terms and conditions for solar, yet claims to be unbiased.  Clearly, NJT stacked the deck in favor of gas.

NJT is not even asking for an initial plan to use renewable energy, as it is likely afraid the renewable energy proposals will be more cost effective than the gas plant.  If NJT thinks that solar/storage won’t be viable for its immediate needs, why not solicit full solution bids and be able to prove its premise?  The Don’t Gas the Meadowlands (DGTM) Coalition has worked with solar experts and evaluated space for solar near the project and concluded that solar is completely feasible now and will very likely have better long-term financial benefits over a gas plant.  All of this information was provided to NJT during 2019 and 2020.

NJT is also hiding behind the Energy Master Plan target date of 2050 to fulfill its commitment to using renewable energy.  No NJT document or statement prior to the RFP ever said this could wait until 2050.

NJT’s gas plant will increase NJ GHG emissions by 600,000 million metric tons (MMT) per year, so transitioning to truly renewable energy will only reduce the increase in emissions this plant will have caused.  This will do nothing to reduce GHGs by 80% by 2050 as described in the EMP.

There is no reference in the RFP of the need to comply with NJ’s Environmental Justice (EJ) law.  Building what would be the 5th fossil fuel power plant in one of the most polluted communities in the country flies in the face of New Jersey’s landmark EJ legislation, S232, which was passed to protect vulnerable residents from facilities such as this.

NJT is spending its one time grant on the wrong technology that will produce the worst results in terms of air quality/health, climate change and financial benefits for NJT. They are purchasing a dead end technology that will decrease in value vs. a technology that will increase in value.

The DGTM Coalition is asking NJT for a clear and compelling explanation for excluding a renewable energy proposal, including an analysis that will allow NJT to compare the long-term financial benefits and costs of owning a gas plant versus owning a renewable energy plant.  Assuming no receipt of such an explanation, we are demanding that the RFP require bids on renewable-energy solutions that can be implemented now in order to provide this comparison.  At the same time we are asking Governor Murphy to reiterate his 2020 demand for a solution that will maximize the use of renewable energy.

Lackawanna Cutoff Mentioned at March Board Meeting, but the Reason Was Not Revealed

The March meeting of the NJT Board (actually a phone conference, the practice for the 2 years since the COVID-19 virus struck) was dominated by the historic votes to deny Academy Express, LLC, 2 contracts to operate bus routes in Hudson County, and to award them to Coach USA. Even the week-long service disruption on the Morris & Essex and Gladstone lines was not emphasized, perhaps because of the announcement that the trains would run again the next day.

There was an unexpected topic addressed by high-profile speakers during the public comment period: running trains on some restored track on the Lackawanna Cutoff.

Continue Reading Lackawanna Cutoff Mentioned at March Board Meeting, but the Reason Was Not Revealed

Falling Tree Pulls Wire Down—
No Service on M&E Lines for Seven Days

Service was suspended on most of the Morris & Essex (M&E) Line, along with the Gladstone Branch, for an entire week, beginning on Monday evening, March 7. A strong storm blew a large tree onto the elevated M&E right-of-way near Jefferson Avenue in Maplewood, between the Maplewood and South Orange stations. It pulled down the overhead wires (“catenary”) that power the trains running on the line and damaged the wires’ supporting structure. On Tuesday, nothing ran anywhere on either the M&E or the Gladstone Branch. By Wednesday, hourly service (different from and slower than normal) had been established between South Orange and New York Penn Station. However, there was no service at all—not even limited diesel service—past South Orange.

Continue Reading Falling Tree Pulls Wire Down—
No Service on M&E Lines for Seven Days