On Thursday, Aug. 17, I left home well before sunrise—a novelty—picked up fellow Coalition member Bill Russiello (and his table) in Hackensack—made a quick stop at ShopRite Rochelle Park (open 24 hours!) for forgotten napkins and abandoned-at-home milk and almond milk (apparently my brain not being as fully awake as one would hope), and headed out to the Lackawana Coalition’s initial “Coffee and Commuting” event in Short Hills.  Meanwhile, Chairperson David Peter Alan was brewing coffee, members Gary Kazin, Simon Drake, and Tim Sevener were arriving at Short Hills station.  (Tim had printed up a page detailing his alarming research confirming the details of what we already knew: just how much service has been lost at Short Hills in the past 9 years).

Upon arrival, we found a few early commuters, and proceeded to set up between parking lot and platform, ready to offer a complimentary cup of coffee, a cookie, a bit of fruit, and an opportunity to reflect on the “Summer of Heck”, commuting in general, rail fares, NJT management, and all things railroad.

One of the most common questions we were asked was “Will this really be done by September 1st?”  As usual, NJ Transit has not volunteered any specific details, but we could say that they are still announcing return to normal service then—and that Amtrak has proposed more needed repairs for Summer 2018.  We found that most people were prepared for more trouble than they found—that the ferry options was much appreciated, and that if NJT were able to work with the legislature to keep fares down, it would likely be welcomed as an option—and we agree, particularly as it could be an automatic back-up in case of any unexpected delays on the rails.

As has also occurred in previous service changes, we learned that, once again, being forced to change standard commuting procedures has shown riders alternatives that they then use, regularly or on occasion, in the future—they are more “professional” commuters, knowing the system a little better.  A number of riders mentioned the value they discovered in commuting through Hoboken (which the Lackawanna Coalition has been championing for years).  We continue to request greater use of Hoboken Terminal, including  restoration of the many Hoboken trains that have been lost over the years.

We were particularly grateful to Deputy Mayor Jodi Rosenberg for stopping by; she eloquently spoke at a NJ Transit board meeting before the summer, complaining of the usual secrecy as NJ Transit gave towns along the M&E line no information to help them help their residents prepare for the disruption.  She told us of how she worked with a bus app company to offer riders a charter-bus option.

As commuters arrived a few minutes before each train, they were greeted with “It’s Coffee and Commuting Day!  Have a cup of coffee with us,” as well as conversation and literature as to how to continue to stay connected with the Coalition: via social media, e-mail, or joining us at our monthly open meetings, the 4th Monday of every month (unless moved because of a holiday) at Millburn town hall.  Look for us coming to your station, and join us for Coffee and Commuting!