“Midtown Direct” at 25: A Remembrance

On Monday morning, June 10, 1996, trains on the Morris & Essex (M&E) Line rolled directly into New York’s Penn Station for the first time, and travel on the line changed forever. No longer would it be necessary to go to Hoboken and take a PATH train or a bus to get to Manhattan. Although some riders still go to Hoboken and some now take a ferry to the Financial District, many more take the M&E straight to Penn Station. It was the Kearny Connection, which links the M&E and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) at Swift Interlocking in the Meadowlands that made the new “Midtown Direct” route possible.

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A Hoboken Cure for the Midtown Woes

Opinion

Does it seem like almost every other day that there is a delay on trains to New York? Based on data from NJ Transit’s e-mail alerts, there have been delays, more often than every third day, reported to this rider, whose home station is Mount Tabor, on the M&E Line west of Morristown! In the 92 days from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, I received 49 delay alerts on 33 different days. The vast majority, 41 alerts on 27 days, affected Midtown Direct service. I believe that this is due to the sheer number of trains going through the two Midtown tunnels. At least 3 times, the Midtown tunnels were so jammed that all Midtown trains on the M&E were redirected to Hoboken.

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Raritan–Manhattan Direct Service Begins March 2

NJ Transit will begin offering limited direct service from stations on the Raritan Valley Line to New York Penn Station beginning March 2, the first direct service to Manhattan ever offered to riders on the line.  However, the service will not be provided during peak commuter hours, because of the unavailability of timeslots to add additional trains to New York in peak hours.

According to reporting by Mike Deak on Gannett’s myCentralJersey.com (Dec. 16), the “pilot program” will offer the service for weekday trains arriving in New York between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and returning between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Specifics were not announced, but since service on the line is roughly hourly, it seems likely that there would be about 4 trains each way.  After the initial service, NJT is considering evening service for outbound trains between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.

The new service is made technically possible by NJT’s acquisition of 36 “dual-mode” locomotives for $340 million; these locomotives can operate both with diesel power, which the Raritan line requires, and electric power, required to operate into Manhattan.  Unfortunately, 21 of the 36 units were damaged by flooding in Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and only 5 of the damaged units have so far returned to service; all are expected back by July, 2014.

The announcement by NJ Transit follows extensive lobbying by the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition, which sees direct service to Manhattan as essential to the several transit-oriented developments in progress along the Raritan Line corridor.

The complete article was formerly found at http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20131216/NJNEWS/312160026

The Raritan Valley Rail Coalition’s website is at: http://www.raritanvalleyrail.com

Funding Increase Coming for Northeast Corridor; Benefits Our Trains, Too

The New Jersey Legislature has authorized funding for Northeast Corridor (NEC) improvements of $35.7 million for fiscal year 2013—an 81% increase over the $19.7 million originally proposed by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.  The NEC line is important for rail riders in our area, because Midtown Direct trains on the Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton, and Gladstone trains use it to get to and from Penn Station.
Coalition Political Director Jim Raleigh and Technical Director Joseph Clift campaigned in Trenton for this increase, with help from Coalition member Brad Payeur.  A story by Clift, with bar chart detailing NEC funding, is in the June-July issue of the Railgram.

Quiet Commute Cars Come to Hoboken

New Jersey Transit has announced that the car nearest to Hoboken on every peak-hour train will be a Quiet Commute Car, effective June 1st.  Cell phone use will be prohibited on those cars, and conversations must be kept at low volume.  Quiet Commite cars will be designated on all Morris & Essex, Gladstone Branch, and Montclair-Boonton Line trains that arrive in Hoboken between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m. and those that leave Hoboken between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m.
The Midtown Direct trains on the M&E, Gladstone, and Montclair-Boonton Lines, which go to New York Penn Station already include Quiet Commute Cars.

History of the Lines We Represent

The railroad lines operated today by NJ Transit as the Morris & Essex and the Montclair-Boonton Lines have a fascinating history, dating from the earliest days of American railroading in the middle of the Nineteenth Century. This page gives a brief history of the construction, improvement, and operation of these lines, which today form vital transportation links for the north-central New Jersey region.

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