To fill its $60 million budget gap, NJ Transit is proposing a fare hike and service reduction package. It’s mostly a fake increase, and the service cuts are very minor.
On the bus side a few routes are being eliminated or truncated and no light rail cuts are being put into place at all. On the commuter railroad, two late-night trains are being eliminated. These are train #1601 on the Pascack Valley Line, the 12:45 from Hoboken, and train #1043 on the Montclair-Boonton Line, the 1:35a, from Montclair State.
According to NJT’s presentation on the cuts, train #1601 has an average ridership of about 40 passengers a night. For comparison, the Pascack Valley Line had an average of 7,650 riders on weekdays in 2014. It would not be unreasonable to speculate that the train before #1601, which leaves at 10:42pm, would be moved about an hour later to that passengers can still get home at night.
The equivalent train on the weekends, #2101, which leaves Hoboken at 12:45 am on early Sunday and Monday mornings, isn’t slated to be cut.
Transit advocates have protested this cut by saying it would be hard for patrons to get home from late nights at the theater (which in many places would be considered a shockingly tone-deaf comment!). Perhaps the board of NJ Transit could be convinced to keep train #1601 on Friday nights/early Saturday mornings, when ridership is probably higher than other days of the week.
On the Montclair-Boonton Line, the train proposed for elimination, #1043, sees less than 20 customers per night. During the week, the line carries 16,300 passengers a day.
#1043 is a shuttle train that meets a train from Penn Station at Montclair State University, and carries passengers as far as Lake Hopatcong. Ridership on the outer segment of the Montclair-Boonton Line has been extremely low.
Similar shuttle trains from Lake Hopatcong to Montclair State during the late morning and early afternoon were cut in 2010 due to extremely low ridership. It’s entirely possible that those trains had days without a single passengers boarding.
If the outer segment of the line didn’t have enough ridership to support trains during the middle of the day, it’s hard to see how it could support a train at 1:30am.
This is yet another step in the gradual erosion of service on the outer Montclair-Boonton (there are only 5 inbound trains left!), but in tight times, definitely the right place to cut.