NJT gets a lot of heat for steal rail cuts

An update on a previous story:

In September, NJ Transit put out new train schedules that reflected the service cuts that had been approved the month before.

For some of the service cuts, there was advance warning. Riders knew to expect that the last train of the evening on the Pascack Valley Live and outer Montclair-Boonton would be eliminated. Hearings were held.  News articles were written.

In addition to these, there was a surprise.  The last trains of the evening on the Morristown line and the Gladstone Branch were cut. Nobody outside the agency knew a thing until the schedules came out with about a week’s notice.

Unsurprisingly, this did not go over well.

Rider advocates at the Lackawanna Coalition protested that without advance notice, they had no way to object to the changes.

State Senator Nicholas Scutari has proposed legislation that would require the agency to notify riders of cuts like these.

Why wasn’t NJT required to tell anyone?  Service cuts like these are regulated by federal law, and there are certain criteria for what constitutes a “significant” service cut.  If the cut doesn’t meet that threshold, it’s merely considered an adjustment.

On the Pascack Valley and outer Montclair-Boonton lines, the overall service frequency is low. The PVL only has about 20 outbound trains a day, so cutting one train means cutting 5% of the total service, which would count as a “significant” change.

Even though cutting 3 trains on the Morris & Essex is a larger service change and affects more people, it represents a smaller percentage of the total schedule.  Because of this, NJT can legally get away with failing to warn people their train is being cancelled.

This is the same way NJT managed to eliminate the north end of the 56 bus is Elizabeth, because it was considered a portion of a line, and therefore not a significant change.

While it’s unpopular, transit agencies should be allowed to cancel bus routes with low ridership, or eliminate poorly-patronized trains.  By all means, they should be able to take actions that make the system more efficient.  But I think we can all agree that they should be required to tell people when this is happening.

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