Uptown PATH to close on weekends

The Port Authority is closing the Uptown PATH line  starting in August between Hoboken and 33rd Street in order to install Positive Train Control, a more advanced signalling and communications system that will let trains run more frequently in the future. As part of this closure, service patterns are changing:

Service on the 33rd Street line will be suspended from approximately 12:01 a.m. on Saturdays until 5 a.m. on Mondays. The suspension will continue most weekends into December, with the exception of major holidays, the Port Authority announced.

Regular weekend service will continue on the Newark-World Trade Center (WTC) line and between Journal Square and Hoboken. However, PATH can take some solace in the introduction of service between Hoboken and WTC on the weekend — which is not normally available.

Full NJ.com article here.

The Port Authority will also run shuttle buses between World Trade Center and Midtown, stopping at Christopher, 9th, 14th, 23rd, and 33rd Streets, though this will be a relatively roundabout route for anyone heading to Midtown from Hoboken or Newport.

Of course, people in Hoboken, or even Journal Square will probably not take this route, and will be diverted to the jitney buses, the NJ Transit 126, and the ferries.  The ferries could totally replace the Uptown PATH on the weekends, if not for the high fares.

In 2014 when the Downtown PATH tubes were closed, the Port Authority subsidized rides on the Paulus Hook ferry, bringing fares in line with PATH fares at the time. No ferries are being subsidized or discounted this time.




Coach USA/Suburban Transit raises local and commuter fares

Private transit operator Coach USA- a large holding company that owns properties like Suburban Transit in the Middlesex/Mercer County area, ONE Bus is Essex County, and Short Line in Bergen County – raised its fares effective May 2nd, 2016.

Recent NJ Transit hikes have captured public attention, and outrage, but in the mean time, Coach USA has been gradually increasing its fares as well,  slowly, but steadily.

Take a look at the 1-zone fares for ONE Bus (Orange-Newark-Elizabeth):

  • April 2015: $1.55
  • October 2015: $1.60
  • May 2016: $1.65

Before that, fares were $1.40, a rate that had not changed since 2008.  It seems like this is a programmed increase of five cents each month.  Are there further increases scheduled for Fall 2016?  Since they are a private company, we don’t know.

Down in Central NJ, Suburban Transit commuter fares are also rising by about 4%.

Here’s a rundown of Princeton-New York fares:

  • April 2011: $13.55
  • April 2012: $13.95
  • April 2013: $14.35
  • May 2015: $14.80
  • May 2016: $15.25

Monthly passes have also increased at a corresponding rate. Fares are still competitive with NJ Transit rail fares.

Fortunately, service levels are staying at about the level they were before.




Suppressed demand on the Hudson River ferries

The Hudson River ferries, unlike most of the transportation system in New Jersey, is privately run.  It’s main goal isn’t serving the public, or making sure the state’s transportation network runs smoothly.  It’s meant to make money.

New York Waterway charges high fares.  really high fares.  The cheapest ferry fare is $6, and they can cost more than $10 to ride, depending on the route.

What if the ferries weren’t operated for profit?  What if they had the same motivations as a transit agency- moving people at an affordable cost?

NJ Transit ferries would charge a significantly cheaper fare, close to what NJT charges for its trans-Hudson buses or trains. Let’s assume that the NJT ferry fare would be $3.50- equal to the bus fare from Jersey City/Hoboken/Weehawken to New York, instead of the $6-10 charged by New York Waterway.

Right now, high ferry fares are causing significant suppressed demand.  Many people are choosing not to take the ferry because of how expensive it is, even if it makes sense for their commutes.  Many people can’t afford a $270 dollar monthly ferry pass from Hoboken to Midtown, so they opt for the $98 dollar bus pass.

As of 2013 New York Waterway and its subsidiary BillyBey Ferry Comany carry about 30,000 passengers across the Hudson River on a good weekday.  What would the ridership be if fares were cut in half?  60,000? Or even more?

New York Waterway provides a luxury service, a comfortable travel option with plenty of seats and a great view. It’s even advertised as a high-class ride.  If ferries are to become a true mode of mass transportation (for the masses, not just the high-end market), some routes would have to be jettisoned.  For instance, the ferry between W. 39th Street and Lincoln Harbor has its New Jersey terminal inside a gated community. The service is for “tenants and guests only.”

Publicly operated ferries would probably run on fewer routes, but they would carry far more passengers.

Another advantage is that the ferries could be coordinated with other modes.  Right now, train and ferry schedules don’t always link up at Hoboken Terminal. The terminal was originally designed for train-to-ferry transfers, but currently most riders head straight to the PATH, jamming it at rush hour.  More of those people could be diverted to the ferry if there was a joint ticketing option.  If both services were operated by NJ Transit, a passenger could buy a ticket directly from, say, Ridgewood to Wall Street.  With the ever-increasing crowding at Penn Station, this would definitely be a good thing.

Not all transit modes are created equal.  In New Jersey, the commuter trains, PATH, and (most) buses are subsidized extensively.  They can rely on public moneys in order to provide more service and transport more people.  But the ferries can’t.  They are limited by the fares they take in and the investment requirements of private capital.

Public subsidy would open the Hudson River ferries to thousands and thousands of new riders. When a rail tunnel shuts down and the Port Authority becomes massively over capacity, this might be the solution we need.

Why people run for a train that won’t leave for 5 minutes, and what we can do about it

It’s a scene that plays itself out at subway stations thousands of times a day: A train is sitting at the station, doors open, waitSubwaying to depart.  A person walks into the station, and not knowing when the train is about to go, sprints towards the first open door.

It’s the result of a personal calculation that transit riders make.  Not knowing if the train is about to close its doors and depart, the best thing they can do is run for the train, just in case.  It’s the best they can do with the limited information they have.

This isn’t really a problem at most stations or bus stops, where the train or bus isn’t waiting around for several minutes before leaving.  It’s only a problem at terminal stations at the end of the line.

On many American transit systems, it’s common for the bus/train to leave the terminal with no warning.  There are several things wrong with this:

•Passengers decide to run, regardless of whether they have to or not.  This is stressful and makes the public transit experience less pleasant.

•It’s frustrating to run for a train that then sits there for 10 minutes.

•It’s frustrating to walk through the station and have the train leave before you can get on board.

•If everyone things the train is about to depart and gets in the first door they can, the first car they reach will be full, and subsequent cars will be empty. It messes with load distribution.

In the past decade, transit agencies have started to install signage that tells customers when the next vehicle is going to depart.  This is great, but it will be a long time before every terminal rail station is equipped with these and their readings are accurate.  We may never reach the point where the end of every bus line has these signs.

But there’s a much simpler solution.  Continue reading

If only for a fleeting moment, multiple transit connections between Bayonne and Staten Island.

The Port Authority’s 743 million dollar project to raise the Bayonne Bridge means that until 2017, the walkway used by pedestrians and bicyclists will be closed, cutting off the only pedestrian link between Hudson County and Staten Island.


Staten Island and Bayonne are right across the water from each other, but unless you have a car at your disposal, it’s very difficult to reach one from the other.  A peak-only bus connection is the only public transportation available.

Because of the closure of the bike/pedestrian path, the Port Authority has offered a weekend, summertime-only shuttle connecting the two sides of the bridge.  This might be the first there have been multiple transit connections across the bridge, or that transit from Staten Island to Bayonne has been available on the weekend.

The service is mostly oriented towards a recreational crowd-  the type that would usually bike over the bridge.  It operates Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 8am-8pm. The stops are at either end of the path, at 1st Street in Bayonne and John Street in Staten Island. Neither is especially convenient for connections to transit Continue reading

$5 million LIRR upgrade at Belmont Park put to the test today

Remember that time the Super Bowl was held at Metlife Stadium in the Meadowlands, and it took hours for the crowds to leave by train?  NJ Transit came under fire for its perceived mismanagement of the Super Bowl.

The same problems beleaguered the Long Island Railroad’s special event service to the 2014 Belmont Stakes, attended by about 100,000 spectators.  36,000 spectators traveled by train to Belmont Park, versus 33,000 who took NJ Transit to the Super Bowl. It took hours for some to board a train home.

In order to not repeat its 2014 failures, the LIRR has invested in upgrades to its station at Belmont Park.  Belmont Park was previously the only station on the LIRR without high-level platforms.  LIRR trains have no stairs for passengers to board at low-level platforms, so Belmont Park’s four platforms had built-in stairs to access trains.  These made boarding/unloading a train a slow process, and were not ADA accessible.

The LIRR spent $5 million to upgrade two of these platforms to regular high-level platforms, $1 million of which came from the New York Racing Association, which owns the racetrack.  Time lapse video below:

The new platforms also Continue reading

New York Waterway tests Carteret – Wall Street ferry

Ferries are a fashionable form of transportation in 2015.  In New York, Mayor De Blasio proposed a city-wide network of ferries, which was not met with praise.

Now, the borough of Carteret, NJ, a town of 22,000 across the water from Staten Island, is hoping that soon, it too will have a ferry to New York.  New York Waterway, the operator of several Hudson River ferries, ran a test boat between Carteret’s municipal dock at Waterfront Park and Pier 11 at the foot of Wall Street.

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“The purpose of the test runs is to gather information on the water route and to determine commuter travel times to and from Manhattan for the future Borough ferry service,” the officials said in the statement.

“While a full-service commuter ferry is still some years away from being completely operational, Wednesday’s tests are an important step towards that goal,” the statement said.

Ferries are a popular concept for politicians.  They don’t cause extra traffic, they don’t run close to anyone’s home, and the up-front Continue reading

Overflow Options at the Port Authority

The Port Authority Bus Terminal is an aging, and increasingly crowded structure.  The 65-year old bus station is practically at capacity. Buses have been boarding on the street outside the Port Authority for years.

While there has been talk of building a replacement for the terminal, it’s not likely that we will see this for at least another twenty years.  The terminal sees about 230,000 passengers a day, not including jitneys and airport buses that board outside, but this is expected to rise to 340,000 by 2040.

Until then, what short-term and medium-term solutions are available to add new alternative to the PABT?

1. Secaucus Junction

There have already been early proposals to build a new bus terminal in New Jersey.  Secaucus Junction is one of the potential locations. A 10-minute train ride away from Penn Station,Secaucus Junction is also just off the turnpike.

NJ Transit has already taken the first steps.  The agency was awarded a $4.6 million grant to build a small bus station on the site.  This station is now served by local buses and Megabus, but it is not used as a terminal for commuter buses from the rest of suburban New Jersey.

Using Secaucus Junction as a terminal for commuter buses would reduce congestion at the Port Authority and Lincoln Tunnel.  It would also serve as a useful transfer point for intrastate trips, between the bus and rail networks.  Trips like Elizabeth – Tenafly or Wayne – New Brunswick currently involve going into Manhattan and back out.

But the success of a bus terminal at Secaucus Junction is pinned on the aging Hudson River tunnels and increasingly crowded trans to Penn Station.  The tunnels will require increasing maintenance in the coming decades.

2. Midtown Surface Streets

Currently, All NJ Transit buses to Midtown terminate at the Port Authority.  Other operators’ buses drop off and pick up their passengers along 34th and 42nd Streets. The MTA’s express X17 bus from Staten Island terminates at 57th and 3rd. Some of Academy’s buses from New Jersey drop off Continue reading

It’s 2015, and PATH ridership still hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Sandy. Here’s why.

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey.  It was the second most destructive storm to ever hit the United States, after Hurricane Katrina.

The PATH system between New York and New Jersey incurred severe damage.  It took nearly a month to restore service to Exchange Place and World Trade Center, and weekend closures on that line continued until December 2014.

Weekday ridership, which exceeded 260,000 a day before the hurricane, has still not recovered to that level.  Saturday and Sunday ridership levels have seen similar drops.

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Lower Manhattan, Midtown, Newark, and Jersey City are all growing, so why is ridership down?  In 2011, Continue reading