10 deaths on Route 3 in the past year- does anyone else see a problem?

A brief compilation of news items from the past year:

• July 2014:  3 passengers in a minivan are killed when the driver (under influence of alcohol) drives into a guard rain in North Bergen

•February 2015:  A truck carrying a large steel object crashes into a bridge in Secaucus.  The steel object fell onto a nearby van, killing a passenger.

•May 2015:  A motorcyclist is killed on Route 3 in East Rutherford

•June 2015: 2 are killed when a driver loses control and rams into a tree in Clifton.

•June 2015: Similar to the accident in February, a truck hits a bridge in Rutherford, knocking a shipping container onto a nearby car, killing the occupant.

•July 2015:  2 are killed when a driver leaves the road on the exit lanes at Valley Road, also in Clifton

That’s a total of 10 people killled, not to mention pedestrian deaths.

There’s been no reaction to this.  No press conferences, no vows by the state to make safety improvements, and as far as I can tell, no safety enforcement campaigns.  There was however, a statement by a truck owners’ group asking for money to educate drivers about bridge heights. Otherwise, business continues as usual.

Compare this to the response from the Amtrak crash in May (8 fatalities).  The president made a statement.  The FBI and NTSB investigated.  The media was on it! To be fair, train crashes are far more spectacular, and rare events that make good reporting.

There’s a clear double standard here.  After a particularly gruesome train crash in California, congress mandated that all passenger railroads install positive train control on their systems.  Basically, an electronic way to enforce signals and speed limits.

If Route 3 was a railroad, it would have been shut down years ago. Or, it would be spending millions of dollars to install positive automobile control.

Montclair State University station: a disappointment with a future?


Did we really need the clocktower?

Montclair State University station has been a bust, you could say.  NJ Transit opened the station in 2004 with high hopes, located just off Route 46 at Clove Road. The station is massive. It has a full-length completely covered high level platform, a climate-controlled bridge over the tracks accessible by four elevators, a huge clock tower, and a parking structure with 1,530 spaces.  All of this at the cost of $26 million.

The ridership never materialized. Despite 1,530 parking spots, average daily ridership was just 592 passengers in 2014.  Some of the spare capacity is used as parking for Montclair State students.  Here’s a sign of how disappointing ridership has been.  Originally, there was a small shop built into the parking structure selling coffee and pastries.  The shop has since closed.

The station is grossly overbuilt.  It didn’t live up to expectations mainly because of its poor location.  For one thing, it isn’t even very convenient to the university.  Most of the campus is actually closer to Montclair Heights Station, or at least an easier walk.  The area near the station has a few dorms and sports fields.

Here’s what Montclair State university tells visitors:

The Montclair Heights train station, located at the south end of campus, is just a few steps away from the main body of the campus. The Montclair State University train station, located at the northwest end of campus, has a campus shuttle service to the main campus area.

In other words, the station is so far from the campus it’s named after that they recommend taking a bus.

The station doesn’t provide time-competitive service to New York.  Midtown Direct trains take about 55 minutes to get to Penn Station.  In comparison, the Wayne/ Route 23 park-and-ride is about 40 minutes from the Port Authority, and it’s several miles farther away. Its 1,100 space parking lot regularly fills up and there’s an overflow lot a few miles up the road.

Furthermore, the station doesn’t have access to Route 46 west.  Clove Road is currently only an exit on 46 east.  It’s easy for suburbanites from Little Falls, West Paterson, and other towns to drive to the station, but getting back involves a 5+ minute detour on local roads, or taking 46 east, getting off the highway, making two left turns, and merging back onto 46 west. But this is about to change. Continue reading