Summertime, often a time for rest and relaxation, will be quite the opposite for New Jersey Transit commuters in South Orange and Maplewood this summer.
The Morris and Essex train lines are awaiting construction which will take place from July 10 to Sept. 1, according to an update from NJ Transit. The railroad overhaul will reroute Midtown Direct trains headed to Penn Station to Hoboken, which will cause delays for NJ transit commuters, including members of the Seton Hall and South Orange communities.
Shirantha Stanislaus, a senior psychology major, interns at Madison Square Garden. Currently, his already-packed commute brings him directly to his internship, but with upcoming alterations to the Morris and Essex lines, his commuting time will inevitably increase, Stanislaus said in an email.
“Because of the huge volume of people that will have to make this change in route, I expect anywhere from 20-30 minutes being added to my commute, but you never know with NJ Transit and PATH, unfortunately,” Stanislaus said.
Although commuting time will rise, NJ Transit has promised discounted tickets for those commuters affected by the altered route.
“The monetary savings will be nice, but it’s going to be a mess,” Stanislaus said in an email interview. “I will now have to take the NJ Transit to Hoboken, and from there take the PATH to 33rd Street. Luckily the PATH will honor monthly NJ Transit passes during the time of construction.”
These expected lengthy delays have produced frustration from representatives who work in towns along the Morris and Essex lines. Sheena Collum, Village President of South Orange, and Maplewood mayor, Victor De Luca, wrote a public letter to New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie and several NJ transit officials, expressing their agitation regarding the lack of clarity surrounding the issue.
“Furthermore, this decision was made without any consultation with the elected leaders from the towns affected. We could have been given the opportunity to discuss options and a more equitable solution to the problem,” De Luca and Collum jointly stated in the letter. “Instead, we were kept in the dark by an agency that is known for its terrible record of communication and transparency.”
While a meeting with NJ transit officials was rescheduled for a later date twice, Collum and other elected officials continued to use social media and news outlets to broadcast NJ transit’s unwillingness to discuss the issue with local representatives according to Collum.
Collum explained in an email how the rerouting of the Morris and Essex lines will disproportionately affect her constituents. According to Collum, South Orange serves as the busiest stop on the Morris and Essex lines providing over 4,000 riders a day from South Orange, West Orange and Livingston. Collum said that her and her fellow advocates think that the current discount is not enough.
“The discount being offered works out to $5 a day for our riders who will be impacted by the addition of 2 hour [or more] delays each day. This impacts working families who have childcare needs, our local economy, quality of life, and general business dealings,” said Collum in an email interview. “Right now our focus is on exploring all options to minimize impacts on our riders and make sure there are enough provisions in place to address the capacity issues. If not executed correctly, it truly will be a ‘summer of hell’ for our riders.”
Thomas Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.