New Jersey commuters have had it with delays and crowded trains. To which Maryland says: we hear ya, and we’re here to help!
The Maryland Transit Administration is lending 10 MARC commuter train wagons to NJ Transit to help alleviate crowding this summer.
The lease agreement is one of several short-term fixes New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced in February to address crowding and poor on-time performance in the nation’s third-largest transit system, which serves New Jersey and parts of New York and Pennsylvania.
Commuting troubles have been consistent in recent months, so much so that Murphy in December called NJ Transit a “national disgrace.” Officials with the transit system say they have had to pull train cars out of service for emergency inspections, creating train shortages. And, just like Washington’s Metro, NJ Transit’s problems can be traced to years of maintenance neglect.
“There are years of overlooked issues to account for,” Murphy said in December as he announced his choice for transportation chief, and talked about “turning (the transit system) upside down and shaking it up so we can make it right again.”
But boy, it’s about to get worse first. On Thursday, NJ Transit announced it will reduce service as it works to install Positive Train Control, a federally-mandated safety system, by the Dec. 31 deadline. To meet the deadline, the agency will have to pull some trains out of service and adjust schedules and routes on some lines, starting next month and through early 2019. This will allow the safe installation of the PTC system on locomotives and rail cars, the agency said.
The ten MARC rail cars spotted this week at the NJ Transit’s Meadows Maintenance Complex, are ready to be put to use starting Monday, NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith said. The train cars will operate on the Raritan Valley Line, one of 12 rails lines in the system that have experienced significant delays due to signal problems and disabled trains.
New Jersey Transit also recently returned 20 passenger rail cars to service to ease car shortages and overcrowding among other changes.
The MARC train cars, with their distinctive silver, blue and orange color scheme, will return home after eight weeks New Jersey. As a thanks for the service, NJ Transit is giving Maryland an old locomotive that was slated for retirement. (Maryland officials did not respond to questions about the agreement).
A shortage of rail equipment has exacerbated commuting troubles in New Jersey in recent months, state officials have said. They blame a number of issues including the availability of long-lead and custom manufactured replacement parts, and the ongoing installation of PTC. This has resulted in trains operating with fewer cars than usual crowded conditions, officials said.