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Railroad Commuters 'Feel Like Unwanted Stepchild,' Due To Poor Service, Rockland Officials Say

The NJT Pascack Valley line train at the Hackensack crossing.
The NJT Pascack Valley line train at the Hackensack crossing. Photo Credit: File

Rockland County Executive Ed Day blasted Metro-North and New Jersey Transit officials on Wednesday for frequent cancellations and overall poor express train service "West of the Hudson."

Day held a press conference on Aug. 15 at which his criticism was echoed by a state senator, assemblymen and town supervisors who detailed the plight of Rockland County's railroad commuters who Day said continue to suffer during the "crisis" at New Jersey Transit (NJT).

NJT continues to cancel Rockland County's only two express trains on the Pascack Valley Line, despite Metro-North Railroad’s formal request to not do so, Day said.

NJT also continues to subject commuters on both the Pascack Valley Line and Port Jervis lines to multiple train cancellations, delays and poor conditions due to equipment and engineer shortages along with mechanical and other maintenance problems, according to Day.

While this is happening across NJT’s entire network of service, it is especially impacting to customers in Rockland and Orange counties because of the extremely limited service offered --  especially on Pascack Valley -- and the lack of other transit options, Day said.

Commuters are upset about the unreliability of the service, being late to work or not being able to get home in time, poor conditions, such as no air conditioning or operable restrooms, overcrowding and standing room only due to trains without enough cars, and the high cost of their commute, which they say is not worth the price they pay.

“We are looking to Metro-North, who holds the operating contract with NJT for rail service they provide to New York state customers, to step-up oversight of the service, to not allow NJT to cancel the Pascack Valley Line express trains, to expedite NJT's restoration of the Pascack Valley Line's three suspended trains, and to prioritize MTA’s purchase of new equipment for West of Hudson rail service,” Day said.

As of June, for the service that NJT operates in NYS on the Port Jervis and Pascack Valley lines on behalf of Metro-North, more than 160 trains have already been canceled or terminated this year, and more than 330 trains have been more than 15 minutes late.

Metro-North's June Operating Report indicates that these cancellations and delays have already exceeded their annual goals for these incidents, with the number of cancelled trains already double of what it should be for the entire year.

Pascack Valley Line monthly commuters pay just 20 cents a day less than Tarrytown's Hudson Line customers, who have more than triple the service and a one-seat ride into Manhattan ($307 versus $311 a month). Riders from Tarrytown have 60 trains a day into Manhattan with more than 17 express trains. In comparison, Pascack Valley line riders from Rockland have only 17 inbound trains total with only one express trip, plus a required transfer to get into Manhattan.

"People on the Rockland side of the bridge pay more to the MTA for service and are still treated like the unwanted stepchild by NJ Transit," said state Sen. David Carlucci. "It's time for the MTA and NJ Transit to stop pointing fingers at each other and tell us how they are going to provide our residents with express quality train service."

“The quality of service that Metro-North provides to our residents via NJ Transit is simply not sufficient, and cutting it further has been an utter disaster,” said Orangetown Town Supervisor Chris Day. “As a town that is looking towards downtown revitalization and possible transit oriented development here in Pearl River, it is extremely difficult to do so when the ‘transit’ we’re orienting around is so poorly managed and out of sync with the quantity and quality on the other side of the Hudson.”

County Executive Day has also formally requested a three-year fare freeze for Rockland County's West of Hudson commuters (to include exemption from MNR's planned increases in 2019 and 2021) from both NJT and MNR/MTA.

“It is ridiculous that we are subject to fare increases from two different rail operators for the same rail line,” Day said. “It is even more ludicrous to expect our commuters to pay any more than they already do for the abhorrent service they receive."

"Each year we pay MTA more than $40 million more than we receive in service. We are asking MTA and Metro-North to take greater responsibility for what is happening to their customers here on the West side of the river because of the crisis at NJ Transit," Day said.

“Ramapo residents, along with fellow Rockland County commuters, have no choice but rely on NJ Transit to get to their jobs,” said Ramapo Supervisor Michael Specht. “The drastic decline in service and increased cancellations are causing untold hardship to these commuters. Our residents are bearing the brunt of NJ Transit's crisis, and deserve much better!”

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