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 Transit officials brace for 'crush

Tuesday, August 17, 2004 by Ken Thorbourne The Jersey Journal
Aside from Madison Square Garden, the busiest piece of real estate in the metropolitan area during the week of the Republican Convention just might be Hoboken Terminal.

During the four days of the convention - Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 - NJ Transit plans to reroute all 100 of its daily Midtown Direct trains to the terminal, where commuters can hop on a PATH train or take a ferry across to Manhattan. The change, aimed at alleviating congestion in the area of the convention, amounts to an addition- al 13,000 daily commuters passing through the Hoboken hub. Already, 23,200 PATH train riders use the terminal on a normal day, officials said.

In addition to the increased number of passengers, PATH workers will have to cope with a system of cross-honoring the rail passes of NJ Transit commuters. An additional 20 employees will be assigned to verify the rail passes of the NJ Transit commuters at the Hoboken Terminal and the PATH's six Manhattan stops, explained Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the PATH trains. The NJ Transit commuters will be ushered through gates, as opposed to the turnstiles used by the PATH riders, Coleman said.

The cross-honoring system will be in place Monday through Friday of convention week, 6 a.m. to midnight, at the Hoboken, World Trade Center, and 14th, 23rd, and 33rd Streets stops, he said.

At the Christopher and 9th Streets stops in Manhattan, the system will be in effect from 6 to 10 a.m. and then again from 4 to 8 p.m., Coleman noted. The number of rush hour trains departing from Hoboken will also be bumped up from one every six minutes to one every five minutes, he said.

New York Waterway, which runs ferry service from Hoboken to the World Financial Center and Pier 11 at the foot of Wall Street, will also honor the NJ Transit rail passes, said Pat Smith, a spokesman for the company, but there are no plans to alter ferry service.

"We are ready to work with New Jersey Transit to handle anything they ask us to handle," Smith said recently. "Our boats leave every 10 or 15 minutes so if there are more people coming in, we can just add extra boats. It is a very flexible and adaptable system."

Hoboken Mayor David Roberts was equally confident transportation officials can muster an adequate response.

"We have every reason to believe that Hoboken can handle the additional commuters," Roberts commented recently. "It wasn't long ago that we had all those people before Midtown Direct was put into service."

NJ Transit train riders will notice a few changes in line with stepped up security for the convention.

A temporary ban on use of overhead luggage racks will be in effect during convention week and all on-board trash receptacles will be sealed, said NJ Transit spokeswoman Janet Hines. Police will also search all the Manhattan-bound trains, she added. Before the trains enter the Amtrak tunnel leading into Penn Station in New York City, on-board inspections will be conducted on the Northeast Corridor trains, which will continue to roll into the midtown train station, Hines said.

As for bus service in and out of the Port Authority Midtown Bus Terminal, everything will operate normally, Coleman said. Although security checks will be beefed up at all Hudson River crossings, Coleman said he didn't major delays except at the Lincoln Tunnel.

Journal staff writers Bonnie Friedman and Christian Adamkiewicz contributed to this article.

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