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    PATH ridership spikes during strike, authority chairman pushes for new service

By JANET FRANKSTON Associated Press Writer December 23, 2005, 5:27 PM EST

NEWARK, N.J. -- Record numbers of commuters took PATH during the New York transit workers strike, and the Port Authority's chairman said the numbers underscore that mass transit systems need to be upgraded.

The number of passengers on PATH, operated by the Port Authority, increased as the strike went on. On Thursday, the strike's third day, 296,963 riders took PATH trains. "That's the largest increase that we can find," said Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman. "We don't believe the numbers were higher since we began operating PATH in 1962."

With the subway shut down, PATH shuttled commuters from 33rd Street to the World Trade Center station, the loop where passengers used the transit service most. The biggest increases came at 33rd Street Station, 123 percent higher than normal, Coleman said. The Port Authority reported 64 percent more traffic at the World Trade Center stop. Traffic at the Hoboken station was 12 percent more than normal. Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia said the transit strike shows how heavily the region relies on mass transit, and illustrates the need for system upgrades. "We should not ignore the investments that we need to make in mass transit in order to keep it going," he said.

Coscia said one solution is a second rail tunnel under the Hudson River for another commuter line with more direct service from Penn Station to northern New Jersey and Rockland County in New York. During the strike, Penn Station became a mob scene as passengers tried to board Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit commuter trains. "Those lines you saw at Penn Station _ if we do nothing, 10 years from now that will be people's daily commute," he said.

He said the $6 billion rail tunnel project is in the Port Authority's long-range plan, and could be funded by the authority, the state of New Jersey and the federal government.

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.,0,7836897.story?coll=ny-region-apnewjersey

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