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PATH boosts link to Midtown

Thursday, July 24, 2003 BY RON MARSICO Star-Ledger Staff

Responding to a wave of passenger complaints, extra rush-hour PATH trains are being added at Journal Square in Jersey City to help commuters using the line to and from Midtown Manhattan, a Port Authority official said yesterday.

Since 9/11, PATH passengers from Newark and Harrison were able to travel directly into Midtown, but the June 29 reopening of Jersey City's Exchange Place station brought a return to pre-9/11 routes, meaning those riders must transfer at Journal Square. That has prompted a spate of complaints directed at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the service.

"They're making thousands of people change trains, needlessly and stupidly," said Steve Landes of Verona, who commutes from Harrison to the 33rd Street station in Manhattan. "You're emptying a packed train ... It's a mess. Go back to the way it was." Landes estimates the change has added at least 15 minutes to his daily commute, which typically took about 35 minutes.

Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman, said the bistate agency has heard similar gripes from passengers and is committed to ensuring that Midtown-bound passengers wait no more than two minutes to transfer to trains at Journal Square. "We've been closely monitoring service adjustments we made when Exchange Place opened," Coleman said. "We're adding extra peak connection trains to help the customers heading to (and from) Midtown." Coleman said the number of extra trains will be based on need.

While overall PATH ridership is down sharply since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center station and damaged the Exchange Place station, average weekday use of the other five New York City PATH stations has increased. The 33rd Street station now averages 35,106 passengers each weekday, compared to 27,205 before 9/11. Conversely, the Exchange Place station is averaging 5,579 passengers each weekday, down from about 16,000 before 9/11. But Coleman said it "would cause a major scheduling problem" for PATH to send some trains directly to Midtown with others continuing on directly to Exchange Place.

Opening the Exchange Place station, which was heavily damaged by flooding after the 9/11 attacks, has enabled the Port Authority to relieve congestion at the Grove Street and Pavonia/Newport stations in Jersey City. Additionally, it has made travel easier for commuters to Jersey City's waterfront and those taking ferries from Jersey City to Lower Manhattan. The Lower Manhattan PATH station is scheduled to reopen at the former World Trade Center site in November.

Ron Marsico covers the Port Authority. He can be reached at rmarsi or (973) 392-7860. Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved.

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