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Friday, November 9, 2001

NJ Transit re-evaluates pending projects after overcrowding crisis

Jersey City, N.J. -- New Jersey Transit may postpone the opening of its Secaucus transfer station and speed up other projects to cope with post-Sept. 11 commuting changes that have caused an overcrowding "crisis" on some lines, NJ Transit executive director Jeffrey Warsh said Thursday.

Ridership on train lines between Newark and New York has gone up 45 percent, while the number of those standing on trains has gone from 8,000 a day to over 25,000 a day following the Sept. 11 terror attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and a PATH commuter rail station underneath it, Warsh said.

The ridership numbers for the three train lines that go to New York were not expected for another 10 years, he said.

"The projections that we had for 2010, we started experiencing on Sept. 12," Warsh said. "We are certainly in a capacity crisis."

The agency is reconsidering when to open a Secaucus station that was expected to link more than 16,000 Bergen County riders to New York-bound lines because of the closure of the PATH station, Warsh said. The timing of the opening, initially slated for the end of 2002, "has become much more fluid," he said.

Transit officials are concerned that seats won't be available on the New York-bound lines traveling through Secaucus because many will stay on Newark. Previously, many commuters to lower Manhattan left northbound trains in Newark to switch to PATH lines.

But since Sept. 11, riders have been flooding PATH lines to midtown Manhattan and changing their commutes to New Jersey, where many businesses in lower Manhattan have relocated. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has said that it will take about two years to restore its World Trade Center station, and doesn't know when its Exchange Place station in Jersey City will reopen.

Warsh said that on Nov. 19, one new escalator and staircase will open in New York's Penn Station, 10 months ahead of schedule in a project building a new concourse in the station for NJ Transit customers. The extra staircase should stem the "cattle effect" of passengers rushing to and from trains from the station, he said.

It is looking at accelerating any other projects that could help ease congestion, he said.

The agency has also added 15 buses to its Route 9 corridor since the attacks and have bolstered rail lines with trains that are normally held back to rescue stranded passengers if need be.

Overall rail ridership has decreased 10 percent, Warsh said, with the losses coming from Bergen County passengers who used to transfer to Hoboken's PATH station and have now switched to buses or cars.

 
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