N.J. Transit Strike Plan Can Handle Only 38% of Rail Riders

  • Agency designates park-and-ride lots for PATH, bus transfers
  • Union, state meet for talks Friday; strike deadline March 13

New Jersey Transit’s contingency plan for a possible rail strike this month would accommodate only 38 percent of riders to New York, its interim executive director said Thursday.

“This will not be a normal commute for anyone,” Dennis Martin said in a news conference in Secaucus.

Manhattan accounts for 87,130 of 295,173 train trips a day on NJ Transit, the nation’s third-largest mass transit provider. The agency plans to establish park-and-ride lots so rail commuters can transfer to buses or the PATH subway to reach the city. The buses will operate on a first-come, first-served basis on weekdays, leaving from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, the PNC Bank Center in Holmdel, Hamilton, Metropark in Iselin, and Ramsey.

For riders who will be shut out, the agency is urging employers to allow telecommuting and a four-day work week.

Transportation engineer Sam Schwartz, consulting for the agency, warned of highway back-ups of as much as 25 miles (40 km) on the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 78.
 
“Don’t even think of driving near the Holland and Lincoln tunnels,” said Schwartz, a former New York City traffic commissioner who is known as Gridlock Sam. 

The sides are scheduled to meet in Washington on Friday in hopes of averting a stoppage in a dispute over wages and benefits. Labor contracts expired in 2011 for 4,200 unionized rail workers. An emergency negotiating board appointed by President Barack Obama recommended that New Jersey Transit adopt the final offer made by the Rail Labor Coalition, representing 11 unions, at a cost of $183 million.

The strike deadline is March 13. New Jersey railroad employees last walked off the job in 1983, a stoppage that lasted for more than a month.

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