New York City Commuters Face 44 Days of Amtrak Service Cuts in July and AugustBy
Plan calls for daily track work to pause on holiday weekends
Pennsylvania Station maintenance stepped up after derailments
Amtrak is anticipating as many as 44 days of limited service this summer for repairs at Pennsylvania Station in a preliminary plan that appears to favor the national passenger railroad’s needs over those of a half-million daily New York City commuters.
Much of the track and platform work would take place during weekdays, when New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road riders jam the station during rush hours. No major track outages are scheduled during the July 4th and Labor Day holiday weekends, when workers typically have off and Amtrak has a ridership spike.
Amtrak’s plan calls for limited service from July 7 to July 25 and from Aug. 4 to Aug. 28, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg. Of the 600,000 riders who use Penn Station each day, 90 percent are from the commuter railroads that pay Amtrak to use its tracks.
“Why not schedule some of the work for the last week of August when so many people take off from work heading into Labor Day weekend?" said state Senator Bob Gordon, a Democrat from Fair Lawn who is overseeing legislative hearings into New Jersey Transit’s operations after a fatal crash in September.
The preliminary plan didn’t say how many tracks would close, but warned that "significant service impact, service adjustments are required."
Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road met on May 1, according to Amtrak spokeswoman Chelsea Kopta, and will meet again on May 4.
“All groups are working with the common goal of creating service schedules that minimize impact on the traveling public,” Kopta said in an email. The final plan may be determined as early as next week, she said.
Nancy Snyder, a New Jersey Transit spokeswoman, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. On May 1, before details were available, she said the railroad is evaluating the potential impact to customers. Brian Murray, a spokesman for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, didn’t respond to an email asking whether the governor would intervene.
Commuters have endured five weeks of upheaval at Penn Station in the wake of two Amtrak derailments that led to emergency repairs, plus stepped-up maintenance that has taken tracks out of service at North America’s busiest rail terminal. Though New Jersey Transit has warned of 15-minute delays for an undetermined number of days, riders say the inconvenience is far greater, sharing gripes on social media about canceled trains, scarce seating and packed platforms.
“Rather than skipping those weekends, they should be concentrating on them,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat from Teaneck who is vice chairwoman of the legislative panel reviewing New Jersey Transit.
Christie, a Republican, has raised New Jersey Transit fares twice and drained $2.94 billion from its capital budget over seven years to pay for operations. Last year New Jersey Transit, the nation’s second-busiest commuter railroad after the Long Island Rail Road, logged the most accidents among its peers, federal records show. In 2015, according to the most recent available data, New Jersey Transit reported the most breakdowns.