MADISON, NJ - Morris & Essex train service to New York Penn Station halted yesterday, and Madison is offering a new contingency plan for its morning commuters.
Boxcar, a private bus service, will offer a 7 a.m., early morning bus to New York from the Madison train station at 62 Kings Rd. until Amtrak’s Penn Station track repairs are complete and New Jersey Transit trains resume their regular schedules Sept. 2.
Mayor Conley said a quick, easy commute is important to his fellow residents.
“So many people pick Madison to live because it’s a great community, and it has a one-seat commute to New York City,” said Mayor Conley at a May 31 NJ Transit hearing.
Buses will depart from the Madison train station at 7 a.m. and make two stops in Manhattan: the first at Penn Station, 8 a.m.; and the second at 34th Street and Park Avenue, 8:10 a.m.
“We expect to add additional buses in the next few days,” Boxcar said on its site as of July 10.
A private, town-based bus service may be a more timely alternative than other modes of transportation such as the PATH train, ferry or car since track repairs will force more than 7,000 people to find another way to Manhattan.
PATH train and ferry riders could experience at least 30- to 45-minute delays both in at out of New York City, according to NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro.
Boxcar said it hopes its new, temporary service will alleviate some of the delays Morris & Essex commuters face this summer.
“Our commuters will be very inconvenienced this summer with the Penn Station repair work and ensuing rerouting of Midtown Direct trains to Hoboken,” Boxcar said. “Our interest is in moving as many commuters as quickly and efficiently as possible to their work, and buses seem to be a good way to do that.”
The bus service comes as a relief effort for Morris & Essex commuters who will fight significant delays and congestion on alternate modes of transportation—like the PATH train or ferry—for nearly eight weeks as thousands find their “plan B” routes during the construction period.
Boxcar’s service may minimize the morning delay, but Madison commuters will still bear the brunt of NJ Transit’s summer service stoppage on the way home.
The company said it is “working now to identify potential idling locations for the (return) buses but did not want to launch this service with subpar return logistics.”
“We’ve talked to the dispatchers at over a dozen bus companies and heard the same story everywhere: Charter buses cannot idle in midtown Manhattan, so they need to aim to get to the pickup location at the exact minute of the pickup,” Boxcar said of the return trips. “Trying to do so in evening rush hour traffic often means that the bus will be delayed sometimes a half hour or more.
Mayor Conley said these homebound delays could affect quality of life for many Madisonians before the summer is out.
“Yes, there’s fewer people commuting in the summer, which is why we’re doing (the construction) now, but for those that are commuting in the summer it would be nice to get home and have time to go to the community pool and be with their kids,” Mayor Conley said. “That may slip away.”
NJ Transit has announced its own “plan B" for Morris & Essex riders: Three Midtown Direct trains, which stop in Madison at 4:43, 5:28 and 6:04 a.m. These trains could potentially offset some of the commuter traffic caused by the Penn Station track repairs. Return trains in the evenings will only run from Hoboken. Discounted tickets will be offered.
Boxcar will offer daily bus service from Madison, as well as Chatham, Short Hills, Summit, Millburn, the New Providence train station and the Murray Hill train station.
One-way tickets are $13.99 per day and must be purchased on the Boxcar app before boarding. All buses are less than five years old and are equipped with WiFi, restrooms, power outlets and air conditioning.