SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca have sent an open letter to Governor Chris Christie; Richard T. Hammer, Transportation Commissioner and NJ Transit Board Chair; and Steven H. Santoro, NJ Transit Executive Director in response to NJ Transit's announcement on Monday that Midtown Direct trains (Morris and Essex train line) will not provide weekday service to and from Penn Station, but will be diverted to Hoboken, from July 10 to September 1.
According to an update on the NJ Transit website, M&E customers will receive about a 50 percent discount off the Hoboken fare, and will be able to utilize cross-honoring alternatives in Hoboken. This discount will be based on the origin and the destination of the M&E customer’s travel.
New Jersey Transit states that the disruption is travel is because of "long overdue Amtrak track repair," and that NJ Transit rail "customers have been forced to deal with delays, derailments and unreliable service because Amtrak, which owns the tracks our service relies upon, has neglected the maintenance of its critical infrastructure for years."
The letter from Collum and DeLuca is as follows:
As Mayors of two towns on the Morris and Essex (M&E) train line with nearly 7,000 daily riders at our three train stations for our residents and neighboring towns, we are registering our objection to the decision by Governor Christie and NJ Transit to divert all M&E Midtown Direct trains to Hoboken during the eight-week repair period at Penn Station. We completely understand that these repairs are necessary but feel this decision will disproportionately affect our residents who work in New York City.
Train riders from our various communities on the M&E line will have their personal and professional lives disrupted dramatically and the proposed fare discounts will not make up for the missed time with their families and the negative impacts on their business dealings. We feel it is totally unfair for M&E commuters to bear the full burden of this repair program.
Furthermore, this decision was made without any consultation with the elected leaders from the towns affected. We could have been given the opportunity to discuss options and a more equitable solution to the problem. Instead, we were kept in the dark by an agency that is known for its terrible record of communication and transparency.
On behalf of the Maplewood Township Committee and the South Orange Village Board of Trustees, we call upon the Governor and NJ Transit officials to reconsider this decision and would welcome a sit down with the appropriate staff and our colleagues from the M&E Midtown Direct communities to discuss alternatives.
Weekend service will remain unchanged during the work period this summer.
UPDATE from Sheena Collum on her Facebook page at about 5 p.m. on May 24, "We're confirmed - meeting with NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro this Friday regarding M&E Midtown Direct lines being diverted to Hoboken. South Orange, Maplewood, Livingston and West Orange joining together with Assemblyman John F. McKeon and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. Thanks to everyone for your support, if you have specific suggestions, please feel free to share. Commuters - we've got your back."
Commuters: what will this mean for you? Send your comments and feedback to Anna Sandler at firstname.lastname@example.org.