Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill Promise Action in Resolving NJTransit Commuting Woes


However, commuters asked for immediate, tangible solutions: “Amtrak cannot replace these wires overnight. What I would like as a commuter is a real contingency plan.”

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Although no short-term solutions were announced, a meeting on June 26 offered a glimpse of hope for South Orange and Maplewood Mid-Town Direct train commuters who have suffered 19 major disruptions in the last six weeks — as well as years of spotty and deteriorating NJ Transit service.

South Orange Mayor Sheena Collum and Maplewood Mayor Nancy Adams organized the Zoom call and were able to attract the attendance of Congressman — and U.S. Senate candidate — Andy Kim as well as a representative from Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill’s office, plus other local and state elected officials.

Kim said that the entire New Jersey Congressional delegation was working together in bipartisan fashion to expedite a solution. He shared a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg that was signed by the members of the delegation (see below).

“I’ve raised this with Secretary Pete. … We’re trying to get DOT to play a role in just managing this finger-pointing and trying to understand what’s going on between NJT and Amtrak.” Referencing the Infrastructure Act, Kim said, “We have a lot of resources available to fix, whether that’s overhead wires or all the things that we need to move on, but we need to find the path that is the fastest … that gets this done … and come up with a comprehensive plan.”

Kim said that he and Sherrill had called for an investigation into the delays, “but the other aspect is not just to remove the finger-pointing but to light the fire of urgency.”

“This is a major disruption not just for families … but this is a major economic challenge for our region,” said Kim. “This is why we’ve been pushing for the Gateway tunnel project.”

“I just want you to know that the delegation is really fired up here trying to figure out what all we can do from the federal level,” Kim added.

A representative from Sherrill’s office echoed many of Kim’s comments, noting that the Gateway tunnel project is underway and will ultimately alleviate many of the issues when it is completed, while acknowledging the pain for commuters and their families in the short term, calling the disruptions “completely unacceptable and avoidable.” He gave Sherrill’s office number: 973-526-5668 and website — — and encouraged citizens to reach out with feedback and for help.

The meeting included a presentation by Boxcar, a private company that has been providing bus service to Manhattan. Attendees clearly complained to Collum and Adams in real time, as they defended the presentation. One local resident texted Village Green, concerned that the meeting was turning into an “infomercial”.

“I get it’s a solution for some people,” the commuter wrote, but “the guy said they have 500 ppx capacity… not a real solution.”

Erin Scherzer, a Maplewood resident, community volunteer and activist, as well as a five-day-a-week commuter, had some pointed input for the officials present.

“It’s good that we have elected officials. It’s also good that we have all of commuters together because our voice has been ignored way too long and pushed to the side,” said Scherzer. “These issues that we are experiencing are not new to the last six weeks. … For those of us who have been commuting for awhile this is not new.”

Scherzer asked for specific, immediate actions.

“Amtrak cannot replace these wires overnight,” said Scherzer. “What I would like as a commuter is a real contingency plan where we say [over the] next six months we can’t have trains going into Penn …  in Hoboken, this is the service we’re going to have, this is where we are going ramp things up, here are the additional bus lines, and the cross-honoring of the passes we have.”

“This also includes having real conversations with commuters to talk about what works and what doesn’t work,” said Scherzer. “I’m interested in Boxcar. I don’t work on the Upper East Side, so Boxcar is not something I would use because I work downtown. So are there other avenues that we can work through in capacity building?”

Scherzer said that former Maplewood Mayor Dean Dafis had explored with NJT last year the idea of adding bus lines, but found that NJT was cutting bus lines. “What’s happening now is people are taking the 107 [bus] and people in Newark and Irvington who work two or three jobs are getting pushed off their buses and can’t get to work,” said Scherzer.

Citing issues of labor negations, maintenance and equipment, Scherzer also asked for NJ Assemblywoman Garnet Hall to push for the 2.5% corporate tax for transit currently under consideration.

Another commuter noted that a 15% NJT ticket price increase is taking effect on July 1 “and for what?” He also expressed concern about the eventual possible enactment of congestion pricing for New York City, which NY Governor Kathy Hochul has indefinitely paused.

“I hear you loud and clear,” said Collum at the end of the meeting.

“I’m going to be working over the next 72 hours,” said Collum, who said she would be setting up a survey and looking for data on specific impacts and suggestions. “We’re going to curate everything, from the pictures, the testimonials from the commuters group, from what we’ve heard hear tonight … we’re not going to drop it after this meeting. This is just the beginning of our coalition of how we are going to continue the pressure, and not just for this summer and this spat … because, as you’ve heard … this has been the experience for our commuters for a really long time.”

“I’m sorry that you even had to participate in a meeting like this,” said Collum, “because you deserve so much better. And we are going to be here advocating for you continuously.”

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