Lowey, Day, and Commuter Council Reps Call for Reversal of NJ Transit Cuts to Rockland Schedules
Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D- Rockland/Westchester) was joined by (l-r) County Executive Ed Day (R) along with Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council Chair Randolph Glucksman and Vice Chair Orrin Getz at the Pearl River train station to call for reversal of NJ Transit schedule cuts for Rockland commuters.
Pearl River, NY – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester) and Rockland County Executive Ed Day (R-Rockland) today held a press conference at the Pearl River train station to call on New Jersey Transit to reverse the recently announced cutbacks in commuter rail schedules for Rockland County. They were joined by Randolph Glucksman, chair of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council, and Orrin Getz, vice chair of the MNRCC and Rockland resident.
“Our community is already underserved, and NJ Transit’s decision to further reduce express trains will hurt Rockland commuters,” said Lowey, who released a letter to NJ Transit calling for a reversal of their recently announced cuts to the Pascack Valley Line schedule. “It’s a false choice for NJ Transit to claim cutbacks in trains on the Pascack Valley line are necessary to ensure they meet the Positive Train Control deadline. With robust federal support for PTC to prevent train crashes, upgrades should not come at the expense of the quality of life for commuters who rely on rail service.”
“I ask that NJ Transit reconsider the cancellation of our express trains or at the very least prioritize our service to get the trains on the Pascack Valley Line back in service as quickly as possible,” said Day. “It is time for Metro-North, the MTA and NJ Transit to fundamentally change their relationship with Rockland County because the current sad state of affairs has gone on for far too long. It is time for the commuters of Rockland County to get the level of service they deserve.”
The proposed cutbacks are the latest in a series of service reductions to Rockland County residents, who have already been impacted by other express train cancellations and service disruptions caused by tropical storms Irene and Sandy. A 2012 study found that Rockland pays $42 million more to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) than it gets back in service, which is provided by NJ Transit through MTA.
”The cancellation of the second Metro-North weekday morning express train on the Pascack Valley Line adds at least 18 extra minutes to the trip from Nanuet into New York City,” said Getz. “It decreases the reliability of the service, which is contributing to a decline in ridership. The cancellation of the Metro-North express trains on the Pascack Valley Line only makes the situation even worse. Also, the cancellation of the Friday only mid-afternoon Train #9653 promotes a hardship on Rockland’s Orthodox Jewish population who use this train to be home for the start of the Jewish Sabbath. The only alternative is taking the local bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which is a very slow ride home.
“The Pascack Valley Line is greatly underserved and offers its riders the fewest daily trains of any of the rail lines in Northern and Central New Jersey, which is why cutting our two express trains is a devastating blow to Rockland County,” said Glucksman. “Unfortunately, in the intervening years, NJ Transit’s poor finances have caused two trains to be removed from the schedule, and now we stand to lose two more. This cannot be allowed to happen. On behalf of the riders that I represent, the Pascack Valley Line cannot sustain another service reduction.
Positive Train Control (PTC) is a critical safety technology that can prevent train accidents and derailments caused by excessive speed, conflicting train movements, or human error. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) estimates that PTC could have prevented dozens of accidents, including fatal ones like the 2013 Spuyten Duyvil crash, which killed four people and injured 60. PTC also could have mitigated the 2017 Metro-North train derailment in Rye, NY, where five of the train’s 12 cars came off the tracks during rush hour.
While PTC installation is essential, Lowey, a strong advocate for improved rail safety, says it should not come at a cost to commuters in the form of reduced train schedules, lower quality of life, and less time with family. She secured $250 million for PTC in the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus spending bill. The federal government has provided more than $2 billion in grants and loans to passenger railroads to implement PTC since 2008, when the Rail Safety Improvement Act, which required implementation of PTC on all passenger railroads, was signed into law. She also wrote to then-acting National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt urging him to do everything in his power to push for the prompt implementation of PTC. When rail entities ran the risk of missing the original December 31, 2015, deadline for implementation, Congress extended the PTC deadline by three years to December 31, 2018, providing ample time and resources to support installation of this life-saving technology.
Full text of the letter to NJ Transit follows.
May 14, 2018
Dear Mr. Corbett:
I am writing in opposition to NJ Transit’s decision to temporarily cancel Metro-North express trains 1618 and 1639 as well as the regular operation of Friday-only outbound train 9653. This decision will significantly lower the quality of service on the already underserved Pascack Valley Line. The reduction in service affects many of my Rockland constituents who rely on the Pascack Valley line as their means of travel to and from New York City.
According to the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC), this decision will reduce morning peak service by more than 11 percent and evening peak service by more than 12 percent. It also will halve the number of express trains from two to one in each peak period and eliminate a late afternoon Friday train that is essential for riders whose religious practice requires that Friday travel is completed by sunset.
These cutbacks are only the latest in a series of service reductions to Rockland County residents, who have already been disproportionately impacted by other express train cancellations and service disruptions caused by tropical storms Irene and Sandy. Because Rockland County lies within Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) territory, its residents pay taxes to the MTA, which pays NJ Transit to provide train service to and from the county. A 2012 study found that Rockland pays $42 million more to the MTA than it gets back in service, a number that will only rise as taxes remain the same but service is reduced.
NJ Transit claims the cutbacks in trains on the Pascack Valley line are necessary to expedite its installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) technology, but this is a false choice. When the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was signed into law, railroads had seven years to prepare for the December 31, 2015 deadline. When virtually no progress had been made by mid-2015, Congress extended the PTC deadline by three years to December 31, 2018. The federal government has provided about $2 billion in loans and grants for commuter lines to implement PTC. I strongly believe that NJ Transit and Metro-North must install PTC technology by the upcoming deadline, but this cannot come at the expense of serving customers.
NJ Transit’s decision to once again cut services to Rockland County with no alternative for riders, such as reduced fares or replacement bus service, is unacceptable. I urge you to reconsider these cuts to service or propose reasonable accommodations to riders for the months that these express trains will not run. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
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