By County Executive Ed Day
On Tuesday, August 14 Pascack Valley Line train #1606, the 6:21 AM from Spring Valley to Secaucus, was cancelled due to mechanical problems. Customers were instructed to take train #1608, the 6:33 AM train from Spring Valley instead. Under normal circumstances this would be considered a minor inconvenience for commuters but these are NOT normal circumstances.
Just three months ago, I went to the Pearl River train station to denounce NJ Transit’s elimination of three trains on the Pascack Valley Line; two of which were our Metro-North express trains plus our Friday afternoon “early getaway” train. These temporary cuts were made, they said, to facilitate NJ Transit’s long-delayed Positive Train Control installations.
In June, I met with Metro-North and NJT executives to discuss the impacts their actions were having on our 2,600 daily Pascack Valley Line commuters. We were on the right track when we gained formal commitment from the heads of both Metro-North and NJT to minimize the duration and impact of the suspensions. Key to this was Metro-North’s formal request that NJT refrain from cancelling our express trains.
Unfortunately, NJ Transit service is now even worse and our ONE REMAINING morning express train continues to be cancelled. It has been cancelled four times in the last four weeks, once on back to back days. All this along with countless other cancellations and delays caused by equipment failures and engineer shortages. Not to mention standing room only on trains without enough cars, trains without working restrooms or A/C and other commuting horrors we are hearing from our residents.
According to Metro-North’s June statistics, the cancellations and delays on their West of Hudson service, operated by NJT, have already exceeded their annual allowance for these incidents, with the number of cancelled trains already double what it should be for the entire year.
To be blunt, this situation is unacceptable and we cannot allow our Pascack Valley line express trains to continue being targeted. Pascack Valley Line monthly commuters pay just 20 cents a day less than Tarrytown’s Hudson Line customers, who have more than triple the service as us and a one-seat ride into Manhattan.
I have notified the leaders of Metro-North and NJT that we expect their agencies to waive fare increases through the end of 2021 for West of Hudson commuters. Since 2005, Rockland County commuters have endured four fare increases from NJT, along with seven increases from Metro-North. Eleven increases in 12 years – more increases than any other commuter in the Tri-State area.
It is ridiculous that we are subject to fare increases from two different rail operators for the same rail line. It is even more ludicrous to expect our commuters to pay any more than they already do for the abhorrent service they receive.
Each year we pay MTA more than $40 million more than we receive in service. Yet they continue to allow Rockland County commuters to be the first to suffer when NJT has a problem. NJT must prioritize the restoration of our three Pascack Valley line trains, and Metro-North must hold them accountable to the Rockland residents who are their mutual customers.
While we await restoration, I once again call on MTA and Metro-North to NOT allow NJT to cancel any more of the Metro-North express trains on the Pascack Valley Line.