Discussion relating to the operations of MTA MetroNorth Railroad including west of Hudson operations and discussion of CtDOT sponsored rail operations such as Shore Line East and the Springfield to New Haven Hartford Line

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

  by trainbrain
I use Tuxedo station the most, and an express stopping at all NY stops plus Route 17 takes about 45 minutes to reach Secaucus, while a local takes 1:10. 25 minute difference. I have to drive 20-25 minutes to get to Tuxedo, and if I take the express train, it is faster than driving to the same destination if going to midtown or lower Manhattan. The local is almost never faster than driving, except during rush hours when all the trains are express anyways. I don't depend on the line every day to get to work, but I think it's a convenient, straight forward way to get to NYC if I wish to spend a day there. No traffic tie ups or parking headaches, just get on the train and be there an hour later. That being said, I typically plan my day so that I am taking express trains.

The Port Jervis Line is well ridden during rush hours, shown by the fact that they use two 7 car trains, and run every half hour. I don't really think there needs to be any additional peak hour trains added for a while. Adding cars to the existing trains should work for now. Mid days and weekends are where there is room to grow. As was mentioned earlier, when the portion of the line east of Suffern got more frequent mid day and weekend service, ridership increased greatly. They've already taken steps to improve this by adding the additional afternoon train. Previously, there was a 3+ hour gap between old 49 (now 47) and 51 (last train before peak hours), which has been filled in, and I'm sure ridership has increased as a result.

I don't get all the fuss about the transfers to reach NYC. Like you can't just make the train magically appear wherever you want it. The current setup gives people easy access to many different areas in Manhattan, rather than just one. Are Americans really that lazy that they refuse to ride a train (or any public transportation for that matter) if they have to make one simple transfer? If that's the case, that isn't something NJT or MNCR could really solve.

Some improvements that would be of minimal cost (relatively speaking) could be to have 47 and 66 run all the way to Port Jervis (eliminating a 6 hour gap between 45 and 51) and having the set from 49 carry passengers instead of running empty back to Hoboken (would be useful for those going to spend an evening in the city).

After those improvements, the next ones could be to make some of the local trains go express in NJ. 62 and 67 would be the most important trains to do this with. There have been a few occasions when I have changed plans so I could take 58 instead of 62 because it's express. 67 would be more attractive to those spending an evening in the city if it were express than local as it is now. If NJ Transit adds trains to make 62 and 67 express, 45 and 68 would also get to become express because of the opposite run of that equipment.

If additional sidings are added, I could see adding a reverse peak train, which could return as an additional late evening express (leaving Hoboken 11-11:30pm). That timing would be perfect to those attending nighttime sporting events, Broadway shows, etc. However, this requires additional infrastructure, and would be much more expensive than the two improvements I listed earlier.

With regard to ridership, it's sort of a chicken and the egg kind of thing. If service is slow and infrequent, fewer people will ride the trains, but if there is low ridership, there's less incentive to improve service.
  by EuroStar
njt/mnrrbuff wrote:Any third track in NJ would most likely be owned by NJT. Again, I wouldn't count on it happening anytime soon.
I agree not any time soon, maybe in 25-30 years -- I will be retired by then and will not be commuting to the city. You are right, NJT will probably own the track, but the likely setup is the one used by the Hartford Line in Connecticut where Amtrak is the owner of the line, but CDOT and the feds are paying for the second track installation which Amtrak will maintain afterwards in exchange for access fees from the state. Here, NJT will own and maintain, but MN (and if they are lucky, the feds too) will need to pay for construction and then access to it.

njt/mnrrbuff wrote: Short Line runs a better service, especially along the Pt Jervis line. Of course, they provide a one seat ride to and from NYC. For those people who live along 84, especially around Cornwall-many of them drive across the Hudson to Beacon and then train down from there.
I agree, but that is exactly why direct service to NYC matters. Leaving the buses aside, the distance from Salisbury Mills-Cornwall is 55.5 miles from Hoboken and the expresses get you to NYC in 90 minutes give or take a couple of minutes including the change in Secaucus. The Hudson Line takes you from Beacon which is 59 miles away from GCT gets you there in 80 minutes on the super expresses (90 minutes on the regular expresses). Driving across the river and paying the toll and parking is probably worth the 10 minute difference. That should make the two options about equal for most people who live on the west side of the river. If people still prefer to use the Hudson line then the next three variables are the Secaucus transfer, the level of service and the location of the destination relative to Penn and GCT. I cannot untangle which matters how much. Given that nothing could be done to move Penn next to GCT and that the current level of service is about as good as it could ever be for regular commuters (not for Broadway show night visitors) the only way to attract significantly more ridership is the one seat ride to New York. Too bad NJ cannot get their ducks in row and I will not be commuting by the time that one seat ride becomes available if ever.
  by trainbrain
I don't remember where I read this, but approximately 1/3rd of riders on the Port Jervis line go to PSNY via Secaucus. The rest go to Hoboken. That means most do not want to get to Penn Station, so sending all the trains there would be a bad idea. What about people with jobs in Lower Manhattan or the NJ side? It's easier to go to Hoboken and take the PATH than to PSNY and take the subway. What if you don't work in NYC, but on the NJ side? Hoboken gets you where you need to go, while if you got sent in and out of NYC, you'd probably give up the train.

I think adding that yard would be a pre-requisite to having trains go into both terminals, and 1/3rd of peak hour trains should go to PSNY and the rest to Hoboken. Problem is that outside of rush hour, you don't have enough trains running to efficiently serve both terminals, so the trains all have to go to one. Problem is that if you abandon Hoboken to provide a one seat ride to NYC, you alienate everyone not going to Midtown.
  by SecaucusJunction
The new yard design and extra track west of Suffern is on MTA"s budget from 2016 to 2019. It should be progressing sooner rather than later. I'm sure they will attempt to schedule so they can keep only 2 tracks west of WC.

The issue with the PJ line is not so much the transfer to NYP, and yes, the line lends itself to people who either work in Midtown or Lower Manhattan, but with the service itself. Outside of rush hour, the service is still no where near what it is on the Hudson Line. Anyone who wants to go to Manhattan in the evening will be arriving very early. Anyone who is not out of Manhattan by 7:30pm is on the slow local up the Main Line and that service is far from hourly. If service was more frequent and mostly express, the ridership would increase dramatically. Weekend service is no picnic either. Only 2 eastbound express trains and 4 westbound express with very limited frequency.

No need to extend service to Port Jervis on the Middletown trains. Ridership is much less past that point.

The line has very good potential and MTA seems to be actually putting more money into it than current ridership requires, so we should probably give them credit. Hopefully with increased service, the ridership will really get going.
  by trainbrain
I read somewhere else on this site that one night someone got off a train at Ramsey Route 17 and saw Town Cars dropping people off at the station. He said that it looked as if these executives preferred to spend hundreds of dollars to get back home than to take the local train. Having more evening express service would definitely help. I'd think that having 67 run half an hour earlier than it does now, and run express, plus adding another express train leaving at 11-11:30 would do the trick. The train used for the express train at 11-11:30 would come to Hoboken as a reverse peak run, which should be possible once double track is added where they plan to.

They already improved midday service by adding train 49, renumbering old 49 as 47 and running it earlier to close the 3+ hour gap between old 49 and 51. Running 45 and 62 express would help things there, and if the new yard is added, there could be some additional runs that go semi express in NJ and only go out as far as Harriman or Salisbury Mills (wherever the double track ends).
  by njtmnrrbuff
The average Joe isn't going to commute daily 95 miles each way from Pt. Jervis to NYP. You might get passengers who commute a few times a week. The daily commuting patterns probably start at Middletown-Town of Walkill Station but that is still quite a distance away. However, I could see the stations east of there and certainly parallel to the Thruway. The one station that draws a lot of daily ridership is Harriman. It has a very large parking lot and it's close proximity to highways such as 87, 17, and 6 is a plus. For a commuter rail line that goes far into the sticks, I have to say that the express service is good during the rush hour heading east in the morning and west at night. No reverse peak train on the Pt Jervis line, and you are waiting until after 9:25 or even the 10:45 hour if you want to head to the city in the evening. That I don't like but when the second track is built, hopefully they can add at least one reverse peak train going as far as at least Salisbury Mills-Cornwall or even Middletown-Town of Walkill.

The weekend service has gotten better since the opening of SEC, but it's not as good as the Hudson Line and will probably not get the same level of service. For example between trains # 76, 78, 80, and 82, where are at least three hour gaps. It wouldn't even be so bad to make 74 an express, connecting to a Main Line local. Heading westbound on the weekend between trains # 79, 81, and 69, there are three hour gaps.
  by trainbrain
The Port Jervis Line and Hudson Line will never be the same in terms of service levels and ridership. I think the standard should be to have a maximum of 2 hour gaps between trains off peak that go west of Suffern. The exception is of course with reverse peak service. Running 49's return train as a revenue run instead of a deadhead would be a good start to filling in that gap. If that second track is added east of Salisbury Mills, there could be frequent reverse peak and midday trains from there, and it would be possible to time the trains to have 51's set do an extra round trip on the entire line. It would have to depart Port Jervis around 6:45ish, meet 55 at Otisville, 57 at Campbell Hall, and 59 and 61 in the new double track section. Times on the opposing trains would need to adjusted a few minutes on each to allow for it. After Suffern, it would stop at Ramsey Route 17 and Ridgewood and arrive Hoboken at about 8:00. These two additions could mostly fill the gap in reverse peak service, meaning that 67, and 41 get more riders for people going back, warranting them being made into express trains. The set that came in as the new reverse peak train needs to go back to Port Jervis, so it can return as an express train leaving Hoboken at 11-11:30, filling in that 3 hour gap between 67 and 41. With the double track section, semi express runs could be made as far as that extends, which could run every 2 hours, on the hours the Port Jervis express trains were not running.
  by EuroStar
I was not suggesting abandoning Hoboken as a terminal if/when the loop gets build. My opinion that the loop is the only major way in which to substantially increase ridership is supported by (1) the history of the Morris&Essex line where MidtownDirect service caused ridership to explode and (2) the observation that most current riders go to Downtown (of the rest probably the majority go to the West Side), but if you need to be at the East Side that is a subway ride or two on top of the Secaucus transfer so you are better off with the Hudson Line. The lack of transfer at Secaucus should make the line competitive for destinations other than the West Side of Manhattan. Morris&Essex and Montclair Lines still have substantial ridership to Hoboken and I would expect that to remain true for the former Erie Lines if the loop materializes.
SecaucusJunction wrote:The new yard design and extra track west of Suffern is on MTA"s budget from 2016 to 2019. It should be progressing sooner rather than later. I'm sure they will attempt to schedule so they can keep only 2 tracks west of WC.
I am not trying to be picky, but do you have the reference for the extra track? I recall seeing in the budget document the yard design (not the money for construction), but I do not recall anything in there about the second track. The problem with the second track is that you need to build second platforms on it, but the second platforms probably mean that you exceed the threshold to trigger full ADA compliance, so that means the existing platforms need to be high level. That is probably $15 million per station total. That is the reason why the double track portion ends exactly before Sloatsburg station. You could probably put the track at a few million per mile, but the stations are the budget buster. I could see them trying to get away with another long siding. Two extra switches are probably cheaper than a station, but sidings do not give the full flexibility double tracking does.
  by trainbrain
The issue remains that there are not enough trains outside of rush hour to provide effective service to both terminals, so service at Hoboken would be decimated, or the infrastructure added to bring trains to Penn would be unused most of the time.

For example, with the Morris/Essex Line, nothing goes to Hoboken on weekends. If you want to go there, you've got to transfer at Newark to the Montclair line train that only runs every 2 hours. Even Gladstone Branch trains which all but 2 round trips on weekdays go to Hoboken are run as shuttles to Summit. If you want to get to Hoboken, you've got to transfer twice.
  by EuroStar
My understanding is that the Gladstone trains on weekend used to go to Hoboken, but were cut during the service reductions. The problem there is that Cristie has not funded NJTransit properly for almost a decade and it shows. Money is the only reason why the Montclair train on weekends is not every hour going to MSU. Last time I was on it on a weekend the demand was there.

Back to the PJ Line: I suspect that you are overestimating the demand for Hoboken as a destination on weekends. While I see that more companies are establishing Hoboken and Jersey City offices and thus create weekday commuter demand, these are not exactly great weekend destinations. There is Liberty State Park, but unless one is bar-hopping in Hoboken I cannot think of many comparable attractions there. Downtown Manhattan is also not a great weekend destination. Based on that I would argue that on weekends changing at Secaucus to reach Hoboken while letting the trains go to Penn would be the better way of doing things. On weekdays you won't decimate the Hoboken schedule because induced demand will force the additions of at least 2-3 round trips during peak hour. I personally cannot venture to guess what might happen during off-peak hour though. You might be correct and the service might be redirected to Penn.

As for the infrastructure, I won't worry that it will be underutilized. The Loop will see plenty of NJ trains from the Erie lines. The tunnels and Penn South (if ever built) will see enough expansion from the other NJ lines that they will not be underutilized. Even Amtrak might add a few trains.
  by njtmnrrbuff
Keep in mind that both the closest light rail stations to the Hudson River waterfront in LSP is Liberty State Park, and Jersey Ave, but thanks to that shortcut past the boats leading to the park, you would save time by getting off at Jersey Ave if you were coming from the financial district. Both Jersey Ave and LSP stations are about a mile walk from the old CNJRR terminal and waterfront. Other than waterfront walks, restaurants, the hotels, and Newport Centre, JC's financial district isn't the best in term of a weekend destination. Many people on the weekends come to Hoboken to either go to restaurants, bars, and stroll along the waterfront so that isn't the best weekend destination either. I am not saying that the trains run empty from HOB to and from Pt. Jervis line stations. When many people say that they are taking the train to NYC, they mean it. Even though you have to change at SEC, it still beats having to stay on the train to HOB and then switching to the Path and then taking a NYCMTA subway where you need to go from the Path. Remember, that if you are taking the Path 33rd Street Line, you are limited to where you are going. Once passengers leave the train at NYP, they are within walking distance of an unlimited number of shops, restaurants, and theaters.
  by trainbrain
One of the issues with Hoboken on weekends is that Path doesn't run the direct route to the World Trade Center. It used to run on weekends, but hasn't for years because of construction at the WTC station, according to Wikipedia. Hopefully it will be reinstated when the new WTC station is complete. They wouldn't want their multi billion dollar station being underutilized on weekends. Right now, if you want to take the Path from Hoboken to Manhattan on a weekend, you're forced to do an extra transfer at Grove Street, and it's often better, even if going to Lower Manhattan to transfer at SEC and take the Subway down there.

I disagree that Lower Mahattan isn't a good weekend destination. There is Battery Park, the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, World Trade Center, Staten Island Ferry, and probably some things that I'm forgetting too. If you want to get to any of those on a weekday, you take the Path from Hoboken and you can arrive at a station that's within walking distance of where you're going. If Path were to step up weekend service and run the Hoboken to WTC route, you'd see more people stay on the train to Hoboken rather than transfer at SEC. It's not just Lower Manhattan either, if you are going anywhere basically below 23rd Street, it's better to take the Path from Hoboken than to go through SEC and transfer to the Subway.

Obviously the extra transfer at SEC is eliminated if trains are going directly to Penn, but it doesn't help you at all if you're going anywhere in Brooklyn, or below 23rd Street in Manhattan, as you still have to transfer to the Subway at Penn (which is always slow and delayed on weekends). The one seat ride to Penn would be great for those going to Manhattan above 23rd Street, Queens, or even The Bronx.

I have ridden the Port Jervis Line many times on weekends, always transferring at SEC. There were times that I would've stayed on to Hoboken, but the extra Path transfer kept me from doing that. If I was going somewhere within walking distance of a Path station, I'd rather take the Path from Hoboken than transfer to the Subway at Penn Station to get there.
  by trainbrain
I don't think it'll happen, but I'm holding out hope for that addition to be made permanent.
  by TDowling
So am I. I'd also like to see the gap closed for inbound trains on the PJL between 4 and 10...
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