It shouldn’t be a news story when someone leaves his house in a suburb, jumps on a train to Manhattan, walks to a meeting on the upper East Side, and then returns to the suburb, all on the appointed schedule of the train company.
I did just that a few weeks ago, traveling from my home in Princeton, New Jersey, to an interview at the Cosmopolitan Club on East 66TH Street with an acquaintance of the late urbanist William H. Whyte, the subject of a biography I’m writing. And I did so in the aftermath of weeks, months, and even years of horrendous news about NJ Transit, the tracks it travels on, the 108-year-old tunnels it uses to get under the Hudson River, and the overcrowded Penn Station where it makes its final stop.
Just a few months before my train commute, I heard a presentation by Tom Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association, painting a grim picture of the beleaguered NJ Transit and the “precarious” condition of the tunnels. NJTV just reported that in the past four years NJ Transit and Amtrak trains have been stuck a total of 1,800 hours in the tunnels and on the nearby Portal Bridge. If you have an iota of claustrophobia in your psyche, Wright’s description of the 108-year-old tunnels – undulating up and down in the slime below the Hudson River — will give you the creeps.
In addition to the tunnels and the ongoing problems on the Northeast Corridor, commuters in Princeton had a more basic problem: The connecting line from Princeton to Princeton Junction had been shut down for nearly half a year so that NJ Transit could concentrate its resources on installation of a mandated safety equipment system. By the time I was ready to head into the city the “Dinky” line, as it is known, was back in service.
With the only alternative a bus to the Port Authority or a drive into the city, I decided to take my chances with the train. It was a wise choice, with an unexpected bonus at the end — a perfect example of why even occasional commuters such as myself should appreciate the July 22 announcement by the governors of New Jersey and New York to move ahead with a project (despite continued resistance from the Trump administration) to replace the tunnels, drawing on money not just from rail commuters but from all taxpayers. > Read More …