Last month I held a meeting with executive level personnel from Metro-North Railroad (MNR) and New Jersey Transit (NJT) to discuss challenges and concerns relating to train cancellations on the Pascack Valley Line (PVL). The goal of this meeting was to respond to the concerns of commuters after NJT announced system-wide temporary train cancellations to facilitate Positive Train Control improvements.
In addition to these newest cuts over the past two years, Rockland County’s PVL commuters have endured more service disruptions than would ever be allowed to occur on Metro-North’s East of Hudson service. Since 2010, we have already permanently lost two trains through service cuts. We have endured chronic cancellations and delays, poorly coordinated temporary busing, late customer notice and extremely limited service schedules – all of which have a severe effect on Rockland commuters. It is Metro-North’s job to ensure that their West of Hudson customers are provided with the service to which they are entitled and for which Metro-North is paying NJT.
I was outraged when NJT first announced they were temporarily cancelling three trains on the PVL. That said, and while we may criticize and advocate it is so important to do more than just bash these organizations for their decisions. We must work together comprehensively, it’s the only way to truly accomplish anything. Meetings like this one are critical; they bring everyone to the table, so we can identify any and all ways to mitigate the challenges faced by Rockland’s commuters.
Before the meeting MNR had already agreed to implement our request to cross-honor PVL tickets on the Port Jervis Line, the Haverstraw/Ossining ferries, East of Hudson Lines and in coordination with Rockland for the TAPPAN ZEExpress bus service. MNR also agreed to reinvest their cost savings from the canceled PVL trains into improvements at the Nanuet Station (including repainting of station canopy, installation of new bird netting, repair of ADA access ramp, replacement of passenger shelter, repair of entrance road and surface cracks to MNR parking facility).
Rockland County and MNR also requested that NJT accelerate the restoration of the three cancelled PVL trains and NJT agreed to continue monitoring ridership on adjacent trains to those that were suspended and adjusting the number of cars as possible and appropriate. Effective June 11, NJT added a car to train 1616 (the one remaining morning express train) to alleviate overcrowding (now five cars) and effective June 20, NJT added a second car to train 1616 (now six cars). MNR has also agreed to direct NJT to dedicate an additional MNR-owned train set to the PVL’s “Metro-North Express” trains.
We in government have heard your concerns loud and clear and are using every tool and resource available to improve service. We have also requested a three-year fare freeze for Rockland County’s West of Hudson commuters (to include exemption from MNR’s planned increases in 2019 and 2021) from both NJT and MNR/MTA.
I can report to you that all involved are focused on working to close Rockland County’s $40 million annual value gap. MNR also agreed to consider replacement of the most problematic locomotives in its next capital plan to enhance reliability and to direct NJT to dedicate the new MNR equipment to the PVL’s “Metro-North Express” trains.
This meeting brought into focus that we are all dedicated to improving the service and resiliency of mass transit within Rockland County. These initiatives will serve as a blueprint for actions to significantly improve services to Rockland residents and commuters. I ask that you, our commuters, continue to serve as our “eyes and ears.” Please report any service shortcomings to the Rockland County Department of Public Transportation at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can stay on top of this issue and continue advocating for you.