A Hellish Week for Commuters

NJ Transit And Amtrak Leave NYC Commuters With 90-Minute Delays

Commuters at the New Jersey Transit train platform at Penn Station in New York, US, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024.
Photo: Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Northeast Corridor chaos is dragging on.

On Friday, NJ Transit announced that train travel in and out of Penn Station had been suspended because of issues with Amtrak’s overhead wires, the second such problem in 24 hours. On its end, Amtrak blamed a disabled commuter train, saying that service between New York City and Philadelphia would be “delayed/modified” with full service expected to be restored by noon. Around 10:30, NJ Transit said service had resumed in and out of New York City, but advised riders to expect delays up to 45 minutes.

Friday’s delays were unpleasantly familiar for daily train commuters. On Thursday, Amtrak and NJ Transit service was first delayed and then completely halted during the afternoon due to an overhead power outage, with no train travel between Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The agency would later blame a “malfunctioning circuit breaker” for the outage.

Many trains terminated travel in Philadelphia, Newark, or New Rochelle, forcing commuters to transfer to PATH or the MetroNorth to continue their trip or find new travel entirely. If that wasn’t enough, attempts to repair the wires were reportedly impeded by efforts to extinguish a brush fire along the New Jersey Turnpike in Secaucus, potentially a result of the ongoing heat wave in the region. Amtrak, however, said the fire was “unrelated” to the delays.

Thousands of passengers had to wait hours for their delayed trains on Thursday, filling Amtrak’s Moynihan Train Hall — which lacks seating in its main waiting area. By 5:30 p.m., Amtrak said power had been restored and that travel between New Haven and Philadelphia had resumed, but warned of anticipated delays due to “rail congestion and single-tracking.”

And those weren’t even the only headaches this week. On Tuesday, a disabled commuter train and issues with overhead wires slowed down and later fully halted train service out of Penn Station just before 8 a.m., hitting morning commuters with delays up to 90 minutes. The morning’s service tie-ups trickled down throughout the day, affecting Amtrak and NJ Transit travel well into the evening rush hour. A little after 11 p.m, Amtrak announced that normal service to and from New York had resumed.

Travel delays during the summer are not uncommon, as agencies consistently institute heat-related speed restrictions on the rails for safety reasons. But hours-long waits have lately become the norm, snarling transit on the nation’s busiest railway. In March, Amtrak reported that its Northeast Regional line, which runs from Boston to Washington, D.C., and parts of Virginia, had close to 9.2 million customers in all of 2023.

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