I’ve been in Florida enjoying some warm weather, accumulating a few days out of NJ before year end. Now I’m back and want to follow up on this for anyone who might be interested in more details.
It is 100% certain PATH will get rid of the HOB – WTC and JSQ – 33rd lines. Eventually those lines will be forced shut because of compelling economics and unrelenting increases in commuters. Given the sensitivities, and likely push back, the PA will be very quiet until it’s a done deal, so of course they are being very coy, but it’s inevitable. And the naysayers, City operatives and developer shills who often post here aren’t interested in telling you the truth. You need to think for yourselves…. It is patently obvious to anyone who rides PATH today there are serious capacity problems. The deniers have hidden agendas to push. Here’s what going down, and if it’s done well, it could be a big plus.
To cope with future trans-Hudson commuter demand and plug PATH’s $450 million annual deficit, the PA needs to extract more efficiency and better monetize the value of the downtown H&M tubes. It seems they’ve found a way. The EWR extension is key to unlocking that value. With a PATH extension to EWR, the tunnels to WTC can carry thousands of higher-fare paying riders everyday. Listers, the PA isn’t spending $1.7 billion for us and a few lower Manhattanites to pay $2.75 for a quick ride to Newark airport. No, it’s about finding a lot more commuters who will pay higher fares to use PATH. It’s a big plus for JC and NJ, but it raises significant issues, including re-configuring PATH.
The plan turns EWR – WTC into the major NJ/NYC commuter rail line. The scoping document doesn’t say it that way, but it’s clear. The new EWR station, next to I-78, Rte 22, 1&9, Amtrak, NJT, and close to the Turnpike and Parkway, will have intermodal facilities. The PA wants every commuter it can get on PATH from all the buses and cars that go by there daily. They’ll charge for EWR station “access”, and run as many trains as possible. All for a paltry $1.7 billion. Even at double ($3.4 billion), it’s a bargain. And NY can’t delay or stop it because, unlike the PABT, it’s all here in NJ.
It’s a great idea for everyone who goes past the airport on their way to NYC. It takes buses and cars off highways, and generates money for the PA. It takes pressure off the Gateway tunnel ($30+ billion) and PABT projects ($10+ billion), both still unfunded and over a decade away. Heck, the PABT will never be re-built if NY gets its way. They’d happily leave us stranded in NJ. Expect a huge fight, and long delays before you see a new PABT. Our friends in NY see the PA bridges, tunnels and bus terminal as giant pipes that send “their” jobs, money, and taxes to NJ by the bus and train load every day.
The passenger “access” fee for the EWR station will be about $10 – 3.5 times today’s $2.75 fare. This means revenue from one, full EWR train (10 cars, $12.75 fare) will be about five times that of a full HOB – WTC or JSQ – 33rd train (7 cars, $2.75 fare). If you’re running PATH, with an annual $450 million deficit, which line has priority? A line that generates one fifth the revenue…? I don’t think so.
How does it impact the HOB – WTC and JSQ – 33rd lines? Just run more trains, you say. Well, at present there’s a “bottleneck” that limits system capacity so it can’t run more trains. The federally mandated “headway” gap (the time between trains) for crossing point safety limits the number of trains that can run. Get rid of the crossing points for trains from HOB and JSQ and you can run more EWR – WTC trains. Recall, the EWR trains have the 5 fold revenue increase, and 40% greater passenger load. At the margin, HOB – WTC, and JSQ – 33rd trains cost PATH revenue and capacity, so it’s a matter of when, not if, those lines go for more EWR trains. Of course, even without crossing points PATH eventually reaches the limits of the then much higher capacity constraints. But that’s a long way off.
There’s some good news for JC in all this. With the crossing points gone, PATH can operate faster and more frequent service on the lines that remain, EWR – WTC and HOB – 33rd. Adjust your commute and take your pick which one you’ll ride. You’ll have less wait time and faster rides. Getting to the airport from JC will be fast, easy, and cost less – no taxi, Uber, etc., and no traffic tie ups to worry about. You won’t need to leave an hour earlier, in case there’s a jam on the Skyway or Turnpike.
IMHO the benefits far outweigh any down-sides, but I get that some people won’t like it. And it’s not perfect, so I do have some questions for the PA. Will the access charge apply only to the airport station? What about a discount fare for airport staff? Will we be left standing in the dust at JSQ or Grove St, by trains full of higher-fare paying commuters from EWR? Will PATH run WTC trains that start empty from JSQ, and Grove St? Have your say now Listers, make sure they’ve thought about the details and the plans are robust, work for JC, and are implemented accordingly.
But know this: the service will change, it’s inevitable. There’s way too much money at stake.
There’s over 400 pages of report about trans Hudson commuting from the PA, here and here:https://www.panynj.gov/about/pdf/Trans ... ummary_Report_9-21-16.pdfhttps://www.panynj.gov/about/pdf/Trans ... ll_Appendices_9-21-16.pdf