As a resident of North Jersey, I have ridden rail lines such as the Gladstone line, Northeast corridor, and most frequently, the Morris Essex line. I have been dissatisfied with NJTransit’s rail service so much to the point that I will not take it again. The train is entirely too expensive, runs too infrequently, and is too slow.
From Dover in Morris county, the train typically takes 90 minutes to arrive at Penn Station in Manhattan while driving from Dover to Penn Station takes approximately 54 minutes. In addition, taking the train round trip during off peak hours (although it doesn’t matter anymore since there is no off peak fare reduction) is $28.50. Assuming that a typical route from Dover to Penn Station is around 39 miles and most cars get at least 20 miles/gallon with gas costing roughly $4.00/gallon, driving round trip would cost only $23.85 (Holland tunnel toll cost is $8.25 with EZ Pass off peak). Compare this price to the round trip train fare of $28.50 and the difference is about 5 bucks cheaper while the car is e but 36 minutes faster. Of course one could argue that paying for a parking garage would jack up the price of driving to something closer to something like $48.85 but one has to the option to park on the street for free or pay a meter if only spending a short period of time.
This type of analysis I provided is what sways many people to drive. As for me, my grandma lives in Queens, so I can drive to her house, park in her driveway for free, and take the subway for $2.50 to Manhattan. In order to persuade more people to use commuter rail, NJTransit should
1.) Reinstate the off-peak fare reduction
2.) Reduce the penalty of not buying a ticket before hand by half
3.) Create real express trains so people can get to major destinations in a reasonable amount of time
4.) Reduce the fares on atleast local trains if not on the express trains too.
Increasing the frequency of when trains come would also increase ridership but I believe just the 4 things listed above would have a tremendous beneficial impact on ridership numbers.
Some goals for the future for NJTransit should be electrifying the Morris Essex line AT LEAST to the newly created Mt. Arlington station from Dover if not to Hackettstown. A non-negligible amount of people live in the area spanning east towest from Dover to Hackettstown and North to South from Netcong to Chester. There are not many jobs in the area to be gainfully employed to allow people to work in the same place they live so the must commute far distances to pay for their expenditures. Making the train more enticing will also help the “park and rides” be utilized more. I could see a domino effect happening making more people likely to use public transportation if the Trains are made to be great. “Park and rides” won’t be used until people feel that it is worth it to park and ride the train instead of driving the full distance to their destination.
I created this graph below illustrating the train stations’ distance from Penn Station and the respective one-way cost. Not sure why I can’t make it bigger, but the caption pretty much sums up the trend illustrated by the blue line.
I hope to see big improvement’s in NJTransit’s rail system or the sprawl, congestion, and pollution will just continue to get worse.