NJ Transit hell: Passengers made to wait 4 hours to get home
NEWARK — The commute for NJ Transit passengers onboard the 5:35 p.m. Newark to High Bridge turned into a four-hour nightmare on Monday night with no answers from officials.
It's the latest example of service that has frustrated commuters and pushed Gov. Phil Murphy to demand changes at the beleaguered mass transit agency.
Jarad DeLorenzo, of Glen Gardner, told New Jersey 101.5 that about 100 passengers got on board the #5737 for the normally 79-minute trip on the Raritan Valley Line. Passengers were informed by conductors that their train would have to tow a disabled train near the Union station to Raritan Borough.
That was the last communication from the crew as the train sat for 90 minutes, according to DeLorenzo. When they arrived in Raritan Borough, passengers were told to get off.
As tired passengers waited in the cold platform, a conductor told them the next train, which was 20 minutes away, would take them to High Bridge.
"They are making the next train from Somerville pick you all up and take you home finally. I apologize on behalf of New Jersey Transit for this and I apologize on my behalf for this," the conductor says in the video.
You can watch the video above. Warning: It contains vulgar language.
As the train remained at the station, a police officer asked the conductor when the train would move because the street-level platform blocks traffic when trains are stopped.
"You're cutting my town in half right now," the officer asked.
According to the video, the next train arrived 20 minutes later but the conductor said it was not going to High Bridge.
"We're taking you? I don't know," the second conductor shrugged. "We're not going to High Bridge. Yelling at me isn't going to change it."
DeLorenzo said frustration grew as the trains came and went.
"We should get free passes for what they're doing to us," one customer yelled as passengers were concerned that they'd be asked for another ticket. Another suggested they all get on the next train en mass and demand to be taken to High Bridge.
DeLoranzo said that a train finally picked them up around 9 p.m. and got them to High Bridge by 9:30.
"It's terrible. This is one of the worst commutes," said DeLorenzo, whose been taking the train for 10 years. "There were old people there; they don't know what Uber is. It's cold, I have two kids at home sleeping. I can't have my wife get them up and bring them to pick me up. They just don't care."
DeLorenzo said a conductor the next morning told him that the crew on the original train were told not to complete the trip to High Bridge in order to save on overtime.
"They wanted to wait for the actual scheduled train so they didn't have to pay any conductors overtime even though that was our train that should have gone to High Bridge," DeLorenzo said.
NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith said one of the two tracks in area where the train became disabled near the Union station was being used by a freight train. The track could not be used by passenger trains so nothing could get past the disabled train.
Smith said NJ Transit Police also responded to a report of a medical condition on board one of the trains which was unfounded.
The circumstances of the events at the Raritan station remain under investigation, according to Smith.