NEWARK — It's the calm before the delays for NJ Transit riders, with major rail work ahead and a report claiming the agency lost over $5 million in uncollected fares in 2016.

The New York Times reported that Stephen Burkert, president of the union representing conductors, told NJ Transit executive director Steve Santoro in a letter that conductors who completed a form reported more than 269,100 fares went uncollected, and could represent more than $5.5 million in losses.

The fares were not collected, according to the report, because only two crew members are assigned to 8- to 10-car multi-level trains.

In recent weeks, as NJ Transit's problems have escalated with delayed and overcrowded cars, many on social media have observed conductors having a difficult time making their way through cars and sometimes not punching tickets and scanning passes.

"The $5 million estimate cited in the SMART-TD letter, which is purely speculative, represents less than 1 percent of revenue," NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said. In addition, she said 80 percent of rail riders during peak periods are montlhy pass holders, so no revenue is lost when their tickets aren't checked.

North Jersey Coast Line commuter Carl Schellenberger said his monthly pass is always checked.

"The only time it's not checked is when a train is cancelled and the following train has to absorb the passengers," he said.

Michael Kasdan from South Orange said it appears crowded conditions also hamper fare collection on the Morris and Essex line.

"There has certainly never been any directive to not collect fares or reduce fares for wildly delayed trains of which I am aware," Kasdan said. "I haven't noticed conductors 'giving up.' But I can appreciate that it sure does put them in a tough situation."

NJ Transit, Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad will continue to discuss their plans for a Penn Station infrastructure renewal project that's expected to cause significant delays this summer.

“We are working to create a service plan and schedule to carry as many customers as safely as possible and sustainable under the very real physical constraints of the station work,” Snyder said earlier.

Amtrak warned that work on the track and switch structures leading to the Hudson River tunnel tubes will cause speed restrictions and "some minor delays entering and departing New York Penn Station."

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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