It’s a problem that is as frustrating as it is outrageous — but it’s become the new reality in the Garden State.

No one knows how many New Jersey Transit trains will be cancelled today, leaving commuters stranded without warning. But judging by the last few weeks, it's a safe bet at least a handful of trains will suddenly vanish from the schedule.

So why is this happening and when in the world will it be fixed?

“If you’re frustrated and upset about this I can’t blame you. So am I and so are we,” said Gov. Murphy during an event in Secaucus on Monday.

He said there are multiple reasons why NJ Transit trains continue to be cancelled on a daily basis, including the installation of Positive Train Control and a shortage of engineers to operate the trains — but he said things can’t and won’t change overnight.

“Listen, we’re going to continue to have a challenging ... time at least through New Year’s Eve. We will achieve the Positive Train Control mandate because we have no choice,” he said.

Murphy said to install the a federally mandated emergency rail braking system, NJ Transit has to pull several cars offline. He said only 13 percent of NJ Transit trains had been outfitted with PTC when he became governor in January, and the installation must be completed by midnight on Dec. 31.

“We’ve been dealt a lousy hand and it’s incredibly frustrating," Murphy said.

The governor said another problem is NJ Transit needs 291 engineers to run the trains, and the agency used to have 400 on hand — but “that pool has been allowed to dwindle over the past 8 years to 330-something."

That means "our degree of freedom, our degrees of freedom are extremely limited," he said. When engineers call out, cancellations happen.

He said new efforts are being made to make it easier to attract new engineers, but there are no quick fixes.

As to why commuters have not been informed about cancellations in advance, so they can make alternate plans: “I think there’s been a lot of observations that we could communicate better. We are aggressively pursuing a whole of avenues to communicate the reality better.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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