Your smooth commute to work — if that's even a possibility in New Jersey — can be thrown completely out of whack when just one thing doesn't fall in place, even if the issue is dozens of miles away.

Holiday service continues on NJ Transit
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

This week offered plenty of proof, including the nightmare on the roads heading to New York City when NJ Transit was forced to switch to a holiday schedule due to Monday morning's train derailment.

According to New Jersey 101.5 Fast Traffic reporter Bob Williams, delays doubled heading into NYC on the days of scaled-down train operations.

"Nearly every approach into New York City had some problem in North Jersey," he said.

That's despite NJ Transit and private bus carriers increasing bus service along the affected routes.

Janna Chernetz, director of New Jersey policy for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said this week's delays have "painfully illustrated" just how important a fully-functioning, healthy public transportation system is for New Jersey and the region. And she couldn't imagine "a better wake-up call" for those in charge.

"We need to have robust bus options, robust rail options. Not one mode can absorb the other, as we can see," Chernetz said.

She also pointed to an outdated, inefficient Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC.

But the overall fix, she said, can't ignore the smaller picture. Every car that's off the road can improve others' commutes, so if folks have more opportunities to walk or ride their bike to work, instead of driving a few miles, that puts a dent in the congestion on New Jersey's roads.

Chernetz noted building more roads, or widening them, isn't a realistic option for New Jersey; we're crowded enough as is.

Williams said many commuters are "unaware that New Jersey has an incomplete infrastructure" dotted with missing links and proposed sections of highway that were never built.

Even a couple accidents in the Newark Airport area of the Turnpike on Wednesday, he said, backed up drivers for tens of miles.

"When an accident or closure occurs, the ripple effect occurs almost immediately," Williams said.

Williams commonly advises drivers of alternative routes when traffic is messy ahead, but this week, he said, there were a number of instances where drivers' only option was to sit and wait.

"I felt bad for them," he said.

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