Should The MTA Fix The Port Jervis Line?

This is the interesting question posed by WNYC’s Jim O’Grady. As we know by now, the Port Jervis line had 14 miles of track washed away by Hurricane Irene. This has led to the MTA Metro-North to provide bus service at all stations along the line even though only approximately 2300 use it during the week. A sample of his report:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is getting ready to invest millions of dollars to repair the Port Jervis train line on the western side of the Hudson River. The authority is paying an engineering firm $500,000 to figure out how to repair damage from Tropical Storm Irene.

The Authority said 2,300 riders take the Port Jervis train through Orange County on an average weekday. That’s just a small portion of the thousands of riders who used to take the 37 bus lines in New York City that were cut last summer to save money.

MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said the authority has no choice but to make the repairs to the Port Jervis line, and to run 55 buses among eight stations, seven days a week, until the line is fixed.

The storm washed out 14 miles of track, and Anders said there are no alternative transit options like there are in the five boroughs. “Compared to Brooklyn, Orange County’s choices are very limited,” she said.

Click here for the complete report.

I have to admit that the question posed is quite an interesting one. I can see both sides on the issue as on one hand, the amount of riders affected is extremely tiny compared to those who lost bus service due to the service cuts.

However on the flip side, those 2300 people are paying customers & deserve to have quality transportation options too. Also it can be said that comparing the service to the buses is apples vs oranges.

In the end, I do have to side with the decision to fix the line as it is true, Orange County has very limited transportation options. I speak from experience as I lived up there for a year & my only way to NYC was via bus if I chose not to hop in the car. Plus it is not like the MTA provides a ton of service on the line so it is not a money drain.

One aspect of the eventual repair work that caught my eye is the agency having to pay half a million to an outside agency to determine how best fix the line. Why is this necessary? Do they not have adequate people on staff that could form a team & decide what & how the repairs get done?

xoxo Transit Blogger

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As a current Port Jervis customer affected by Irene, I for one have to dispute the numbers being posted of the ridership on the Port Jervis line. I was a regular on the 5:37 am and this was a 7 car train that was always packed. People were standing by the time we reached Ramsey 17. That is close to 1000 riders on only one PJ train. We all know how numbers can be manupliated, they subtract the riders from Suffern, Mahwah and Ramsey 17 so it looks like only a few thousand are affected. Now that school is back we have additional riders who are also not being accounted for.

As far as the current options for getting to the city its been hell on all commuters not just the PJ line poeple. I work with people on the Hudson line who can get seats, I tried that trip and since I work across from Penn it was not an option. I tried the bus from Matamorus but that was packed as well. I now drive an hour to Harriman, board a bus to Ramsey 17, change at Secacus to Penn. This is a 3 hour trip from hell. At least the previous trip I could sleep for an hour and a half.

This line is also a freight line so the option of not repairing it is out of the question in my opinion. Orange and Sullivan Counties are some of the biggest growing counties in the state, we should have more service not less.

30 years ago I came to fish the Ramapo River with friends from Brooklyn and then it was a 4 rail line track in Tuxedo and a 2 rail from Harriman to Port. Someone made the decision to cut it back to 2 lines and 1 line into Port. I am sure they are regretting that decision everytime a train breaks down west of Harriman.

Last thought, if this was a third world country the Army Core of Engineers would already be on the job and reconstruction would have already begun. Just saying.

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