With Senator Richard Codey, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Assembly John McKeon in attendance, NJ Transit officials told South Orange trustees that January is the soonest a wholesale train schedule change could be made.
However, in response to a challenge from Village President Alex Torpey, the agency promised to look into adding a stop to an existing express during the 6 p.m. rush hour. "As soon as possible," said spokesman Paul Wyckoff. "We'll get on that tomorrow."
Officials also conceded that South Orange service has decreased in the last week, since the new commuter schedule took effect.
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey noted that South Orange has fewer double-decker trains than previously. More have been ordered, but will not be available until spring, she reported.
The soonest a large-scale schedule change could be made, said a NJ Transit spokeman, is January. Any changes made then would be as a result of "fieldwork," information gathering undertaken until mid-November. "This was a significant change to the service," said Paul Wyckoff for the agency.
New Jersey Transit has been touting the addition of 1000 seats in the evening commuter. However, when questioned by trustee Mark Rosner, the spokesman acknowledged that though there is a new train on the line, there are no additional South Orange stops. Trustee Nancy Gould further noted that those trains that serve South Orange in the evening make more stops than previously.
Commuters have emailed and called NJ Transit and Village officials. NJ Transit has told commuters that one reason for the change was to reduce overcrowding.
Codey asked why commuters couldn't have been told of changes ahead. "They were blindsided," he said.
Likewise, resident Scott Greenstone said, "We just want to get back what we had." He has launched a petition to restore elements of the previous schedule, noting that South Orange is a transit village.
Lee Pollack, resident and commuter, said, "This will change the quality of my life." He will see his children less often, he noted. However, "There was nothing wrong with the schedule we had." He urged officials to "use everything in their power" to make changes now. "I implore NJ Transit to do something about this sooner rather than later."
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.