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New Jersey Transit Strike Looms Large on Sunday

The nation's second largest commuter railroad may go on strike this Sunday. New Jersey Transit's bus and light rail operations are not affected. Eleven rail unions have been operating without a contract since 2011.
March 11, 2016, 5am PST | Irvin Dawid
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It would be "the first New Jersey Transit rail strike in 33 years," write Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Andy Newman of The New York Times. "contingency mass transit plan would accommodate only 38 percent of the transportation agency’s 105,000 daily rail commuters into New York City, leaving the rest to fend for themselves on already overcrowded roads, agency officials said."

Credit: New Jersey Transit

Fitzsimmons and Newman write how disruptive a strike would be to New York City's economy, "costing $6 million per hour of delays."

Contingency plans listed on the NJ Transit webpage "include extra service on more than two dozen New Jersey Transit bus routes, which would continue to be served during a strike, and the addition of five park-and-ride locations where commuters could ride a bus to the city, or to ferry and PATH stops," writes Jason Grant for The Times. "Officials have said rail tickets would be honored on buses, the light rail, private buses, PATH and New York Waterway ferries."

"The unions have proposed wage increases of about 17 percent over six and a half years, with workers contributing up to 2.5 percent of their pay toward health coverage," add Fitzsimmons and Newman. 

"A presidential emergency board, created by President Obama last fall to help resolve the dispute, sided with the unions [PDF] but the agency rejected the board’s recommendations," notes Grant. "Agency officials have said the unions’ demands would amount to higher costs of about $183 million and could require fare increases."

Democrats and union officials took aim at Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, arguing that ultimate control of the agency rests with him. Mr. Christie has been facing mounting criticism at home for ignoring New Jersey’s problems while campaigning unsuccessfully for president.

"Samuel Schwartz, a traffic expert [AKA Gridlock Sam] who has been working as a consultant to New Jersey Transit, said last week that if many of the displaced rail commuters who could not be accommodated by extra buses drove to New York City in separate cars, the line getting into the Holland Tunnel could stretch for 25 miles," write Fitzsimmons and Newman. Schwartz also stressed the importance of carpooling.

Correspondent's note: Wikipedia listed NJ Transit as having the second highest ridership among commuter railroads based on 2014 data.

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Published on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 in The New York Times
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