Riders Worried Monday's Commute Will Be From Hell, Say Agency's Discounts Don't Change The Fact That People Have Places To Be

HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — As if the crowds and the delays weren’t enough, NJ TRANSIT riders are now being hit with another inconvenience on their commutes.

Starting Sunday, the agency is making service changes on multiple branches as it installs federally mandated positive train control (PTC) hardware on its trains.

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Eighteen trains will be suspended for three months as crews finish the process of installing PTC.

The emergency braking system is now required by the federal government and NJ TRANSIT is facing a Dec. 31 deadline to comply with the mandate.

Three northeast corridor and two north Jersey coast line trains are being canceled as part of the service changes. Even more distressing to commuters, more than a dozen peak routes to Hoboken are temporarily being scrapped.

“No way to run a railroad. It really isn’t,” frustrated commuter Tom Albi told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.

“We need more trains. We need to get places,” Hoboken rider Ernesto Rodriguez told CBS2’s Dave Carlin.

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NJ TRANSIT officials say the cars are being equipped with new computers, speed sensors, and other PTC gear by trained installers and techs.

Last month, transit officials took CBS2 behind the scenes to show how much work needed to be done with their aging fleet.

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“Some of our vehicles date back to the 1960s and 1970s and we’re installing new computer systems on these vehicles,” one NJ TRANSIT worker said.

Inside the old wiring of an NJ Transit train. (Credit: CBS2)

To offset the pain of the service cuts, NJ TRANSIT is discounting fares by 10 percent for November, December and January.

“I mean, it’s something. Every little bit helps, I guess,” Rodriguez said.

Crowds at Metropark Station in New Jersey. (Credit: CBS2)

Despite the lower prices, fewer trains will mean more crowded trains and more frustrated customers. Ready or not, the embattled transit agency’s changes will be put right to the test during the Monday morning rush.

Now forced to deal with different train times is Ridgewood resident Judy Scott, who works in a Midtown financial office.

“They took two of my morning commuter trains (off) the schedule, which is totally ridiculous. It means I have to adjust the schedule,” Scott told CBS2’s Carlin.

Checking out NJ TRANSIT alerts on the board inside the Hoboken terminal, she said she hopes her new routine works, but expects Monday morning confusion.

“Possibly, people are going to be on the platform waiting for a train that’s not going to come,” Scott said.

Still, she and others want PTC because they remember how the lack of it was cited as a factor in 2016’s crash inside Hoboken terminal that killed one and injured more than 100 others.

“I do understand there are things you got to do to take care of the situation,” said Chris Blackwood of Washington, New Jersey.

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For more information on the latest service changes, click here.