The deadly train crash at Hoboken Terminal that killed at least one person, injured more than 100 others and caused significant structural damage to one of New Jersey's busiest railroad stations could have a devastating effect on transportation in the region in the coming days.
Several train lines, light rails and ferry services were suspended to and from the Hoboken Terminal Thursday, impacting the commute of more than 50,000 people who use the major transit hub daily.
Some service was expected to resume for Thursday's evening commute: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the PATH train service and ferry service to New York City would both be operational for rush hour. But Christie could not provide a timetable for restoration of service for the NJ Transit commuter lines.
That could cause problems for the thousands of commuters who take the trains to Hoboken, and then the PATH or ferry to Manhattan.
"If the Hoboken train station is impacted for any significant period of time, the impact on travel on that area would be huge," said Richard C. Beall from Railroadexperts.com. "It will depend on how many tracks have been affected and if the building itself is still structurally sound. They might have to bus people from the Hoboken station to the next station, but either way the impact is going to be enormous."
At about 8:45 a.m. Thursday morning, a Pascack Valley Line train appeared to have gone through a bumper stop and crashed into the station at the height of morning rush. It eventually stopped between that station's indoor waiting area and the platform.
Photos of the crash scene showed significant structural damage to the station. At least one of the NJ Transit cars appeared to be partially inside the station and the roof over the tracks had partially collapsed.
None of NJ Transit's trains are fully equipped with positive train control, a safety system designed to prevent accidents by automatically slowing or stopping trains that are going too fast. The industry is under government orders to install PTC, but the deadline has been repeatedly extended by regulators at the request of the railroads. The deadline is now the end of 2018.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who toured the crash site Thursday, says he's been pushing for better rail security.
"We are a rail-dependent region here in New Jersey," Booker said on MSNBC. "We should be focusing a lot on safety technology. We have a lot more to do on that in this country."
Situated just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, NJ Transit's fifth-busiest station is the final stop for several train lines and a transfer point for many commuters on their way to New York City. Many passengers get off at Hoboken and take ferries or a Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) commuter train to New York.
Also known as the Lackawanna Terminal, Hoboken's major transit hub is served by nine NJ Transit commuter rail lines, one Metro-North Railroad line, various NJ Transit buses and private bus lines, the Hudson–Bergen Light Rail, the PATH transit system and NY Waterway-operated ferries.
For many New Jersey residents who work in lower Manhattan, taking a train to Hoboken and then connecting to the PATH to the World Trade Center or Christopher Street is more convenient than NJ Transit trains to midtown's Penn Station.
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The site of the terminal has been used as a ferry landing since the colonial era. The Hoboken Terminal that stands today was built in 1907, a construction that was a result of a blaze during 1905 which had destroyed the original structure due to a ferry catching fire while docked, according to "Railroad Stations" author Brian Solomon.
The Beaux-Arts style terminal, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed by architect Kenneth M. Murchison.
The 109-year-old building has undergone waves of restoration, including a major project launched by NJ Transit in April 2004 that largely restored the building to its original condition. The station underwent more renovations after it was extensively damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Many "firsts" can be attributed to the Hoboken Terminal, according to the Hoboken Historical Museum. The first electrified train, operated by Thomas Edison, departed Hoboken in 1930 and traveled to Montclair, N.J. One of the first central air-conditioning units in a major building was installed at Hoboken Terminal. The first wireless phone, operating between Hoboken and Manhattan, was first used inside the terminal.