New York City

Looking Back to Move Forward: A History of Train Pain in the Tri-State

You know it's coming -- you've known for months it was coming -- but that doesn't make it any better. The "Summer of Hell" is upon us. 

Commuters in the tri-state area will feel even more train pain than usual when the long-awaited Amtrak repair work at New York Penn Station kicks off on July 10.

Some train lines will be canceled, others rerouted and many will face delays. 

With so much work to be done, many are wondering, how did we get here? It's a complicated history of government bailouts, mismatched infrastructure and a culture of leaving repairs until there's no choice anymore.

Amtrak, which controls Penn Station, was created in 1971 to rescue a failing private rail system and its already aging infrastructure. Rail carriers were losing business to planes and automobiles and government intervention was the only answer.

Amtrak is categorized as quasi-public and receives grants through the federal government. However the grant amounts change yearly, and funding is sometimes cut.

Federal funding cuts do not just affect Amtrak, they also affect local transit providers like NJ Transit and New York's MTA.

For example, there is the long-awaited Gateway Project to fix existing infrastructure in the tri-state area and create new tunnels under the Hudson River. Pre-construction work since 2012 cost over $300 million in federal funding, according to Amtrak, which is in charge of the project. (The project has been mired in controversy ever since Gov. Christie cancelled New Jersey's end of it in 2010.)

NJ Transit and the MTA have similar histories to Amtrak. The two regional agencies were created around the same time, and united once-private railways to improve service for the tri-state area.

Both regional service providers need billions of dollars in order to make improvements to their systems. According to the MTA captial budget, improving just subway the train signals will cost more than $3 billion.

These improvements are crucial, as ridership on mass transit is on the rise. The MTA reports weekly subway ridership alone is up from 5.2 million in 2012 to 5.6 million in 2016.

Even though their ridership on is the rise, the MTA is under pressure.

The subways, which are going to be more heavily relied upon during the Amtrak repair work, often have mechanical problems, including power outages and signal problems. There was also an A train derailment on June 27. These mechanical issues and derailments can cause massive delays.

No matter which station or provider you to turn to in the tri-state area, it seems that at least some Train Pain is certain.

Below is a timeline of some of the recent problems in our transit area.

March 24, 2017 - Amtrak train hits a NJ Transit train inside Penn Station.

April 3, 2017 - A second NJ Transit train derails, caused by a stray piece of wood.

April 14, 2017 - NJ Transit train with more than 1,000 people on board stalls in Hudson River Tunnel for 3 hours, causing widespread NJ Transit and Amtrak delays.

April 25, 2017 - An Amtrak train stalled during the morning commute, leading to 45 minute delays for many NJ Transit commuters.

May 8, 2017 - Signal problems in an East River Tunnel cause LIRR delays and cancellations.

June 1, 2017 - Amtrak power outages cause massive LIRR delays.

June 8, 2017 - Report comes out indicating LIRR delays are worst in 10 years.

June 27, 2017 - Subway A train derailment. Massive delays followed.

June 29, 2017 - Track problem outside Amtrak’s East River tunnel stranded a LIRR train, causing morning commute delays.

June 29, 2017 - Gov. Cuomo declares MTA state of emergency.

June 29, 2017 - Evening Westbound LIRR service to Penn Station was suspended due to a power problem. 12 of 21 tracks at Penn were affected.

July 7, 2017 - NJ Transit train derails in the Hudson River Tunnel just before 9 p.m. with 180 on board.

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