NJ Transit resumed regular weekend rail service on Saturday morning, some 12 hours after shutting down trains early following a nightmarish day for commuters.
The transit agency said engineers were expected to report to work one day after call outs related to an "illegal job action" forced systemwide cancellations all day long and left commuters stranded before the start of the holiday weekend.
Only a handful of trains were canceled Saturday morning, but none appeared to be due to a lack of engineers. NJ Transit's website blamed the few service disruptions on equipment availability, mechanical issues and overhead wire problems.
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The train schedule saw a drastic improvement from Friday, when most service out of Penn Station, Newark and Hoboken ended by 8 p.m., with eastbound service ending by 10 p.m. NJ Transit said the suspension in rail service was due to "an illegal job action initiated this morning by the locomotive engineers' union (BLE&T)."
The first signs of transit chaos showed in the morning commute as dozens of trains were no-shows and riders on a handful of lines were left asking for an explanation.
Service alerts littered NJ Transit social media and website citing "engineer availability" issues leading to the influx of schedule problems. By the end of the morning rush-hour, a couple dozen trains had been canceled.
NJ Transit said the call out rate by engineers on Friday was nearly triple that of an average weekday.
The mangled day for public transit came about due to a planned job action by engineers still negotiating a new contract, multiple sources told News 4. Juneteenth was recognized as a state holiday on Friday in New Jersey, but the engineers without an updated contract don't receive holiday pay.
Rumors of a job action began circulating Thursday when NJ Transit sent a letter to the engineers' union warning workers against missing work on Friday.
Engineers who did not show up to work forced service cancelations on a number of train lines throughout the day. The Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line were particularly hard hit during the morning rush and by the afternoon, nearly every line had an alert.
"NJ TRANSIT is disappointed that the union would perpetuate such an act on the more than 100,000 customers who depend on NJ TRANSIT rail service every day. We intend to explore all legal remedies in response to this illegal and irresponsible action," a NJ Transit spokesperson said in a statement to News 4.
Calling the actions of the engineers "illegal," NJ Transit said it would look into all possible legal remedies in response to the job action. More than 40 trains were canceled by the afternoon.
Messages seeking comment from the engineers' union were not answered.
Amid the evening commute, NJ Transit issued a travel alert to suspend train service early with the last trains leaving from New York, Newark and Hoboken roughly between 7 and 8 p.m.
Riders with rail tickets will be accepted on buses, light rail lines, PATH trains and NY Waterway ferries.
The engineers' union did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the absences.
NJ Transit said that it expects workers to show up for work Saturday morning, and does not anticipate any further interruptions in service. The agency expects to run a regular weekend schedule.