What to Know
- Major repairs at Penn Station, which officials have dubbed a "summer of hell" for commuters, are just weeks away
- Some commuters in New Jersey say they plan to take different bus services or telecommute instead of dealing with chaos on trains
- The town of Maplewood has even sent a letter to employers asking that they allow their employees to work from home
Rough commutes will turn into major headaches in a few weeks as urgent repairs begin at New York Penn Station, a two-month overhaul that officials have dubbed a “summer of hell.” Some New Jersey towns are already lining up plans to help NJ Transit riders, but one commuter isn’t waiting to find an alternative.
Rachel Hipschman, a summer intern, chose to take an Academy Bus from Howell on Wednesday. It was her first trip of the summer on the bus, one she described as pleasant, air-conditioned and quiet.
Hipschman normally takes an NJ Transit train into the city, but she’s given up on those this summer, anticipating weeks of hellish commutes and fuming passengers.
“There’s always an issue,” Hipschman said. “I was angry, as was everyone around me. I decided, I’m done with it, I’m going to take the bus.”
Hipschman shot video of her first bus commute. In one apropos moment on the NJ Turnpike, her bus passes a stopped train waiting to get into Penn Station.
All in all, it was quite a change from Tuesday’s train ride.
“I overhear conversations like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be an hour late to this event, because my train’s not on time. I’m going to ask my employer if I can leave at 4 o’clock instead of 5,” Hipschman said.
Even though there are a few weeks left before Amtrak work crews begin repairs at Penn Station, social media is already awash with photos and videos of frustrated commuters.
Skipping the “summer of hell” has been so attractive to NJ Transit commuters that Maplewood sent a letter out to employers asking them to let their employees work from home as much as possible during the eight-week overhaul of Penn.
“We request that you consider the option of permitting your employees who reside in Maplewood, New Jersey to work from home one or more days a week,” part of the letter reads.
Some employers are already giving the okay — that’s good news to NJ Transit commuter Hassan Austin, who normally travels into Manhattan via the Morris and Essex lines’ midtown direct service.
“I do have a good boss,” Austin said.
For those who can’t work at home, buses are an alternative being pushed by NJ Transit.
But as smooth as Wednesday’s commute was for Hipschman, there’s always the risk of a breakdown in the exclusive bus lane into the Lincoln Tunnel.
“If that’s, you know, once or twice a month, or once in a blue moon, compared to every day — yes, that’s definitely a risk I’m willing to take,” Hipschman said.
Amtrak told News 4 that current prep work should end when the major track repairs begin during the second week of July. That might mean no more 30-minute delays for the trains that will go into Penn during construction.