NJ Transit equipment sidelined as PTC woes mount

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NEWARK, N.J. — Scarcely a week after the inauguration of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, NJ Transit’s woes are front page news once again. On Monday of this week, Murphy ordered an audit for the statewide commuter rail system. One of the most significant issues in the audit is the installation of positive train control, mandated by federal law to be installed by the end of this year. In order to meet this deadline, the commuter carrier has less equipment to meet daily operations, which has led to fewer and more crowded trains.

About eight percent of motive power and cab cars have been equipped with PTC so far. What has happened, instead of a one-week install, the new electronics are not compatible with current operating systems, wreaking havoc with installations.

New Jersey lawmakers were told by outgoing Executive Director
Steve Santoro this month that the equipment had been out-of-service, but did not indicate the extent of the problem. Older spare passenger equipment has been used instead, but with non-working toilets and malfunctions of car doors at speed, they became targets of social media videos. Currently, NJ Transit ranks third from bottom on project progress among 41 passenger and freight lines, according to FRA data. By comparison in the NY area, Amtrak is 96 percent complete systemwide; PATH, Metro North, and the Long Island Rail Road are all at more than 50 percent.

On NJ Transit, 440 locomotives and cab cars must have the installation completed within 11 months, which requires design, installation, testing, and certification for the many different models in the NJ Transit electric and diesel fleet. A shortage of cab cars has prompted locomotives to be used on front and rear on some trains, which has created a shortage of locomotives.

This crisis had not happened overnight. The Newark Star-Ledger reports this week that unds set by NJ Transit for capital improvements has been used to defray operating costs, despite a 36-percent fare increase during the eight years of the previous state administration.
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