New Jersey Transit Expects Big Bills for Offering Alternatives During Delays

While the agency does allow its customers to use their tickets on other transit providers during a major disruption, the practice, known as cross-honoring, turned into an almost routine accommodation as power problems plagued the Amtrak lines used by many New Jersey Transit trains.

Tens of thousands of commuters used their tickets on PATH trains, on private bus carriers and on New York Waterway ferries, racking up big bills for an agency already facing financial problems.

On PATH alone, more than 20,000 riders who were cross-honoring streamed on to the system over five days, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs PATH. At $2.75 a ride, those trips are expected to cost New Jersey Transit more than $55,000.

New York Waterway, which runs ferries between New Jersey and New York, also saw an influx of commuters during the worst of the rail delays. The company declined to say how many thwarted New Jersey Transit riders shifted to the ferries.

But during the week of July 20, when the rail delays were at their recent worst, about 233,500 people used New York Waterway, about 15,000 more than during the prior week, Pat Smith, a spokesman for New York Waterway, said.

The problems on New Jersey Transit are expected to worsen in the years ahead. One reason is the agency’s reliance on Amtrak’s century-old Hudson River tunnels, which are deteriorating and were damaged during Hurricane Sandy. Amtrak officials say they need to close the tunnels for repairs, but doing so would cause major service delays.

Long-stalled plans to build new tunnels under the river have received renewed attention because of the delays. But even if federal and state officials agreed on a funding plan and moved forward on the proposal, known as the Gateway project, it would take years to build new tunnels.

As service delays increase, New Jersey Transit may have to rely more on cross-honoring, said Veronica Vanterpool, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, an advocacy group that opposed the fare increase and has pushed for more government funding for mass transit. Ms. Vanterpool said commuters need alternatives, but the costs will mount along with the delays.

“Any amount of cross-honoring is taking away revenue from the bottom line of the agency, and that is never a good thing,” she said.

On Friday, Amtrak officials said crews had finished repairs on one of two damaged power cables that had caused delays for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak last week.

Nancy Snyder, a spokeswoman for New Jersey Transit, said cross-honoring was a way to ease the pain for commuters.

The agency did not yet have a full accounting of the costs from last month because the bills had not arrived, Ms. Snyder said. Over the last year, New Jersey Transit spent about $200,000 on cross-honoring with PATH and paid private bus carriers about $147,000.

Cross-honoring with New York Waterway is relatively new. New Jersey Transit reached an agreement with the company early last year, and the agency has offered it as an alternative three times since then, including during last week’s delays, Ms. Snyder said.

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