A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Monday, March 23, 2009

No Direction Home

When I get off the PATH train at Newark during the evening rush, I head for the ramp that takes me down to Tracks 3 and 4 to catch a Northeast Corridor train to Metropark.

Unlike the photo, the ramp is always full of commuters heading for a local or express train to South Amboy, Long Branch, or Bay Head on the Jersey Shore or straight down the main line towards New Brunswick and Princeton. I'm used to the commute, though, and I bear up well in the bustling crowds. That's what makes a good New York City commuter.

When I am at the part of the ramp pictured, I can see one or two trains in the station with their doors open and the conductors looking at their watches. What are their trains' destinations? No clue. Some of the Long Branch trains have a sign on the side of the train saying where they are heading. Many of the Jersey Avenue trains heading to Metropark arrive with New York signs still on the side. Oops!

There is never a conductor at or anywhere near the bottom of the ramp. Never. Not even if there are open train doors there. An experienced conductor knows better than to stand in that location because he or she will be deluged with questions about the train's destination. Gosh, I wonder why? Maybe because there is no signage? You think?

Instead, NJ Transit has a pair of computer monitors with detailed computer information about the trains immediately due or currently in the station, and another pair of monitors with a bare-bones list of upcoming trains, their track numbers, and estimated times of arrival. Sounds good, except the bare-bones monitors are about forty feet from the bottom of the ramp in either direction, and the detailed monitors are twice that distance from the ramp, again in either direction. (For a while NJT was running ads on the monitors while the trains were in the station.)

So, when I reach the bottom of the ramp, I have a choice to make. I can check the paper schedule on the wall and miss my train. I can run down the platform, knock down some people, check the schedule on the monitor and miss the train. Or I can simply hop on a train and hope it is going where I want to go. BTW, asking a fellow passenger provokes the ultimate in anxiety.

NJ Transit has to put on its thinking caps and figure out a creative way to inform PATH customers about the trains in the station when they're coming down the ramp. That is a major stress in thousands of people's lives. We all want to get home as quickly as we can and want to take advantage of a train that happens to be in the station. But we don't want to gamble that it is going our way and find out otherwise on our way to who knows where.

Photo of ramp from Resurgence City: Photo Gallery 2.


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