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Nerves remain raw for New Jersey commuters into New York City

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By Reuters
Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, 8:38 p.m.
 

HOBOKEN N.J. — Getting into New York City was a little easier for some New Jersey commuters on Tuesday, with limited rail service under the Hudson River and added buses for train riders whose lines were washed out by superstorm Sandy.

Nerves remained raw, however, as travel times were stretched by traffic jams and overcrowded transit station platforms and some tunnels into New York flooded by the massive storm remained closed.

Resuming limited service for the first time since the storm, the PATH train carried about 23,000 commuters from Jersey City's Journal Square into Manhattan during the morning rush. PATH officials had no word on when more service would resume.

Tunnels into New York City that remain closed indefinitely to suburban commuters include two of the four East Harlem River tunnels, limiting Long Island Rail Road service and one of the two Hudson River tunnels used by NJ Transit.

NJ Transit trains were jammed as a result.

“People were left on the platform,” said Josh Crandall, whose Clever Commute web service runs service disruption alerts. “People just can't get on. And people are frustrated.”

Many NJ Transit rail riders whose lines were disabled by the storm chose to ride buses instead, and the influx in road traffic caused epic congestion in Hoboken on the only route to the Lincoln Tunnel.

“You get to Hoboken, and then you are buying your way into one of the worst traffic jams you've ever seen,” Crandall said.

After a crush on Monday displaced rail riders boarding buses, NJ Transit ramped up the number of buses deployed on Tuesday. In South Orange, New Jersey, where one bus showed up on Monday, four showed up on Tuesday for a similar crowd of 100 people lined up by 5:30 a.m. for a 6 a.m. departure.

Those riders typically use NJ Transit's “Midtown Direct” train line, a 35-minute straight shot into New York's Pennsylvania Station — and residents of South Orange and neighboring Maplewood pay a real estate premium for the easy train access to Manhattan.

Tempers flared as frustrated commuters turned to their suburban town mayors for help, and some felt their pleas were rebuffed.

Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca — a seven-time town mayor who rides Midtown Direct himself to his job in New York City — vowed to seek a travel solution because commuting is a vital part of town life.

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