Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Discussion relating to the operations of MTA MetroNorth Railroad including west of Hudson operations and discussion of CtDOT sponsored rail operations such as Shore Line East and the Springfield to New Haven Hartford Line

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Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by Jeff Smith » Thu Mar 21, 2019 11:39 am

There's been a lot of talk recently about WOH service issues, for both the PJ and PV lines. The County Executive in Rockland has been pointing out the "Value Gap": https://www.rocklandtimes.com/2019/03/2 ... x-the-mta/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Now, this is not an MTA issue; NJT operates both lines. But the Exec has a point; a $42m point to be exact.

I'll hunt them down, but there have also been articles on service issues: a shortage of PTC equipped equipment at NJT, and a shortage of locomotive engineers, many of whom moved over to MNRR for various reasons, including better wages. In particular, on the PV line.

Now, there's nothing that can be done for the Pascack Valley; it has only a couple stops in NYS, and NJT owns the yard in NYS. It would not make any sense to change operators.

However, what's to stop NYS and MNRR to take over the operation of the Port Jervis line in NYS north of Suffern? And negotiate access rights to the NJT Main Line into Hoboken? Who owns the Suffern yard? As I understand it, NYS owns and maintains the stations above and including Suffern, and leases with option to buy the ROW from Norfolk Southern.

It seems to me staffing issues would stop and MNRR already owns WOH equipment. Service would improve; I'm not familiar with schedules, but MNRR could keep their slots into Hoboken and trains could run express from Suffern. And, more jobs for ACRE!

Maybe they could even run some Piermont branch trains terminating in Spring Valley (just kidding).
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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by DutchRailnut » Thu Mar 21, 2019 1:10 pm

keep dreaming it would open up the MN seniority list to at least 30 to 40 NJT engineers, and no benefit to current MN engineers.
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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by R36 Combine Coach » Fri Mar 22, 2019 8:49 pm

Suffern Station and Yard are NJT owned (and staffed with a NJT station agent).
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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by njt/mnrrbuff » Sat Mar 23, 2019 9:26 am

I think the Suffern Station is actually owned by the MTA since there is an MTA style canopy there as well as waiting shelters-plus the station is in NY State obviously. I believe that Suffern Yard is owned by NJT.

It would be nice if there were MTA crew members that were qualified to operate the West of Hudson motive power. Unfortunately, that will probably not happen as both the Pt. Jervis and Pascack Valley Lines are still operated by NJT since they are based out of Hoboken Terminal.

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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by Backshophoss » Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:18 pm

NO matter what MN does,the line is under NJT dispatch,and the Equipment is pooled with NJT's as are the crews,
Even if 347 madison was dispatching to Port Jervis,you hand off to NJT at the west end of Suffern Yard. :( :(
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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by njt/mnrrbuff » Sun Mar 24, 2019 8:32 am

A person might think that Suffern would be a good crew change point(MTA crew members replace NJT crew) since the stations and right of way starts to get leased by MNR. However all that would do is add travel time to the schedule in Suffern. Even though we might not like NJT how it is, it's better to continue to have the Pt. Jervis Line operations dispatched by NJT. Let the MTA continue to own the stations and their parking lots along the Pt. Jervis Line as well as other infrastructure. Remember, even though the Pt. Jervis Line trains make many stops in NY State, the line still runs pretty close to the NJ/NY State Line and in some cases, very close.

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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by R36 Combine Coach » Sun Mar 24, 2019 11:52 pm

njt/mnrrbuff wrote:A person might think that Suffern would be a good crew change point(MTA crew members replace NJT crew) since the stations and right of way starts to get leased by MNR. However all that would do is add travel time to the schedule in Suffern.
That's what I've always thought about: joint through service. Same as the Maple Leaf, when Amtrak/VIA crews change at the border.
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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by EuroStar » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:45 am

If Rockland County or NYS want better service, they better start putting the rails along I-87 and the Tappan Zee Bridge or just give up and take their $42 million and find better things to do with the money. It does not surprise me any more how little understanding most people, including the politicians have for the way the West of Hudson lines operate. The politicians at least have an excuse -- they do all the complaining for the few votes it gets them. The people in the know have no excuses and the general public is just ignorant.

Switching crews at Suffern even if it could be done time efficiently gets you nothing. If NJT has shortage of engineers and nobody is available to take the train east of Suffern, it does not matter how big you engineer roster for west of Suffern is.

Take over the whole operation and pay NJT for the right to use the tracks and the stations at Secaucus and Hoboken? Welcome to your express train being stuck behind a slow overcrowded NJT local. Why do you think NJT will treat Metro-North operated trains any differently than Metro-North treats Amtrak on the New-Haven line? Or the way Amtrak treats NJT on the Northeast Corridor to Trenton? Remember that the only existing express track is between Ridgewood and Waldwick. All other tracks are local. Yes, there are effectively four of them up to Ridgewood, but they are all local. You want more express tracks, say west of Waldwick or around Delawanna/Passaic? First you have to pay for them and second, well...yes, second, my voters complain about noise/nuissance/whatever and they live in NJ and you live in NYS, so no you cannot build express tracks even if you want to pay for them. Note that you can build as many sidings as you want west of Suffern, you can even double track the whole line west of Suffern. The place where the trains need to run express is in NJ and you are stuck with it (unless of course you put some rails along I-87, but yeah good luck with that too).

Metro-North is doing about the best they can given the circumstances and that is the mid-line new yard and maintenance facility. While the future details are uncertain and subject to change, if Metro-North takes over the equipment maintenance of its trains sets and out of the pooling with NJT's own equipment so that the equipment only serves Metro-North's trains then the reliability will likely increase. The drawbacks are that a broken train will mean a cancelled train then as substitution with NJT equipment will not occur, and also that the trains will likely need to be on the move all day long as there is not extra storage in Hoboken for them (you want to store your trains at Hoboken? Well. you need to pay. By the way, we have no space to store our own trains, so no you cannot store your trains here. You want to build your own storage yard somewhere in the area around Hoboken? Well, my voters are here in NJ and they complain about noise/views/whatever, and I listen to them, so no you cannot build your own storage yard here.).

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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by njt/mnrrbuff » Tue Mar 26, 2019 6:22 am

I don’t think there will be any rail service from Rockland to Westchester Counties anytime soon and even if there was, it would really be intended to transfer people who live in one county and might work or do leisure activities in another. It would also benefit those who might live in Rockland County but want to go into the city by way of Metro North from Tarrytown. At least right now, Hudson Link buses run 7 days a week throughout the day connecting people between both counties.

MNR is doing their part as best as possible for the WOH service. Since the service is operated by NJT, until the issues get straightened out, don’t expect any service improvements on the Pt. Jervis Line. The mid line yard will be a plus once it’s built. It will help the line, especially people who live below Middletown. On the Pt. Jervis Line, the bulk of the commuters probably come from Harriman and below but many people commuting start boarding at Middletown-Town of Wallkill Station.

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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by Jeff Smith » Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:32 am

njt/mnrrbuff wrote:I think the Suffern Station is actually owned by the MTA since there is an MTA style canopy there as well as waiting shelters-plus the station is in NY State obviously. I believe that Suffern Yard is owned by NJT.

It would be nice if there were MTA crew members that were qualified to operate the West of Hudson motive power. Unfortunately, that will probably not happen as both the Pt. Jervis and Pascack Valley Lines are still operated by NJT since they are based out of Hoboken Terminal.
That's kind of stating the obvious: the current situation. My hypothetical was to terminate the NJT contract and find some way to pay NJT for overhead rights. I"m pretty sure NJT owns Woodbine (only two stops in NY, as noted), but NYS owns Suffern.

There are other good points, though, against it as noted. Seniority list is huge. Dispatch is another problem, as well as track capacity. NJT can testify to this on the NEC; they're orphans to Amtrak. Storage costs? If NYS does own Suffer(e)n, then they could conceivably charge NJT for storage.

Equipment pooling is something NYS can try to get stricter on as well.

NJT has 7 lines it runs into Hoboken. Everyone postulates on adding Amtrak; would it really be all that hard to add MNRR?

Here's a thought; remove WoH from MNRR. Put it into another or new transit agency involving Rockland and Orange only. That solves the seniority issue from NJT workers crossing over, leaving them in the loop for WoH though. Maybe contract it out, a la the Hartford Line in CT.

What would happen if Prince Andrew did add rail to the TZB, and 87/287. One of the less expensive options (if there is such a thing in NYS). And then decided to stop subsidizing/paying NJT for service to Hoboken? Leave it as a transfer station, a "Union Station" so to speak. Jaap, what would happen to the seniority rosters?

Or.... let NYS give Rockland to NJ! Yeah, let's see how that goes over LOL.
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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by jlichyen » Fri Apr 05, 2019 1:28 am

Jeff Smith wrote:What would happen if Prince Andrew did add rail to the TZB, and 87/287. One of the less expensive options (if there is such a thing in NYS). And then decided to stop subsidizing/paying NJT for service to Hoboken? Leave it as a transfer station, a "Union Station" so to speak. Jaap, what would happen to the seniority rosters?
One of the alternatives for the new TZB had commuter rail go all the way to Rye/Port Chester, with an underground transfer station in White Plains. I have no idea what would happen to the seniority roster in that situation, but I still thought that would be the most effective long-term "full build" option. Certainly the most interesting...

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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by radioman2001 » Fri Apr 26, 2019 12:25 pm

I am going to go out on a limb here but I don't think anyone from the Gov on down wants good train service from Rockland/Orange into the city. If there was, there would be trains/light rail (or at least provisions for the future) on the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Why 2 bridges instead of one that could handle rail traffic in the middle. I am sure the Thruway Authority made sure that would not happen, due to all the revenue they would lose and all the monies that are charged to car owners in the form of gas tax, tolls, and fees. The Gov loves to stick it to car owners, since he feels they are his personal piggy bank for other projects.

If there was a line that ran all the way to Portchester it would be a rather out of the way to get into the city. White Plains would be a better choice for a light rail connection that COULD start at Suffern. Transferring once to a line that could run express to White Plains is better than sitting behind locals all the way in on NJT trackage. Then you can just cancel the NJT contract and let MNR run all the WOH off their seniority list.

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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by TDowling » Tue May 21, 2019 1:33 am

njt/mnrrbuff wrote:I think the Suffern Station is actually owned by the MTA since there is an MTA style canopy there as well as waiting shelters-plus the station is in NY State obviously. I believe that Suffern Yard is owned by NJT.

It would be nice if there were MTA crew members that were qualified to operate the West of Hudson motive power. Unfortunately, that will probably not happen as both the Pt. Jervis and Pascack Valley Lines are still operated by NJT since they are based out of Hoboken Terminal.
The station used to be owned by MNR but changed hands somewhere in the 2000s. The canopy is a leftover from before then. Interestingly ever since the changeover Suffern has grown from a ghost town to a rather flourishing hotspot. Which leads me to wonder how exactly MTA personnel would be preferable to run motive power with little or no knowledge of operations, routing or equipment.

I wrote a letter years back to the MTA asking the same thing. Their reply essentially was that from a railroading perspective (not a political one) it makes sense to operate with NJT crews. Part of the agreement between the two agencies is that MNR pays NJT to operate out of state to cover whatever costs are incurred servicing the PJL and PVL, as NJT is not obligated by law to service NY state.
Last edited by TDowling on Tue May 21, 2019 2:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by TDowling » Tue May 21, 2019 1:39 am

radioman2001 wrote:I am going to go out on a limb here but I don't think anyone from the Gov on down wants good train service from Rockland/Orange into the city. If there was, there would be trains/light rail (or at least provisions for the future) on the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Why 2 bridges instead of one that could handle rail traffic in the middle. I am sure the Thruway Authority made sure that would not happen, due to all the revenue they would lose and all the monies that are charged to car owners in the form of gas tax, tolls, and fees. The Gov loves to stick it to car owners, since he feels they are his personal piggy bank for other projects.

If there was a line that ran all the way to Portchester it would be a rather out of the way to get into the city. White Plains would be a better choice for a light rail connection that COULD start at Suffern. Transferring once to a line that could run express to White Plains is better than sitting behind locals all the way in on NJT trackage. Then you can just cancel the NJT contract and let MNR run all the WOH off their seniority list.
I disagree. James Skoufis at least pushed for the midpoint yard and added service and sidings.

Also, if youre proposing that pjl riders be restricted to a transfer at suffern to a light rail and ANOTHER transfer at WP to GCT youre looking at significantly inconveniencing them. Shortline already provides one seat express service to white plains from orange county, and canceling the contract with NJT would be a huge mistake.

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Re: Port Jervis Line Operation by NJT: time for a change?

Post by EuroStar » Tue May 21, 2019 8:42 am

radioman2001 wrote:I am going to go out on a limb here but I don't think anyone from the Gov on down wants good train service from Rockland/Orange into the city.
The Governor has a limited amount of political capital and also real capital money and has decided to spend it elsewhere (when related to rail, on the third track for the LIRR and the Penn Access for Metro-North). To tell you the truth, if I were him I would have done the same. Maybe push for a few extra trains on the PJ line and speed up the capital improvements the MTA has already planned (the yard and the sidings), but a brand new train line in the middle of the highway over the Tappan Zee into Westchester? No thank you, as governor, I would not want to deal with the NIMBYs and the herculean task of finding the $5+ billion needed for such a project. I cannot blame that Cuomo does not want to deal with it either.

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