• What's the Future of Commuter/Passenger Rail Now?

  • Discussion related to New Jersey Transit rail and light rail operations.
Discussion related to New Jersey Transit rail and light rail operations.

Moderators: lensovet, nick11a, Kaback9

  by JohnFromJersey
 
Now that work from home/hybrid is quickly being adopted indefinitely by companies, even as COVID seems to fade, there's far less demand for commuting, or at least commuting every weekday. I'd imagine some companies will have their employees commute M-W-F, some T-Th, and some will continue to maintain M-T-W-Th-F, but that means there will be far less ridership on average.

Per the Lackawanna Cutoff Passenger Service Restoration thread,
Ken W2KB wrote: Fri Apr 15, 2022 10:15 am I agree in principle, but the impact of work from home is now a substantial consideration. Many businesses have announced that they intend to continue work from home after the pandemic ends as it results in greater employee satisfaction due to zero cost and time wasted in commuting, and is far less costly for the business, as office and auxiliary space needs are substantially reduced as average in-office days will be reduced to two or three days a week on average versus the historical five. By way of personal observation of the High Bridge station parking lot in western NJ, two years ago before the pandemic there were 40 or more cars parked there to take the train, since then and currently there are only 9 or 10 cars parked there on workdays. That is a 75% reduction in ridership from High Bridge which is certainly not unique to this station. Certainly some ridership will return with time, especially for those employees with much shorter commutes for whom work from home has fewer time and cost saving advantages, but the need for additional longer commuter service is questionable at best.
you can deduce that this can be a long-term problem.

However, in that same thread, it was discussed that crime on a lot of commuter lines, especially in NYC, is on the rise. I read today that compared to this period just a year ago, subway crime is up 68%!

A combination of poor political leadership and economic woes have resulted in NYC subways being a battle royale - there have been so many high-profile incidents, with a mass shooting in the Brooklyn subway being just days as this thread is created. In many of the news interviews, I saw witnesses/survivors say that they will avoid taking trains/public transit from here on out. Getting political, it seems like NYC's leaders are continuing to neglect the issue of rising crime even after this.

Not to mention, COVID seemed to make everyone afraid of shared public spaces. For whatever reason, due to the last two or so years, people seem to rather drive to the city/their job, if they even have to be in-person for it. This means a lot of lost revenues long-term for NJT, MTA, Metro-North, etc. And those guys were having a lot of issues with equipment being outdated or breaking a lot before this!

Will we see another 60's/70's-esque collapse of passenger/commuter rail? They are all backed by the government, but that wouldn't stop some politician(s) from drastically cutting funds and services
  by eolesen
 
Missing from your analysis are the companies that are packing up and leaving NYC entirely. I saw a study last year where 20% of financial services companies were planning to leave the city. I'm sure many will simply head for suburban campuses, but some will leave for lower tax/pro-business states.

This topic has come up in other city forums here, and my assumption remains for commuter ridership recovery to be no more than 60-70% of pre-Covid. NYC might be slightly higher that other areas just because NYC is far more car unfriendly than other cities.



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  by JohnFromJersey
 
eolesen wrote: Sun Apr 17, 2022 8:32 am Missing from your analysis are the companies that are packing up and leaving NYC entirely. I saw a study last year where 20% of financial services companies were planning to leave the city. I'm sure many will simply head for suburban campuses, but some will leave for lower tax/pro-business states.

This topic has come up in other city forums here, and my assumption remains for commuter ridership recovery to be no more than 60-70% of pre-Covid. NYC might be slightly higher that other areas just because NYC is far more car unfriendly than other cities.
That's another good point. A lot of NYC residents and businesses moved to Florida over the last couple of years; it's far cheaper, far warmer year-round, and it wasn't locked down as long as NYC was. Florida has its share of crime problems (especially during Spring Break) but it seems like the authorities and leaders there take it more seriously than NYC's do.

My parents moved to NJ in the late 80's/early 90's right around where NYC was just under 3,000 murders a year. I don't think NYC will ever hit those numbers again (I hope) but it seems like the extremely high cost of living paired with the chance something could happen to you on the subway, is chasing people out. At least NYC in the 80's was cheap!

There have been a lot of NYC professionals moving to NJ but NJ isn't much better than NY in terms of cost of living. If a lot of companies are moving to NJ in suburban campuses, hopefully they will move near NJT lines and NJT will stop thinking in terms of commuting to NYC. I also wonder how the much lower levels of commuters will affect them long-term, NJT has been plagued by a lot of issues over the last decade or two and having less income will surely make that worse.
  by amtrakowitz
 
Perhaps too much is being made of WFH? I remember it being touted two decades ago as heading towards becoming the norm as well. Given that much of the hype surrounding COVID is being exposed for what it is, it may be that perhaps even NYC’s present mayor does not want his city to really slide into becoming a bigger crime-ridden cesspool than in its prior history and would dearly love to see the return of its true tax base. Also, many who do WFH find it unlikable.
  by JohnFromJersey
 
amtrakowitz wrote: Tue Apr 19, 2022 10:45 pm Perhaps too much is being made of WFH? I remember it being touted two decades ago as heading towards becoming the norm as well. Given that much of the hype surrounding COVID is being exposed for what it is, it may be that perhaps even NYC’s present mayor does not want his city to really slide into becoming a bigger crime-ridden cesspool than in its prior history and would dearly love to see the return of its true tax base. Also, many who do WFH find it unlikable.
Apparently, WFH makes employees happier and more productive; they no longer need to commute hours a day to and from their job, which means they save more money and have more free time for their families.

I will say for some jobs its not ideal, however, it seems like for many firms, it's here to stay since they will significantly reduce real estate costs by being able to downsize to smaller business campuses if needing one at all.

Even if New York becomes a s**thole again, that won't change much; NJT was doing some of the best business it has ever done in the 80's and 90's into NYC when the murder rate was higher than the American casualty rate in the War on Terror. NYC will always be a point of interest, even if gangsters roam the streets with M240's
  by Head-end View
 
I have two neighbors who work from home part of the time. One likes it, especially not having to commute to Manhattan by train every day from central Nassau County. The other who works 20-30 minutes away in Western Suffolk prefers going to the office over WFH. He likes the face-to-face contact and fraternization with his co-workers. So not everyone's in favor of WFH.
  by JohnFromJersey
 
Head-end View wrote: Wed Apr 20, 2022 7:06 pm I have two neighbors who work from home part of the time. One likes it, especially not having to commute to Manhattan by train every day from central Nassau County. The other who works 20-30 minutes away in Western Suffolk prefers going to the office over WFH. He likes the face-to-face contact and fraternization with his co-workers. So not everyone's in favor of WFH.
I think companies will give an option. In any case, if, on average, if at least 10-20% of workers in every company in the NYC area choose to do WFH permanently, that will definitely be reflected in commuter rail profits (and tolls too).

All we can do is wait and see.
  by R36 Combine Coach
 
JohnFromJersey wrote: Wed Apr 20, 2022 1:09 am Even if New York becomes a s**thole again, that won't change much; NJT was doing some of the best business it has ever done in the 80's and 90's into NYC.
Recall that in 1986 (peak of the Reagan years), there was much less service. Midtown Direct was 10 years away, the
only service into NYP was the NEC main line and some Coast Line service. Service on the Hoboken Division was
less too, the Main/Bergen having increased service with Secaucus opening in 2003. Anyone not on the two lines
mentioned above had to change at HOB or NWK (for RVL).
  by amtrakowitz
 
JohnFromJersey wrote: Wed Apr 20, 2022 1:09 am
amtrakowitz wrote: Tue Apr 19, 2022 10:45 pm Perhaps too much is being made of WFH? I remember it being touted two decades ago as heading towards becoming the norm as well. Given that much of the hype surrounding COVID is being exposed for what it is, it may be that perhaps even NYC’s present mayor does not want his city to really slide into becoming a bigger crime-ridden cesspool than in its prior history and would dearly love to see the return of its true tax base. Also, many who do WFH find it unlikable.
Apparently, WFH makes employees happier and more productive; they no longer need to commute hours a day to and from their job, which means they save more money and have more free time for their families.

I will say for some jobs its not ideal, however, it seems like for many firms, it's here to stay since they will significantly reduce real estate costs by being able to downsize to smaller business campuses if needing one at all.

Even if New York becomes a s**thole again, that won't change much; NJT was doing some of the best business it has ever done in the 80's and 90's into NYC when the murder rate was higher than the American casualty rate in the War on Terror. NYC will always be a point of interest, even if gangsters roam the streets with M240's
Proof by assertion? For every claim that agrees with yours with respect to WFH, I hear several that state the opposite.

The need for intellectual property security versus trusting the cloud is rapidly offsetting costs of maintaining office real estate, and NYC would do well to take advantage versus letting the business sectors turn into Mega City One-like slums.

NJT doing well? Extremely relative term. If ridership alone is meant, the peak is understood to be post-Kearny Connection and falling commensurate to the decline of Midtown and the deliberate slowdown of average speeds of trains, with Secaucus Junction giving a boost.
  by eolesen
 
WFH won't go away. My Fortune 100 company has already disposed of 25% of its leasehold in a named skyscraper, and 80% of those workers are allowed WFH. 10% are permanently remote. When the rest of the leasehold comes up for negotiation, I'd be shocked to see 50% of what we had pre-Covid.

I've been WFH on and off for two years. I prefer being in office but can't deny the cost savings. My fuel bill is less, and I'm putting fewer miles on my truck.

Essentially, any economic or climate argument made to promote public transit vs driving to work now fits for arguing the benefits of WFH vs. taking public transit...



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  by amtrakowitz
 
eolesen wrote: Thu Apr 21, 2022 10:03 amWFH won’t go away. My Fortune 100 company has already disposed of 25% of its leasehold in a named skyscraper, and 80% of those workers are allowed WFH. 10% are permanently remote. When the rest of the leasehold comes up for negotiation, I’d be shocked to see 50% of what we had pre-Covid.

I’ve been WFH on and off for two years. I prefer being in office but can't deny the cost savings. My fuel bill is less, and I’m putting fewer miles on my truck.

Essentially, any economic or climate argument made to promote public transit vs driving to work now fits for arguing the benefits of WFH vs. taking public transit…
Like I said, there will be protracted economic pain for the cities that host(ed) the offices if they do not come back, and that will have a ripple effect to the companies that moved out i.e. unless some other kind of economic miracle (such as the return of industry) occurs.

And you make it seem like you did not rely on “public” transit to travel to/from the office.
  by eolesen
 
amtrakowitz wrote: Thu Apr 21, 2022 1:49 pm And you make it seem like you did not rely on “public” transit to travel to/from the office.
I certainly did prior to COVID. Started as a five-day a week rider, and slowly down to one day a week.

Since then, my work location shifted to a location public transportation doesn't serve, and it's a facility that's more conducive for those who just need a meeting room a couple times per month. Lots of hoteling space, and lots of free parking.
  by JohnFromJersey
 
amtrakowitz wrote: Thu Apr 21, 2022 1:49 pm Like I said, there will be protracted economic pain for the cities that host(ed) the offices if they do not come back, and that will have a ripple effect to the companies that moved out i.e. unless some other kind of economic miracle (such as the return of industry) occurs.

And you make it seem like you did not rely on “public” transit to travel to/from the office.
The cities do not make it easier for them to return. NYC is now exorbitantly expensive, and combined with a pretty high crime spike recently, it's not really attractive to companies and their workers.

Down South where things are still relatively cheap, I'd have to agree with you that WFH won't be much of a thing there. I used to live in Florida and the roads are even more packed now than pre-COVID!
  by eolesen
 

JohnFromJersey wrote: Down South where things are still relatively cheap, I'd have to agree with you that WFH won't be much of a thing there. I used to live in Florida and the roads are even more packed now than pre-COVID!
Roads are packed because of all the people who fled high taxation states for Florida...

Not sure I agree on your down south assessment. WFH is huge in Georgia and Texas. But ATL HOU DAL SAT AUS also tend to have lots of transplants from high taxation states...and bad traffic.

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  by lensovet
 
Indeed roads are more packed. Hudson crossings are at or even above pre-pandemic levels. People who used to be fine standing shoulder to shoulder in a packed train car no longer are, and that's why transit ridership is still down while roads are above pre-pandemic levels. People who used to take transit switched over to driving.