A survival guide for Montclair pedestrians

Driving and riding around Montclair repeatedly reminds me of the frightening number of pedestrian deaths recently. I hope folks will forgive me for suggesting ways we can all be safer as we walk about town.

First, avoid walking in the street when a sidewalk is available. Secondly, stay alert despite possible distraction from your electronic devices. Don’t cross in the middle of the street where there is no marked crosswalk.

If you are crossing where there is a pedestrian light, push the button and then wait to be sure that cars are stopping for you. Not every driver respects such lights, alas.
When walking at night, wear some non-dark clothing. Some people have flashing lights attached to their clothing that helps them be seen by drivers.

When alighting from a car on the left, as drivers are usually forced to do, be especially alert to nearby traffic before beginning to open the door.

The guideline I was repeatedly taught by the second grader who walked me to kindergarten is still timely. “Before crossing always look left, look right, look left again and look right again.” Make sure no cars are coming when you cross the road.
Again, I apologize if this seems condescending, but my husband and I are concerned by what I have too often observed.




NJ Transit should do more to minimize disruption

Last year’s New Jersey Transit “Summer of Hell” had little effect on Montclair train riders, as the brunt of the service disruptions fell on the railroad’s Morris & Essex Line passengers. Trains to and from Penn Station New York that serve communities like Maplewood, Summit and Madison were diverted to Hoboken and passengers had to transfer to ferries or PATH to get to and from the city. This year the burden for the necessary repairs at Penn Station that will take many switches and tracks out of service, will fall on the backs of Montclair-Boonton line riders, mainly residents of our town, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield and Little Falls. As reported in the Montclair Local, the major changes call for all four rush-hour New York Penn Station trains in each direction (eight trains) to be diverted to Hoboken, and there will be no way to travel by commuter train during these peak period directly to and from New York City as transfers to Midtown Direct at Newark Broad Street will be unavailable.

However, while it is only fair that we, who escaped most of last summer’s disruptions, take our turn to bear the burden of this year’s important repairs to the station’s infrastructure, we are being asked to endure this for an unnecessary 12 instead of nine weeks, with seniors scheduled to pay higher fares instead of receiving a discount.

According to long-standing agreements between the parties involved, the required reduction of the number of trains operating in the peak hours on weekdays will be divided equally among the cohabitating agencies of the New York railroad terminal: Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit. Thus Amtrak and the LIRR are also diverting and/or discontinuing their share of trains during the period involved.

The schedules and press releases issued by the railroads indicate the work will take place starting on Saturday, June 29 and will end on Monday, Sept. 2, Labor Day. As a result weekday train annulments on both Amtrak and the LIRR will be effective from Monday, July 1 to Friday, August 30--but for some reason NJT will divert our trains and reduce our access to Penn Station from Monday, June 17 and Friday, Sept. 6, an extra three weeks.
I do not understand why Montclair commuters have to suffer the inconvenience of these changes for almost a month longer than corresponding riders of Amtrak or the Long Island. Clearly the work will be undertaken only in July and August, but we will be forced to use Hoboken and PATH for three additional weeks, 33 percent longer than our compatriots. I think it is incumbent on our township officials and our representatives in Trenton to investigate this and let us know why interruption to our normal lives will have to extend for 12 weeks, while those riders using the other railroads involved will suffer for only nine. If this is because of bureaucratic reasons, then NJ Transit should be reminded that its allegiance is to the needs of its customers and not to paperwork.

Additionally, just like last year, NJ Transit has indicated it will lower fares during this period to make up for some of the inconvenience, which is much appreciated. Accordingly, NJT’s press release indicates “Montclair-Boonton Line fares will be adjusted to offset the cost of PATH or NY Waterway ferry travel options...” For most commuters that will result in a reduction of about 10 percent to current fares.

However, in the case of senior citizens, fares will go up. This is because the $1 reduced fare on PATH is available only to holders of PATH senior reduced rate “SmartLink” farecards, while those not having them must pay $2.75. But most Montclair seniors do not possess these, and PATH makes it very difficult to obtain them. Unlike New York and Philadelphia’s subway system, where an applicant for reduced rates can just go to an MTA or SEPTA office to be photographed and show their proof of age, PATH supplicants must provide the photo themselves and also have their applications notarized by a Notary Public, and then request the card by mail. The cost and bother of this has discouraged many, if not most, seniors affected by this change from applying—if they actually even know the details of this onerous procedure. So instead of today’s $3.25 fare to New York City, seniors using PATH and the diverted rush hour trains from stations like Bay Street, Walnut Street, Watchung Avenue and Upper Montclair will have to pay $4.65 for each ride, a hefty increase in their everyday costs.

Clearly the problem of diverting trains to Hoboken for an extra three weeks can be corrected by having the dates of the “temporary” schedules be effective only from July 1 to Aug. 30. As for allowing seniors to qualify for reduced rates on PATH, the organization could staff one of the storefronts on the concourse of the Hoboken terminal (or an equivalent) to issue the SmartLink cards, employing the same user-friendly procedures that have been implemented in New York City, Philadelphia and many other cities.
It is incumbent on NJ Transit and our elected officials to remedy these problems by minimizing the disruption to our residents’ lives resulting from the upcoming Penn Station repairs, not increase them.