Gopal & Pallone Call for NJ Transit to Preserve One-Seat Rides

LONG BRANCH, NJ—Congressman Frank Pallone joined Monmouth and Middlesex County New Jersey state legislators Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth), Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth), Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Monmouth), and Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Middlesex) to call on Governor Murphy, NJ Transit Commissioner Gutierrez Scaccetti, and NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett to avoid taking any steps to alter existing one-seat ride schedules or expand these services should it mean a reduction in services from other rail lines in the system.

“One-seat ride is a critical service for commuters along the New Jersey Coast Line and the North East Corridor, and there is currently no way to expand this service to other New Jersey Transit lines without reducing it for those who currently rely upon it,” said Congressman Pallone. “Rather than redistributing one-seat ride, we should improve capacity for an already strained New Jersey rail system through major infrastructure investments like the Gateway Program. I echo the strong message from my state and local colleagues that NJ Transit should avoid alterations to the one-seat ride schedules.”

"In the most densely populated state in the nation, our public transit system must be equipped to get people where they need to go,” said Speaker Coughlin. “Current residents and commuters along the New Jersey Coast Line have made a lifetime of conscious decisions to locate on or near this route. To uproot their commutes would be a familial and financial burden for individuals as well as an economic hit to the municipalities that have planned transit-oriented development based on their transit assets. This change would be a simple case of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul.’ I respect other communities' desires for one-seat travel, but their fight is best directed at securing federal funding for the Gateway tunnel project to expand tunnel capacity. I helped create the Gateway Development Commission to help facilitate that project's completion.

In a letter sent on July 6, the legislators noted the impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on exacerbating systemic issues within public institutions like New Jersey’s transit systems, and the vital role that these transit systems play in local, state, regional, and national economies.

Residents can support the legislators' efforts by signing a petition calling for the preservation of one-seat rides.

“These critical rail lines connect Central Jersey towns like Long Branch, Red Bank, Asbury Park, and dozens of others directly with New York City,” said Senator Gopal. “That’s an incredible economic boon for residents, creating thousands of new jobs, boosting local small businesses, and raising nearby property values. We can and should look at expanding access to these essential transit services, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of other regions of our state.”

“This would be the worst time to do anything that would reduce or eliminate one-seat rides or allow the loss of rail services that are so important to this region of New Jersey,” said Senator Joe Vitale. “Removing services from one region of the state in order to increase services in another is not a constructive or forward-looking strategy. Mass transit has always been vital to the economy and our quality of life and it is even more important as we contend with the economic consequences of the coronavirus. We need to maintain our commitment to quality transit services throughout the state in order to work our way through the COVID crisis and beyond.”

According to the legislators, commuters on the New Jersey Coast Line heavily rely upon NJ Transit for much of their transportation needs, including “one-seat ride” services that allow direct commutes on NJ Transit lines to New York Penn Station without having to transfer trains. The legislators added that these critical services provide thousands of commuters in New Jersey with a fast, straightforward route to New York City—a benefit that also creates an enormous economic boost for small businesses and raises property values for homeowners.

“The good, well-paying jobs created by these services are invaluable for supporting working families,” said Assemblyman Houghtaling. “If these lines are taken away, some people are going to lose their jobs or be forced to find different—and possibly more expensive—transportation to work. That’s going to be a real hit on households and our local economies.”

“It’s so important that we address the very real systemic issues that have faced infrastructure in our state for years,” said Assemblywoman Downey. “That means bringing more services to more New Jerseyans, improving reliability, and completing critical projects in underserved parts of our state. At the same time, we can’t fall into the trap of removing established services from one region to provide new services elsewhere; in the long run, that won’t help anyone, and will harm the stability of our economy.”

"One-seat ride service is the reason thousands of residents are able to live in New Jersey and easily commute to New York City,” said Assemblywoman Lopez. “It makes our state attractive to residents, businesses, and visitors alike. We must do all we can to preserve this vital resource and its positive impact on New Jersey's economy."

The legislators also noted their concerns that expanding or reallocating one-seat ride service within an already strained New Jersey rail system could have a rippling negative impact on thousands of commuters throughout the Northeast Corridor. Instead, the legislators encouraged NJ Transit and Governor Murphy to remain focused on addressing systemic issues, including expanding capacity for the over 100-year-old North River Tunnels by completing the Hudson Tunnel and Portal Bridge projects.