Looming NJ Transit rail Strike Could Cause Commuter Chaos
New Jersey Transit and 11 rail unions head back to the bargaining table this week, trying to avert a strike that could start the second weekend in March.
If rail workers do walk out, New Jersey commuters could face a nightmare scenario, according to Tracy Noble, the manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
“If you think your commute right now is bad, once those people that typically take transit are additional drivers on our roadways, the commute time is going to have catastrophic results. You could be looking at a commute that takes upwards of two to three hours when it only typically took you a 45 minute short train ride, bus ride," she said. “The impact of people not being able to use transit to get to their place of business is going to be detrimental to our infrastructure.”
NJ State Senate President Steve Sweeney admits he’s extremely concerned about the situation.
“We want more people to take mass transportation, not less,” he said. “We’re very concerned about that and I know there’s been 2 federal panels commissioned at this point, but no solution yet.”
He also said out a transit strike will only sour even more Jersey commuters on NJ Transit, and many are unhappy with the agency already.
“The 9 percent rate hike didn’t help, the 9 percent rate hike actually hurt, and the more expensive you make mass transportation the less attractive it is for people to take it,” he said.
Noble said this is a serious situation and commuters should begin preparing for service disruptions in case a strike occurs.
“It’s very serious so people need to take it very seriously, people need to prepare for it and they need to start what their options are going to be," she said. "People are going to be forced to get in their cars because they’re going to want the security of knowing that they’re going to be able to get where they’re going, but if you add that many more vehicles to our roadways that are already congested, it’s going to be gridlock, you’re going to have just standing traffic.”
The rail unions, representing more than 4,000 workers, are objecting to an NJ Transit proposal to significantly increase health care premiums.
The workers have been working without a new contract since 2011.