Transportation Business
Penn Station Repair Project Richard Drew/AP

In this Monday, July 10, 2017, file photo, Amtrak workers repair tracks in New York's Penn Station.

July 14, 2017

Amtrak calls 1st week of repairs 'very good,' praises riders

NEW YORK — So far, so good.

Amtrak's chief operations officer called the first week of summer-long track work and corresponding schedule cutbacks for commuters at Penn Station a success.

Friday marked the fifth day of major repairs that are closing tracks and forcing commuter rail lines to reduce schedules at the nation's busiest train station, a critical part of the Northeast Corridor system. The work is to go through the end of August, Amtrak COO Scot Naparstek said.

"It's been a very good week," Naparstek said during a conference call with reporters. "People have responded very, very well. At the station level and the passenger level, we couldn't have asked for any more."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, had predicted a "summer of hell" for commuters after plans for the repairs were announced this spring. But on Tuesday he praised the advance planning and said "the reports are all good."

Crews are replacing aging equipment such as signals and several thousand feet of track over a two-month period. Amtrak, which owns and operates the station, had been performing the work on nights and weekends and planned to complete it in a few years, but two derailments and other problems this spring persuaded it to step up the pace.

Naparstek said the work was even proceeding a little ahead of schedule, though he stopped short of predicting it could be finished before Labor Day as projected.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Joseph Lhota said Friday he remains "cautiously optimistic" that things will continue to go well.

The MTA, which operates the New York subway system and the rest of the nation's largest mass transit network, cut back on the numbers of buses being provided for commuters from Long Island after experiencing low ridership, and Lhota said that will be something officials continue to monitor.

He said it appears riders are spreading their travel times through the rush hours. In the mornings, there are fewer riders using trains at the peak 7:30 to 8:30 time, and the same is true in the peak 5:30 to 6:30 evening time.

Lhota said transit officials and commuters "are getting through this together."

Naparstek said there were no other problems such as overhead wire failures in tunnels during the week that could have caused delays, but he cautioned it's unrealistic to assume those won't crop up during the summer.

He commended commuters for their patience and ability to adapt to new schedules by taking earlier or later trains or other forms of transportation.

New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road have given commuters the option to ride subways, ferries or buses and have reduced fares for those riders whose lines are most affected.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said its PATH trains from Hoboken and Jersey City, New Jersey, cross-honored an average of about 23,000 NJ Transit fares on the first four days. Some NJ Transit rail lines are being diverted to Hoboken during morning and afternoon peak periods.