ATLANTIC CITY — NJ Transit gives, and it takes away.
Atlantic City Rail Line riders will gain an early-morning commuter train to Philadelphia when the line re-opens May 12, but will also lose a late-night train. The latest Atlantic City to Philadelphia train will now leave the resort at 10:44 p.m. on weekends, weeknights and holidays.
Previously the latest train left at either 12:43 a.m. or 1:53 a.m.
The canceled late trains “are under-utilized with an average daily ridership of less than 40 passengers,” said NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder, when asked about why they were ended.
When Gov. Phil Murphy announced the reopening of the line and the additional service during a conference earlier this month, he failed to mention the loss of the late night lines.
The lost trains were not mentioned in NJ Transit’s recent news releases about the new service.
“We shouldn’t be trying to see how we can cut services and minimize what we are doing for Atlantic City and South Jersey,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd.
“Transportation is one of the most important points” of trying to reinvigorate the region’s economy, he said.
State Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, also said it makes no sense to end late trains.
“It’s unbelievable to me New Jersey Transit would pay more than $700,000 for an expert plan to increase ridership, only to do the opposite, and then wonder why fewer people are riding the train,” said Brown.
In 2014, NJ Transit released a $735,000 study by LTK Engineering Services of New York City that said daily ridership could double to about 6,000 if NJ Transit increased trips to about one per hour, or 20 per day, rather than the 12 per day at the time.
The new schedule also has 12 trips per day.
Brown said NJ Transit is again “shortchanging local families and businesses by not providing our fair share of services.”
“I definitely don’t want to see later trains taken away,” said Atlantic County Freeholder Director Amy Gatto. “It doesn’t promote, ‘Come down, enjoy yourself and get home safely without having to drive.’”
Gatto said the city, county and state are trying to create a new destination location in Atlantic City that attracts young people with live music, dining and special events.
She wants NJ Transit to explore other options, based on the needs of the Atlantic City market.
That might include express trains, she said, and additional trips between Atlantic City and Lindenwold, where riders can catch the high-speed line into center-city Philadelphia around-the-clock.
Gatto said later trains are definitely needed on during busy holiday weekend like Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, and for the now multi-day airshow and for beach concerts.
“All of these things bring in droves and droves of people. I don’t think we are taking a hard enough look how we maximize potential there,” Gatto said.
Snyder said NJ Transit closely monitors customer travel patterns around regional events and adjusts service as necessary. But she would not specify if there would be late night trains offered for any particular event or holiday.
Van Drew and Brown said they will keep communicating with NJ Transit to see how they can further increase service on the Atlantic City Rail Line.
“By the way, let’s advertise it a little bit. Keeping it secret doesn’t help,” Van Drew said of the train service to Atlantic City in general.
He has called on NJ Transit to market the rail line when it reopens, to lure back riders who have been using other forms of transportation for the eight months the line was closed, starting in September 2018.
NJ Transit has provided bus service along the same route that the train runs for the eight months the Atlantic City Rail Line has been closed. Riders have said it takes longer and has extended their commutes considerably.