EGG HARBOR CITY — Commuters taking the Atlantic City Rail Line to work Tuesday morning had their patience tested again, after weeks of delays and cancellations have become almost routine.
The train from Atlantic City at 6:56 a.m. was delayed due to mechanical issues, and the line was shut down between Lindenwold and Cherry Hill because a tree fell across the tracks the previous night.
“Most of us ... commute to Philadelphia, and (the trains) get there late every day,” said Mercy Mavyuva, of Mays Landing, who takes the line to Philadelphia for her finance job. “They don’t provide any answers. They don’t say anything.”
Since the line’s return in May from a nine-month hiatus for the installation of federally mandated safety mechanisms, the ACRL’s Twitter page has featured a constant drumbeat of cancellation announcements and delay notices. Tuesday was no different.
Since Friday alone, trains have been slowed, or canceled altogether, thanks to conductor shortages, mechanical issues, equipment availability, crossing gate issues, and congestion on the one-track line connecting Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore.
An NJ Transit spokesperson, Nancy Snyder, pointed to engineer shortages.
“Some cancellations are due to mechanical issues where equipment needs to be shopped and some equipment availability issues are a result of engineer availability,” Snyder said. “NJ Transit has acted and continues to act swiftly to rebuild the labor force of locomotive engineers to meet the service delivery requirements for our customers. We have increased the number of engineer training classes to a record-setting six classes running concurrently.”
In the last year, NJ Transit has hired more than 100 new engineers, Snyder said. Three classes of engineers, which take about 20 months to complete training, are set to graduate this year, Snyder said. Eleven new engineers have entered the agency’s pool of engineers.
As for the mechanical issues, Snyder said they are “various.”
The impact for riders is the same.
Gary Melton, 50, of Mays Landing, takes the train three or four days a week to his job in Trenton for the New Jersey Education Association.
He doesn’t trust the train to get him there on time, he said.
“I try to make sure I don’t make important meetings on days where I have to get to work at a particular time,” Melton said.
Riders have complained the current schedule, which axed late-night runs, is inconvenient.
A new schedule is set to take effect this Sunday for the line. Morning run times will be moved six to nine minutes earlier, and evening run times will be moved four to nine minutes later. Mid-day run times will be adjusted by just a minute or two.
Maria Huynh, 26, of Atlantic City, took the train to work in Philadelphia from the first day of the line’s return in May until about two weeks ago.
The delays wore her down, so she takes the bus now.
“The bus has to deal with traffic, but I don’t have to transfer,” Huynh said. “It (felt) like I’m always being stuck at Lindenwold for like an hour or so.”