New York football fans have a lot to be happy about this season. The Giants have continued their strong play, the Jets are 2-0 behind new quarterback Mark Sanchez — and for the first time, customers can get to Giants Stadium via train. A rail spur connecting the Meadowlands and NJ Transit’s Secaucus Junction opened this summer and operates on days with major events. Metro-North, NJ Transit, and Amtrak also worked together to provide direct service between Secaucus and stops on Metro-North’s New Haven Line, a first step towards broader regional rail plans. The first day of the regional service seemed to be a success:
Jets fans shouted the “J-E-T-S” chant during the trip to the sports complex, which takes about 2 1/2 hours from New Haven. …
“If we had to drive from West Haven we probably would have had to wake up at 7 a.m.,” [Matt Tierney of West Haven, Conn.] said. “It’s pretty great to be able to do this now and not have the stress of getting in and out.”
Justin Matteo, 34, of Pelham, N.Y., and his buddy Al Loureiro, 30, of New Rochelle, N.Y., bantered with neighboring passengers Kristina Bostley, 22, and Charnette Porter, 24, both from Trumbull. “I like this because you get to meet other passengers and become friends,” Loureiro said. “It’s like tailgating on wheels.”
NJ Transit and the LIRR also came to an agreement allowing LIRR riders to buy just one ticket for service to the Meadowlands (riders must transfer from the LIRR to NJ Transit at Penn Station).
After the rail spur was first proposed as a way to reduce traffic to the planned Xanadu mega-mall and Meadowlands events, the Tri-State Campaign and North Jersey municipalities called for a more comprehensive transit access plan. The resulting pressure has helped win additional improvements. Besides the unprecedented regional rail initiative, site planners made sure to provide safe pedestrian corridors from the station to the arena, and the new Giants Stadium opening next year will have less parking than the old one.
Demand for special event service seems strong — perhaps stronger than NJ Transit anticipated. An estimated 20,000 people took trains to the Meadowlands for a U2 concert last night, leading to long waits at ticket machines and extremely crowded platforms on the return trip. While the agency needs to work out these logistical issues, it’s great news that so many people are interested in trains to games and other events.
But it’s not clear that the station will make a meaningful dent in regular mall traffic, assuming the financially and legally troubled Xanadu ever opens. The Campaign, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, and other groups have pointed out for years that inadequate traffic studies were done for the project, and the Giants were so concerned about Xanadu’s potential traffic impact that they sued the developer in 2005.