The PATH Riders Council‘s first meeting, held in July, was a basic introductory meeting that didn’t touch on any substantive issues. The next meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, and the Council, chaired by (former Tri-State staff member) Ya-Ting Liu, will undoubtedly start getting down to business.
The most pressing issue facing the Council is the need for the Port Authority to meet the current and future challenges of population growth in the PATH ridership area. After explosive growth over the past decade in Hoboken and Jersey City, any PATH rider already knows that rush hour trains are too crowded, and any delay only compounds the problem. This problem, if unaddressed, will only get worse in a future that will see:
- Jersey City’s project pipeline of more than 28,000 residential units over the next 15 years
- Hoboken’s development projects definitely and possibly coming on line
- Several new projects in Harrison
- One World Trade Center expecting to open this fall, and
- The opening of the 365,000 square foot shopping and dining complex in the WTC
Capacity is a glaring near and long-term need for PATH, and the Council should focus its efforts on ensuring that the Port Authority understands that need.
The Riders Council must also address inadequate service levels, especially on the weekends. In recent history, transit ridership has grown dramatically at non-traditional commuting times resulting in a demand for service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In February, PATH suspended weekend service to Exchange Place and the WTC to perform Hurricane Sandy-related repairs, but did so without adding additional service to the other lines. This resulted in already crowded trains taking on the additional New York-bound passengers. The only alternative for riders is to walk more than a mile to get on a ferry that doesn’t operate 24 hours a day and does not cross-honor monthly PATH cards.
Currently, the agency relies heavily on its PATH Alerts Twitter feed to communicate service advisories, and also offers customized text and email alerts for peak-hour service alerts. These services are helpful for some, but anyone without a smart phone is at a considerable disadvantage. A more broad-based and accessible communication strategy is needed.
The Riders Council has its work cut out for it, but if its work can address these and other challenges, its formation will be well worth it.