For many commuters, today is the Monday of all Mondays, especially if their journey takes them in and out of Penn Station.
On a good day, Penn Station is a crime against architecture.
It’s a descent into the bowels of the underworld, with the feel of an overgrown subway station. The low-hanging roof, stumpy columns, and storefronts peddling everything from discount ties to sushi (yes, sushi!) give the place a purgatorial aura. In 2015, NJ Transit removed seats from its waiting areas, leaving commuters with nowhere to sit as they pass the time.
Traingoers are often treated to delays, derailments, and other symptoms of the general disrepair of the station’s infrastructure.
And it’s all about to get worse.
Today marks the start of the Summer of Hell – an eight-week track reconstruction program that reduces service by as much as 20 percent for Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak, and NJ Transit.
The repairs start today and are scheduled to be completed on September 1, but, as we all know from our experience with the Second Avenue Subway, these targets are sometimes imperfect estimates.
This partial shutdown is expected to affect approximately 600,000 commuters who ride the trains in and out of Manhattan each day.
Commuters on the New Jersey Transit’s Morris & Essex line will bear the brunt of the Summer of Hell’s disruptions. After 7AM, no direct-to-Manhattan trains will run. Commuters will be diverted to the Hoboken waterfront, where they will have to take a ferry, bus, or PATH train into downtown Manhattan. This “Hoboken Hop” could add at least 90 minutes to the daily commute.
Maplewood, NJ released a Summer of Hell ‘Survival Guide‘, which shows the trains that go directly from Maplewood to Penn Station, as well as the trains which stop at Hoboken. The Maplewood Memorial Library is expanding its hours to accommodate employees planning to telecommute during the Summer of Hell. Mayors of Maplewood and South Orange, NJ have also wrote letters for constituents to give to employers, asking for leeway in the form of flexible work schedules until the track repairs are completed.
The Summer of Hell hurts employers, too. The Partnership for New York City estimates that the Summer of Hell will cost Manhattan-based employers about $14.5 million for each hour that commuters are delayed.
Might this be a time for employers and employees affected by the Summer of Hell to consider the benefits of remote work?