Sunday, December 14, 2008

NJ Transit

Saturday was a day that required me to be in multiple locations. More specifically, the girlfriend and I had a holiday party in Succasunna, and my high school friends were getting together for dinner in Little Italy in downtown Manhattan. I decided to drive out to Succasunna, stay for the beginning of the party, and use NJT to get me to Little Italy. The girlfriend was spending the night at the house where the partywas held, so I would go back and sleep in Succasunna.

It took a bit of Research to figure out that the closest train station operating on the weekend was in Dover, NJ. Their iternary planner does not handle a walk or drive of more than a mile to a bus stop or train station. The third rail terminates after that station, requiring diesel locomotives to operate trains beyond that station. It is a 15 minute drive to the station, so while not being the closes train station, it was still reasonably close, especially for a rural area.

I got to the train station and learned that all parking spots in the lot required either a permit or had 12 hour meter. I'm talking an old fashioned analog quarters only meters. However, the lot is closed from 2am to 6am and all day on Sunday. This is a source of anger, because I will be returning after 2 am.

I walk to a liquor store and use the ATM. I then ask the clerk where I can park past 2am. He tells me to park on a side street. This proves to be quite easy. I'm still angered at the town arbitrarily closing of the parking lot while trains are running, especially the metered parking spots. However, its no longer an issue of urgency to me.

I go on the platform and see no ticket machines. I go to the station and see that a ticket agent is working on a Saturday at 6pm. There is a line and my train will soon be here. However, everyone else on the line has the same problem I do. I ask the person in in front of me in line about ticket machines. He say there are none. I comment about the parking regulations and he replies, "this is not a customer friendly station".

When I am next in the queue I approach the window. I place my bank card on the counter and say, "Hoboken." She informs me the machine is not reading cards. I am thankful I just went to the ATM at this point. I place $20 dollars down on the counter and say, "Hoboken." She produces a ticket. I take the ticket and change and thank her.

The train comes and I get on. At Newark Broad Street I transfer to Hoboken. At Hoboken I take the Path, then a Taxi.

Dinner comes and goes. A good time is had by all. I return to Hoboken Terminal. I am confused by the available trains and what I thought the schedule said. I decide to buy my ticket and then ask questions. I ask the conductor of the next departing train if i can change at Secaucas to the Dover train. He thinks for a moment and says yes. I get on the train and detrain one stop later at Secaucas.

At Secaucas, I initially think I cannot get on my train because I cannot find a scheule for my train line on the platform. This is expecially problemsom because I was expecting to get on the last train to Dover until 7am. My fears are relieved when I go upstairs and find out how large Secaucus Junction is. It is not the usual setup of several platforms parallel to each other that most multi line train stations have. Different tracks are at different levels. There are turnstiles with card readers blocking access to the platform I need to get on. They do not accept my card.

The station attendant tells me I need to buy an "access card" to get down. He punches in the cheapest ticket he can in the machine, a one stop Senior/Disability ticket that costs $1.50 and has me pay for it. This ticket works.

I had to wait a bit for my train. I wandered between the waiting area that is too hot and the platform outside in the below freezing weather. The train arrived and I got on.

Before the last stop the conductors herd us all into one car so they only have to operate one set of doors. This doesn't bother me. The fact they that the conductor herding from the front and the one herding from the back can't agree on which car to herd us into does. We get out, and as I am walking along the platform I realize I have left my book on the train.

I flag down a conductor and he opens the door. He says he is pretty sure he saw an old guy in a red vest carrying it. We check the train to be sure. I run down the platform, find the guy and get my book.

The drive back to Succasunna was not without events. I could not find one street and went to a Dunkin Doughnuts to ask for directions. No one was at the counter. Seeing a large wad of ones in the tip cup made me realize I could have easily absconded with the register drawer. I of course did not. I decided to relieve myself in the bathrooms, which, surprisingly for a Dunkin Doughnuts, required no key. When I came back I saw a man waiting at the counter. I informed him I was waiting a while and asked him for directions. He told me how to find the street I was looking for and went to knock on the kitchen door. I walked out and got back in my car.

Other than having to stop twice for deer in the road I made it back to the house where my girlfriend was staying for the night a few minutes after 04:00. Yes deer in the roads. This is the part of Jersey where the backyard landmines are deer, as opposed to the geese and dog droppings in small parks more civilized places tend to have. Since the parks I refer to are about the size of backyards in this part of Jersey, the analogy is fair.

I am contemplating writing to NJ Transit and town of Dover about my experience. I think one or two ticket machines would be beneficial to the station, and reduce the need for a station attendant on Saturdays and weekday afternoon evening. I have to research the Secaucus Junction transfer fee, and if it was really necessary to take that route. Finally, I must verify that the Dover Station parking lot is operated by the town of Dover, as is the case with LIRR parking lots. I will then air my concerns about the parking lot closing from 2am to 6am and on Sundays.