The recent announcement that the Atlantic City Rail Line from Philadelphia will be shut down for five months has passengers concerned and scrambling to find solutions.
Kevin Corbett, executive director of NJ Transit, held town-hall-style meetings this week, events at which onlookers shared their concerns that the train line would never reopen.
In order to update the tracks to meet federal safety standards, NJ Transit will be shutting down the Atlantic City line from Sept. 5 through Dec. 31.
“I know there’s been concern and skepticism that this is a bait and switch. It is not,” Corbett was quoted as saying. “We’re not putting millions of dollars of PTC (positive train control) equipment in only to not start service again.”
PTC installs intended to increase safety
In the wake of several high-profile, deadly train accidents involving distracted conductors, the federal government asked state transit organizations to update their rail lines to include “PTC, or “positive train control.”
According to the American Association of Railways (AAR), PTC modules are placed on the track and are able to stop a train if it senses the train is moving too fast for an approaching turn.
More from the AAR:
“PTC is a set of highly advanced technologies designed to make freight rail transportation — already one of the safest U.S. industries — even safer by automatically stopping a train before certain types of accidents occur.”
The on-track system works in concert with GPS, wireless, and radio signals to track a train’s speed and location. This ensures it does not collide with another train or move into a segment of the track into which it’s not supposed to go.
According to the AAR, installations must be completed by Dec. 31, 2018. At the town-hall meeting, Corbett said the route would open by Jan. 1, 2019.
State senator: Stop impeding Atlantic City’s comeback
Understandably, there were those who were unhappy with the announcement, which came earlier this month.
Several riders on the route noted that the shutdown will be an inconvenience, with one person telling NJTV he wondered why the line was closing when no such closures took place in North Jersey when PTC was installed.
After finding out about the closure, the Press of Atlantic City said State Sen. Jeff Van Drew sent a letter to Corbett opposing the move.
According to reports, that letter included the following plea:
“The train line is also vital to the economic recovery and stability of Atlantic City,” Van Drew said, before adding, “While ridership numbers on the Atlantic City Line are low compared to lines connecting New Jersey with New York City, the thousands of South Jersey riders who use the Atlantic City Line daily are real people, not statistics.”
Van Dyke hit on an important point: How will the closure affect Atlantic City?
The line, which runs between 30th Street Station in Philly and AC, no doubt brings in customers who want to experience the revitalization happening right now.
Providing an easy way for Philly residents to head into Atlantic City isn’t a make or break for the city’s economy, but it certainly is a downer in a season where good news is the norm for Atlantic City.