The provincialism of the PATH trainBy
If the G train, is New York City’s forgotten stepchild of a subway, what does that make the PATH trains? Serving as a vital link between rapidly-growing waterfront communities in New Jersey and both Lower Manhattan and Midtown, PATH saw a record 76.6 million riders in 2011. But since Superstorm Sandy swamped the system, PATH riders have been left in the dark by a two-state agency seemingly responsible to no one.
Earlier this week, the Port Authority finally restored a vital PATH link between Hoboken and Manhattan, at least partially. With service out to the flooded terminal, the city had been suffering tremendously with some residents even contemplating moving. The situation is still not ideal as service is operating only between 33rd St. and Hoboken and only between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. The missing late-night and overnight service is a major concern.
In announcing the restoration of service, Gov. Cuomo and Gov. Christie issued a joint press released that included no statement from either Governor. Even their press secretaries couldn’t be bothered to put words into their mouths for the occasion — which tells you how little they seem to understand the value PATH has to the city. The press release trumped the return of train service for “more than 29,000 commuters” but neglected to mention when 24-hour service would return. The release also noted that direct service from Hoboken to the World Trade Center terminal “remains several weeks.”
Meanwhile, PATH’s reluctance to provide any further information has annoyed customers for nearly two months. Yes, Sandy created dire circumstances, but as the MTA’s willingness to share information has shown, customers appreciate updates. Furthermore, PATH’s own insularity can lead to absurd situations as well.
Take, for instance, a message on Twitter issued by @PATHTweets yesterday. In an effort to assist customers navigate the system, PATH issued this statement on traveling from Hoboken to the World Trade Center:
— PATH Rail System (@PATHTweet) December 19, 2012
Yes, you’re reading that correctly. This is the official PATH account telling its followers to go into Manhattan to Christopher St., 1.5 miles away from the World Trade Center, travel back to New Jersey and then go back into Manhattan for this trip. Later, PATH clarified that the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail was still cross-honoring fares, but what of the subway? Why not take PATH to 9th St. and switch to a downtown A, C or E train?
The problem of course is one of artificial agency turf wars. PATH later defended their instructions on the grounds of providing single-fare information, and therein lies the problem. Even though riders can use pay-per-ride MetroCards to swipe into the PATH system, there are no free transfers between the systems, and planners and politicians often act as though the two agencies are utterly foreign.
In an ideal world, the PATH system would be integrated into the New York City subway with easier transfers and fare payment technologies. Other than state boundaries and controlling agencies, there’s no real reason, from a regional transportation perspective, to separate the various entities and their rail systems. But politicians are stubborn, and change is slow-moving. We’re left instead with a PATH system lacking in common sense and transparency when it could be so much more.