NJ Transit rail riders brace for a strike as talks near deadline [Updated]

A NJ Transit train bound for New York City is about to leave Princeton Junction Station. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

A NJ Transit train bound for New York City is about to leave Princeton Junction Station. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

(Updated: 3/11/16 @ 7:23 p.m. New Jersey rail strike averted, deal reached)

NJ Transit rail workers say they’ll walk off the job as early as Sunday if they don’t get an acceptable contract offer. The unions have authorized a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

The threat of a strike is forcing thousands of New Jersey residents who rely on NJ Transit trains to come up with alternative plans. 

Duane Steid an electrician from Elizabeth, NJ. uses takes the train to New York from Princeton Junction Station. “Unfortunately I’ll have to drive which would be ridiculously expensive because it’s like $13, you know. Sometimes (it’s) more if you’re counting the gas. So, catching the train for me is a benefit for me because it’s cheaper than driving,” he said. 

The toll for the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels is $12.50 with an EZ Pass and $15 for cash during peak hours.  

More than 100,000 commuters use NJ Transit to get into New York City, and the transit agency says its contingency plan using extra buses will only be able to accommodate about 40,000 riders. 

Amtrak trains will continue to operate on the Northeast Corridor into New York City making stops in Trenton, Metropark, Newark Penn Station.

While Northeast Corridor commuters fret about their Monday morning commute, at least one transportation expert said the strike probably won’t happen.

Martin Robins is director emeritus of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. “They apparently have come close to a settlement and there should be a settlement especially if the Christie administration isn’t trying to become heroic here and achieve a remarkable breakthrough in rail labor relations,” he said. 

If NJ Transit rail workers do strike, the impact on South Jersey should be minimal. Only the Philadelphia to Atlantic City rail line will stop. The NJ River Line and PATCO passenger train lines will continue to operate.

________________________________________________________

Phil Gregory contributed to this story.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.