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New Jersey Transit is seeking private partners to help transport “a stadium’s worth of people” — plus newly arriving megamall crowds.
The nation’s largest statewide mass-transportation provider on Nov. 7 will hold a forum to discuss “innovative solutions and systems” to move National Football League fans, concertgoers and shoppers to and from the Meadowlands, just west of Manhattan. There’s a particularly troublesome bottleneck there because NJ Transit never completed a planned loop that would allow trains to turn around, leading to long waits for riders and a crush of cars.
“How would you move a stadium’s worth of people seamlessly and continuously between Secaucus Junction and the Meadowlands Sports and Entertainment Complex, anchored by MetLife Stadium and American Dream, seven miles away?” the agency asks on a web page titled “NJ Transit Innovation Challenge.”
American Dream, the colossal retail and entertainment complex that partially opened Oct. 25, expects 40 million visitors a year — about double the 2018 attendance at the Walt Disney Co.’s Magic Kingdom — when it’s fully operating. The Meadowlands volume, plus traffic for concerts and National Football League games, holds promise for epic traffic jams on some of the nation’s most congested highways.
The American Dream mega entertainment and shopping complex in East Rutherford, N.J., partially opened Oct. 25, 2019. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)
NJ Transit’s Meadowlands rail station, opened a decade ago, was supposed to head off the crowds. But the cash-strapped agency never completed a track loop for trains to reverse direction. Rail service is limited to game days, and NJ Transit has said trains to American Dream right now would disrupt New York City commutes.
“We are looking for firms that we can potentially partner with on the design, build, operating, maintenance and finance of the solution,” Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokeswoman, said in an email.
The state transportation department has said it’s considering electric light rail, similar to the $5 billion elevated line under construction at Los Angeles International Airport. Gov. Phil Murphy in May mentioned the possibility of a magnetic-levitation monorail. Bus rapid transit also could be part of a plan, Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit’s chief executive officer, has said.
Whatever the approach, NJ Transit is in no position to expand Meadowlands service on its own.
After years of budget cuts, the agency has received a funding boost from the state, and is hiring bus drivers and train engineers and expecting a new fleet of buses and trains. But Murphy has said it will take years or even decades to resolve the crowding, cancellations and equipment failures that plague commuters, most with New York City jobs.
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