In early July, a New Jersey Transit train derailed on its way into Pennsylvania Station in New York. The derailment led to more delays on NJ Transit and Amtrak tracks in a time where delays are already causing headaches for thousands of commuters daily.
New Jersey Transit officials described the incident as a “slow speed derailment,” the cause of which was not immediately known. Fortunately, none of the 100 to 150 people on board were injured. But commuters overheard conductors saying that it will surely happen again.
This incident occurred nearly three months after another New Jersey Transit train derailed at that station. The April 3 derailment was caused by a defect in the tracks. New Jersey Transit was aware of the defect but had underestimated how urgent it needed to be repaired. In response to that derailment, New Jersey Transit lowered the maximum speed for trains entering and leaving Pennsylvania Station to 10 miles per hour. Shortly before the July derailment, the speed limit was raised up to 15.
How Common Are Train Accidents with New Jersey Transit?
The Federal Railroad Administration reported on March 1 that New Jersey Transit, which is under state and federal inquiry for violations of safety rules and operating procedures, logged the most accidents in 2016 among the country’s top 10 biggest commuter railroads. The numbers more than doubled those involving the Long Island Rail Road, which is the nation’s largest passenger-train service. And based on 2015 data, New Jersey Transit also had the most mechanical breakdowns.
While train accidents are common for New Jersey Transit, actual fatalities are rare. In 2016, the organization had its first fatal train accident in two decades. It happened in Hoboken, when a train slammed into a platform at high speed, killing one woman on the platform and injuring more than 100 others.
The organization faces a December 2018 federal deadline to install positive train control (PTC) systems, which can override human error. However, based on current progress, it is unknown whether the due date will be met.