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This N.J. Transit Expansion Costs $474,000 Per Commuter


Elise Young EliseOnDeadline

Seven months after New Jersey Transit raised fares and cut routes to close a budget gap, the railroad is laying track to link dairy-country commuters with Manhattan, at a cost of about $474,000 per rider.

The seven-mile (11.3-kilometer) line between Port Morris and Andover in northwest New Jersey will add but a ridership blip to the nation’s second-busiest commuter railroad. By 2030, just 130 daily passengers are expected to board. One multilevel rail car could haul the whole crowd, with a dozen seats to spare.

Meanwhile, closer to Manhattan, commuters in the nation’s most densely populated suburbs endure crowding and train breakdowns at a rate four times higher than the U.S. average. The transit agency says the Sussex County line is a first step to expand rail service to Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, a haven for ex-New Jerseyans seeking lower living costs. That $500 million proposal has been on the drawing board for decades without federal funding.

“I moved here in 1983 and the first thing we heard was the train is coming,” said John Moyer, 69, chairman of the governing body for Monroe County, Pennsylvania, where a high percentage of residents have one of the nation’s longest mega-commutes to New York City. “I’m not sure that I’m going to live long enough for it to get here.”