By Andrew Tangel on June 5, 2016 8:46 p.m. ET
The PATH train, already bursting at the seams, stands to get more crowded amid a building boom in northern New Jersey, in another sign the transit network is straining under the region’s population growth.
Apartment buildings springing up in Jersey City and communities nearby are funneling new riders onto the PATH, whose lines run to the World Trade Center and Herald Square in Manhattan.
Many passengers complain of crammed commutes, or having to wait for trains to pass before boarding one that isn’t packed—an experience familiar to many New York City subway riders.
“It’s just miserable,” said Elliot Kelly, 24 years old, who rides the PATH from Jersey City each weekday morning to work at a law firm in Manhattan. “It’s never nice to make a commute when you’re 3 centimeters from someone else’s body.”
As the PATH’s operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, considers improvements to expand the system’s capacity, questions linger over when they will be completed and who should pay for them.
Port Authority Chairman John Degnan said Jersey City shouldn’t approve new developments along the PATH’s route without making sure the system can handle the expected growth in riders.
“It’s irresponsible for a city to allow indiscriminate growth that’s going to tax public infrastructure beyond its capability,” Mr. Degnan said.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop faulted the Port Authority, which is jointly controlled by New Jersey and New York governors, for failing to properly plan.
“At the end of the day it’s Port Authority’s responsibility,” Mr. Fulop said. “They should stop putting blame elsewhere. Every surrounding municipality has grown.”
Apartments under construction or approved in Jersey City alone could usher in an estimated 64,250 new residents, increasing the city’s current population of about 264,000 by some 25%.
“We’ve got a brewing crisis,” said Dawn Zimmer, mayor of neighboring Hoboken, whose constituents frequently complain of PATH overcrowding.
The Port Authority forecasts the PATH will carry 88.4 million passengers in 2020, a 15% surge from 2015 levels.
......Upgrades to PATH that would allow run trains to run more frequently—and help reduce crowding—aren’t expected to arrive until the end of 2018 at the earliest. A new advanced signal system, which is part of a crash-avoidance system required by federal law, would let PATH trains run closer together, increasing capacity up to about 20%, Port Authority officials said. Trains could then run about every two minutes during peak times—as some of the busier New York City subway lines do during rush hours—instead of every four to six minutes as is the case now.
Until such upgrades are in place, PATH’s plans to ease crowding involve the expansion of rush-hour service, running trains more frequently for longer periods.
Port Authority officials declined to specify plans for other service improvements, such as when the system would begin running 10-car trains on its Newark-to-World Trade Center line, up from the current limit of eight.
It remains to be seen whether the Port Authority will move forward with plans to extend the PATH from Newark Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport.