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America's busiest transit hub rocked by days of delays due to heat wave

America's busiest transit hub rocked by days of delays due to heat wave
America's busiest transit hub rocked by days of delays due to heat wave

 


Extreme heat coupled with strained infrastructure, malfunctions and mechanical issues on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit caused massive suffering and delays for tens of thousands of commuters across the Northeast this week.

Train service between New Jersey and New York's Penn Station was suspended Thursday ahead of the evening commute and again Friday morning, with New Jersey Transit citing problems with AMTRAK overhead cables.

While the root cause of these disruptions is still being investigated, they hit some of the hottest days of the year so far, lengthening commutes amid a heatwave at the start of summer.

Unfortunately, a unique combination of events has recently caused significant delays in the New York area, affecting travel along a significant section of the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak President Roger Harris said Friday in a statement.

Harris added that on Thursday a circuit breaker that powers trains experienced a catastrophic failure on one of the hottest days of the year and a serious bushfire also came close to our tracks.

He said Amtrak is also working with New Jersey Transit to understand and resolve recent disruptions associated with NJT trains operating on Amtraks' Northeast Corridor infrastructure, which appear unique to the equipment and region.

Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains share a century-old tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey. It is the only passenger rail connection between Manhattan and the rest of the Northeast Corridor, which extends from Washington, D.C., to Boston.

Infrastructure subject to extreme temperatures

While no single cause has been identified for this week's transit disruptions, rail experts have noted that extreme heat has the potential to strain infrastructure.

Many trains use a long piece of welded metal called a continuous weld to operate, and when temperatures rise, it expands, creating stress and forcing the rail to warp, said Curtis Morgan, chief of the freight and commerce division and senior research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

That could cause a derailment, he said. Due to the additional stress placed on the rail, trains must travel at a slower speed.

This week, Amtrak warned that high temperatures across the region were forcing some trains to run at slower speeds, causing delays of up to an hour.

Most Amtrak trains travel between 125 and 155 mph, but when temperatures approach triple digits, trains are slowed to between 80 and 100 mph, said Gerhard Williams, executive vice president of service delivery and operations at Amtrak. , adding that extreme heat played a small role. role in the rail disruptions this week.

New York City is under a heat advisory through Sunday evening, with the heat index reaching near triple digits at times, according to the National Weather Service.

Clinton J. Andrews, director of the Urban Policy Research Center at Rutgers University and an expert in engineering, urban planning and climate change mitigation, said the summer months would increase pressure on rail infrastructure.

Summer heat, like any extreme weather, puts our infrastructure systems and our bodies to the test. In the case of mass transit, particularly fixed rail, there are particular concerns, Andrews said. The first is that the tracks, which are made of steel, and the catenaries, which power the electric trains, tend to expand during a heatwave.

Most of the delays and cancellations in the New York metropolitan area this week were caused by power and catenary problems, a faulty circuit breaker and a broken down train at Penn Station, transportation officials said.

Mona Hemmati, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University specializing in climate physics, said the public can expect future delays and cancellations on public transportation due to extreme weather caused by climate change.

It is important to understand that high temperatures increase the risk of derailment. The impact of high temperatures on steel, catenary wires, etc. must be considered, she said, referring to the wires that power electric trains.

We are seeing more heat waves due to climate change, rising temperatures and a warming atmosphere. More prolonged periods of extreme heat should be expected, she added.

New Jersey Transit has not commented on the weather-related delays, but said in a statement Friday that the impact of its service on customers this week was unacceptable.

We are as frustrated as our customers, he said.

New Jersey Transit operates 700 trains each weekday for hundreds of miles between Philadelphia and New Haven, Conn., but the vast majority of disruptions have been between New Jersey and New York.

Frustrated commuters

Many commuters struggling this week said they hoped the situation would improve soon.

I used NJT three times this week, and each time I got screwed. I wrote a play and was almost two hours late for rehearsal on Tuesday, said Roma Torre, a New Jersey resident and former anchor for local news channel NY1, who regularly rides the system. New Jersey transit. The problem is poor service, although I completely understand that we have infrastructure problems.

Tina Palazzo, a lawyer who commutes to Manhattan via New Jersey Transit, said, “I've had problems every day this week. It took me over three hours to get home yesterday, when I usually have to travel for an hour.

Palazzo, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, said she took Tuesday off to make sure she didn't miss her son's high school graduation.

It's horrible and communication is non-existent, she said of her commute this week.

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