NEWARK — Rail commuters seeking a more tranquil onboard experience are in luck. NJ TRANSIT Executive Director James Weinstein announced a significant expansion of the agency’s Quiet Commute program on five of NJ TRANSIT’s busiest rail lines.
“We initiated this amenity as a pilot program on the Northeast Corridor to determine the level of interest and acceptance of Quiet Commute on NJ TRANSIT trains,” said Weinstein. “Over the last two months, the customer and employee feedback we have collected has been overwhelmingly positive, so we are expanding Quiet Commute considerably.”
Beginning Jan. 3, NJ TRANSIT will add Quiet Commute cars to all peak period, peak direction trains that begin or end their trips at New York Penn Station or Newark Penn Station. Quiet Commute cars will be offered on trains that arrive in Newark or New York between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and trains that depart Newark or New York between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. This will expand the program to include Midtown Direct, North Jersey Coast and Raritan Valley lines, and will expand the program on the Northeast Corridor in addition to existing Quiet Commute cars on 3900-series trains.
As in the initial pilot, the first and last cars of each train will be designated for Quiet Commute, as they are easily identifiable, with seating on a first-come, first-served basis.
NJ TRANSIT has been collecting feedback from customers over the pilot period via njtransit.com and through electronic surveys, as well as onboard from customers and train crewmembers. Wednesday, the agency began distributing Quiet Commute surveys to customers at Trenton, Hamilton and Princeton Junction stations.
“Now that we have decided to expand the pilot, customer feedback on the program is more important than ever,” said Weinstein. “We encourage our customers to continue to let us know about their experiences with the Quiet Commute program—whether it makes their commute better, and if they have any suggestions as we prepare to expand it.”
On September 7, NJ TRANSIT launched the Quiet Commute program on its busiest trains— “3900-series” Northeast Corridor trains that operate express to and from Trenton, Hamilton and Princeton Junction—to test the feasibility of offering the amenity on its system. The 3900-series was selected for the pilot because the trains’ relatively long trip times and regularly high ridership provide an ideal testing environment.
Quiet Commute cars are intended to provide a subdued environment for customers who wish to refrain from using cell phones and are willing to disable the sound feature on pagers, games, computers and other electronic devices. Conversations should be conducted in subdued voices, and headphones should be used at a volume that cannot be heard by other passengers.
Conductors inform customers of Quiet Commute expectations by using specially designed business cards that explain the program in English and Spanish. The cards, first used by SEPTA in their own Quiet Car program, are intended to gently remind customers of their location without disturbing others on the car.
NJ TRANSIT is working toward the expansion of Quiet Commute to its remaining lines—including those trains that begin or end their trips at Hoboken Terminal—but must first address some logistical challenges in recognition of the shorter train sets that operate on those lines. The systemwide rollout of Quiet Commute is anticipated as a final phase of the program that is expected to take place next year.
NJ TRANSIT is now the largest transit agency in the nation to offer a Quiet Commute option. Other transit agencies that currently offer “Quiet Cars” include SEPTA, Virginia Railway Express (VRE), MARC (Maryland), Altamont Commuter Express (California) and the Capital Corridor (California).
The idea of offering a Quiet Commute program has consistently ranked high among NJ TRANSIT customer suggestions.
The Quiet Car concept was born in late 1999 when a small group of regular Amtrak commuters asked their conductor if one car of their early morning Philadelphia-Washington train could be designated as “cell phone-free.” The conductor agreed and Amtrak quickly expanded the concept. Within months, most weekday Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor featured Quiet Cars.
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