They’re calling it the “summer of hell,” “transit terror” and “commuter chaos.”
Amtrak’s track repairs and closures are impacting passengers all across the Northeast. And no matter what you call it, commuters in and around New York City are missing appointments, arriving late to work and sometimes being left stranded in the heat without knowing when they’ll make it home.
New Yorkers aren’t alone. Millions of Americans across the country rely on aging transit systems that frequently break down or are in need of major repairs.
Commuters took 10.4 billion trips on public transportation across the U.S. in 2016, with one-in-10 Americans taking commuter transit – subways, trains, buses and trams – to get where they need to be.
Each weekday, public transportation is taken 35 million times. But there's a problem. Across the country, infrastructure is breaking down because of systems that are outdated or not built to handle its growing use. Critics and travelers alike say that not enough is being done to fix the archaic systems.
“Sometimes the trains are late, sometimes they're canceled,” commuter Jim Horton told Fox News.
Frustrated passengers inside New York’s Penn Station – where Amtrak, the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit all converge – said they’ve been delayed 20 and 30 minutes regularly, sometimes waiting up to an hour for a delayed train.
Planned repairs began at the beginning of July and will stretch until mid-September, as Amtrak replaces around 600 yards of track under Penn Station. Some New Jersey commuters were diverted to Hoboken’s Path train so workers could make repairs.
Amtrak’s CEO Charles Wickliffe “Wick” Moorman told Fox News’ Douglas Kennedy that the company is doing all it can to update its vast and complex system with minimal disruptions to commuters.
“This station was built in 1910 and is handling numbers of people that were never envisioned,” Moorman said. “If this area is going to grow and prosper, we have to add capacity to this station.”
A hundred years ago, when the station was built, the American transit system was the envy of the world, with railroad cars that crossed the continent. Moorman said that the current repairs to the decades-old infrastructure in Penn Station are really just the first step.
“We obviously apologize for the disruption we're causing,” Moorman told Fox News. “We appreciate everyone's patience.”
Patience. It's is a word most New Yorkers don't want to hear.
Brooklyn resident Elizabeth Perez said that delays are a regular occurrence for her commute into the city.
“As a working parent, I rely on the subway, there's no other way to do it and even a 10-minute delay means I can't get my kids on time,” Perez said. “I pay extra for the childcare workers, the childcare workers then can't get home to their kids, and effects their time with their families.”
Perez said she can’t afford to be patient.
“We can't wait any longer. This is intolerable and it needs to stop.”
Additional reporting by Rebecca Kesten and Martin Hinton