For the most part, operations went smoothly for the first day, although town officials caution everyone to understand that many people are still on vacation, and the flow of people to the new station will increase after Sept. 1.
Town Clerk Michael Marra said his office registered no complaints about the service but had numerous requests for bus schedules.
Secaucus residents have a variety of ways to get to the station, although they cannot as of yet actually drive there to drop off people, nor are there park-and-ride facilities available at the Transfer Station.
Initially, the town of Secaucus alone was going to run the shuttle service. But the option was dropped when local officials realized the extent of the schedule required - regular bus service from Harmon Cove to the Transfer Station from 5 a.m. to midnight - and also because of the high rate of breakdown that shuttle buses have experienced during the last year of testing.
Secaucus has its own shuttle bus picking up people from several sections of town and dropping them off at Harmon Cove, where NJ Transit buses pick up people for the trip to the Transfer Station. Town buses basically operate during rush hour.
This poses several problems. First, some riders were concerned about the lack of pickup and drop-off facilities at the Transfer Station, saying that if they work late, they cannot call family members to come pick them up. While the NJ Transit shuttle service has extensive hours, residents using the town service and NJ Transit could find themselves stranded at Harmon Cove if they work later than the town schedule provides for.
Secaucus residents living along County Avenue have an additional problem. No town shuttle bus has been provided for them. While many live within a few hundred yards of the station, the constant flow of freight trains in and out of Croxton Yards frequently closes New County Road.
George Jensen, transportation coordinator for the Town of Secaucus, said this has created a major obstacle for providing shuttle service to an area called locally "The Back Road." Although many residents live within a few hundred yards of the station, the road closure can often hold up traffic for up to an hour.
"There is no way we can schedule a shuttle bus through that intersection, and no way we can make a run to that area and keep to the schedule we need to keep," Jensen said.
As a result, all shuttles must access the train station through Castle Road from the end of Meadowlands Parkway. The result is that residents along County Avenue will have to take NJ Transit No. 2 bus across town to Meadowlands Hospital.
"There they can walk across to the Harmon Cove bus shelter for the NJ Transit shuttle to the station," Jensen said. "Even NJ Transit will not run a shuttle or bus across the tracks."
Jensen said the current situation will change when the New Jersey Turnpike completes construction of a bridge over the Croxton Yards rail tracks. But that is years away.
Jensen also noted that schedules would likely be adjusted after Aug. 30 in order to accommodate the expected increase in passengers.
Some local concerns
Rob Taylor of Secaucus didn't have to take the shuttle last week. He had the day off. But he wanted to get a feel for the network, so he decided to take the shuttle to the train and then take various trains to see how well integrated the system was. He said during one point, his train came in late and the shuttle had not been there.
"I had to call someone to pick me up," he said. "I was told that I wasn't going to be able to do that the next day."
NJ Transit did not include drop-off and pickup provisions in the original plans for the station, said Mayor Dennis Elwell. "They are trying to rectify that now."
"The facility was there, but it wasn't finished," Taylor said.
Taylor said many people were concerned about parking being eliminated at the Harmon Cove Train Station, which was closed permanently this week with the start of operations at the Transfer Station. Some people drove to the Transfer Station from elsewhere. While the town is providing a park-and-ride facility near the old train station, this excludes out-of-town residents.
"Castle Road is also a mess," Taylor said.
Although Castle Road is currently under repair, it is full of potholes, and the reconstruction work along the only viable entrance into the train station promises to create future scheduling challenges.
Taylor said local officials did a great job in getting people from around town to the transfer station, and he noted that officials were keeping track of time of the buses with perhaps the idea of making the schedule even more efficient for the future.
"The town tried its best to make this work," Taylor said.