Feature: Sept. 11 brings longer commute

By CHANAN TIGAY  |  Oct. 10, 2001 at 6:27 PM
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NEWARK, N.J., Oct. 10 (UPI) -- With the World Trade Center PATH train stop buried under a mass of rubble the commute to Manhattan's financial center has been a challenge of finding the shortest detour.

The Trade Center PATH train station -- once popular among financial industry workers commuting from Philadelphia and New Jersey to lower Manhattan -- was rendered unreachable by flooding and debris in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, cutting off the train line like the smashed end of a straw, and forcing PATH riders to travel to functioning stations beyond their offices and then to double back on foot or by subway to jobs downtown.

"It adds 35 minutes to my commute every morning," said John Bailey, 38, a paralegal from Nutley, N.J. "I used to get off at the Trade Center stop, but now I have to take the PATH further uptown to Christopher (Street), then downtown from there to Wall Street on the subway."

What was an hour-and-10 minute commute on Sept. 10, has become an arduous hour-and-45-minute daily ordeal, Bailey said.

"It's cheating people out of their livelihoods," he said. "I am sometimes 15 to 20 minutes late to work."

Asked if her new route has inconvenienced her, Pilar MCcullon, 30, rolled her eyes.

"I'm looking for a job in Jersey," said the Irvington, N.J. resident. "Does that tell you anything?" Mccullon said she blames this "major inconvenience" on one man alone -- America's public enemy No. 1 -- Osama bin Laden.

"It makes me want to cut him down myself. He jacks up my commute," she said.

According to Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman, prior to Sept. 11, PATH trains carried nearly 98,000 people on weekdays during the peak hours of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

"Now in the morning peak periods we've been carrying between 80,000 to 85,000 people," Coleman said. "The difference is, we are carrying as many people into one terminal as we use to carry into two."

In addition to the Trade Center station, the stop at Exchange Place -- located beside the New York Stock Exchange and utilized by many commuting traders -- is currently shut due to what Coleman called "efficiency" reasons.

Similarly, Coleman added, before Sept. 11, PATH trains carried some 260,000 passengers on a daily basis. Today, the number is closer to 220,000.

"We are looking for ways to increase capacity, but we're almost at maximum service at this point," he said.

Ronald Merritt, 42, used to take the PATH to the Trade Center every morning, then catch the subway uptown, although he could just as easily have stayed on the train until 33rd Street, just a short walk from his office.

"I just liked passing through the World Trade Center," he said. The destruction of the towers has not added any time to Merritt's commute, but he is angry just the same. "I just kind of feel cheated," he said. "The World Trade Center was my favorite part of New York."

The commute is made even less comfortable, many passengers said, by the increased rider volume as people who work in different neighborhoods must now squeeze on to the same trains.

"There are lines around the block to get on the train in the evening at Christopher Street," said Blanche Brown, 50. "Even to get off the train in the city there are long lines too. Some trains to the city won't even stop at Christopher because it's too crowded, and they don't even tell you (when you get on the train)."

Anibal Lopez, 30, said the trains are "unbearably crowded" both in the morning and at night.

"I go to the gym after work now to avoid the crowds," he said. In light of the state of affairs, however, many passengers simply take the added commute time in stride.

"It takes me about 20 extra minutes to get into work," said Sam Cooper, 53, of Newark. "Sure, I have to wake up earlier, but it's not too bad. I just bring something good to read on the train."

And Bailey said that although he is frequently late as a result of the extended commute, his superiors have been forgiving.

"My bosses are understanding, considering the circumstances," he said.

"But it is still an inconvenience."

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