PATCO’s plans to cut back the number of trains and stations served late at night have been put on hold.
Instead, a task force will review security issues along the line, the transit agency reported Monday.
"I did become convinced that certainly rolling it out the way we rolled out a normal schedule change was not adequate, and that was a mistake,” said John Hanson, the Delaware River Port Authority’s chief executive. “I felt that we probably needed to take a harder look at everything.”
Hanson and the DRPA heard from more than 150 disgruntled riders after last week announcing a scheduling change that would have reduced the number of trains running overnight and cut service to half the line’s stations. PATCO is the 14-mile, east-west connector between New Jersey and Philadelphia, serving almost 38,000 riders a day.
Between 1 and 4:30 a.m., the stops at Ashland, Haddonfield, Westmont, Collingswood, City Hall, 9th/10th and Locust, and 12th/13th and Locust would have lost service. The stations that remained open would have received trains once an hour between midnight and 4:30 a.m., rather than every 45 minutes, which is the current schedule.
On weekends, trains would have operated every 45 minutes and stopped everywhere except 9th/10th and Locust from midnight until 2 a.m. After that, trains would run every 60 minutes and serve only Lindenwold, Woodcrest, Ferry Avenue, Broadway, 8th and Market, and 15th/16th and Locust stops.
The changes were prompted by safety concerns, Hanson said. In January, a woman who was unconscious on a PATCO train at 4 a.m. was sexually assaulted. A Voorhees man was later charged and arrested. In early March, Hanson said, a PATCO train operator was attacked while getting onto her train at the Lindenwold station about 1:30 a.m. Officers arrived within a minute and arrested her assailant.
PATCO sought to put an officer on each train during the overnight service, Hanson said, and have officers at stations when trains arrived, but cannot maintain that with the trains’ current service. The service changes were designed to allow a more robust police presence on trains and at the remaining stations.
PATCO’s initial evaluation found that some of the stations losing service had fewer than 10 riders using them in the overnight hours, but he said he would review that data in the coming weeks.
Opponents of the change noted that the value of overnight service at those stops could not be counted solely by ridership.
“Maybe these two to seven people bought their homes near the stations because they work overnight shifts at a hospital, or they’re restaurant workers,” said Larry Davis, who maintains the Twitter feed @PATCOWatchers.
Mayors from Collingswood, Haddon Township, and Haddonfield also opposed the plan.
“It’s a service that everyone feels safer knowing that it’s there,” said James Maley, Collingswood’s mayor. “For people that are working, or are out late and shouldn’t be driving, or something happens unexpectedly, something bad happens, it’s real helpful to know you can jump on public transportation.”
PATCO’s late-night schedule would continue on the schedule that has been in place since April 15. The transit agency will be looking at ways to boost security on trains with the existing schedule, and Hanson is assembling the task force to review security this week.