Commuter Railroads Slowly Get Back to Normal in the Northeast

An NJ Transit train from Port Jervis, NY to Hoboken, NJ rolls through Sloatsburg, NY Photo by MT Burkhart.

Commuter Railroads Slowly Get Back to Normal in the Northeast

By M.T. Burkhart 

As coronavirus cases in the Northeast level off in most areas — at least for now — transit agencies are returning to a normal schedule after being scaled back for several months. Here’s a sample of what’s happening across the region. 

New Jersey Transit

Beginning Monday, July 6, NJ Transit returns to full weekday service for rail and light rail, providing added capacity to improve social distancing on trains and vehicles. A state executive order requires the agency to limit occupancy to 50-percent on buses, trains and light rail vehicles. It also requires riders and personnel to wear a face covering.

“We’re pleased to announce the full restoration of our rail and light service,” said NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett. “It’s critical that we stay ahead of the demand to maximize the opportunity for social distancing while we ensure that we continue providing the cleanest and safest travel environment for our customers and employees.”

Metro-North and Long Island Railroad

With New York City in “Phase 2” of its tiered reopening, Metro-North is adding service, although some remain suspended. Ticket offices are still closed except for Grand Central Terminal, White Plains and Stamford. Service has increased on Harlem, Hudson and New Haven lines; bustitution continues to Danbury and Waterbury; and weekend service levels are operating daily on lines west of the Hudson. 

Over on the Long Island Rail Road, ticket offices remain closed except for Penn Station, Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal. Some weekday level service has resumed, including to Long Island City and Hunterspoint Avenue.


Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs are reopening and starting Monday, June 29, SEPTA Regional Rail will run hourly weekday service on most lines. The Airport and Paoli/Thorndale lines will run every 30 minutes during the day, which is largely a return to pre-pandemic levels. The Chestnut Hill West and Cynwyd lines remain suspended, however.

“This is a significant step forward for SEPTA and our region as we work through the phases of COVID-19 recovery,” SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards said in a statement. “We are excited to see more customers returning, and we want to assure them that we are ready with safe and reliable service.”

Outlying Regional Rail ticket offices will also start reopening this week, SEPTA said. The remaining ticket windows and waiting rooms at outlying Regional Rail stations will be reopened by the end of July.


Boston’s commuter agency is also ramping up service in the state’s recovery plan. Although ridership remains low, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority increased operations across all modes as part of the commonwealth’s reopening plan. On June 21, regular weekday service resumed on the Blue Line along with increased weekday service on the Red, Orange, Green, and Mattapan Lines. On June 22, Commuter Rail service was increased on weekdays.

“As the commonwealth continues its reopening phases and we begin boosting service for all modes, we will continue to protect the riding public and our workforce through enhanced safety protocols,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement.

Back on March 17, MBTA implemented service changes that mimicked limited, modified Saturday schedules for most modes with ferry service temporarily canceled in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

This article was posted on: June 29, 2020