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New Jersey Transit and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) yesterday announced alternate service plans in the event that NJ Transit's rail workers go on strike starting March 13. The date marks the end of the so-called "cooling-off" period after a Presidential Emergency Board in January selected a coalition of labor unions' offer of a contract as most reasonable. The agency is still working to reach an agreement with its rail labor unions, which have been working for five years without a new contract. Today, NJ Transit and a coalition of rail unions are scheduled to meet in Washington, D.C., for final talks to avoid the strike, local media reported.NJ Transit's contingency plan calls for adding capacity to existing New York commuter bus routes in close proximity to rail stations, contracting with private carriers to operate bus service from key regional park-and-ride locations during weekday peak periods, and maximizing the use of available capacity on Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) routes and ferry service.Additionally, NJ Transit would increase capacity on its three light-rail systems, agency officials said in a press release. The alternate service plan would accommodate up to 38 percent of the agency's existing New York-bound customer base. "NJ Transit will operate a plan that the overall system and region can safely handle to accommodate as many customers as possible who absolutely must travel into and out of New York, bearing in mind that bus service cannot replicate the railroad," said NJ Transit Interim Executive Director Dennis Martin, noting that the worker stoppage could lead to 10,000 additional cars on the road per peak hour.In developing the plan, NJ Transit primarily focused available resources on New York-bound riders, which comprise the largest segment of the agency's rail customer base. Approximately 105,000 customers make up the total rail-based interstate market, including customers who transfer from NJ Transit rail to PATH trains at Hoboken Terminal and Newark Penn Station. Through a combination of added capacity to existing New York bus routes, operation of regional park-and-ride service and private carriers expanding capacity where possible, NJ Transit expects to carry approximately 40,000 New York customers.Meanwhile, MTA in New York City also announced preliminary preparations if the NJ Transit strike occurs.The agency would provide limited peak-direction shuttle bus service between New York's Rockland and Orange counties and the MTA Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line. This bus service would accommodate riders on Metro-North's Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines, which are operated by NJ Transit.Additionally, MTA New York City Transit will evaluate road conditions on a daily basis and may opt to reroute express buses that normally travel through New Jersey between Manhattan and Staten Island. These buses instead could travel through Brooklyn in the mornings and evenings, MTA officials said in a press release.
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