MTA, hospitals prepare for NJ Transit strike

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ELIZABETH, N.J. -- Trains in New Jersey will stop running in less than a week, unless New Jersey Transit and rail unions can negotiate a contract. Discussions wrapped up today without a solution.

Talks will continue tomorrow and there will be another face-to-face meeting on Thursday.

At an unrelated press conference this morning, the Metropolitan Transit Authority announced a plan to help NJ Transit commuters from Orange and Rockland County get to work.

“They would be able to access buses at Harriman and at Middletown,” Thomas Prendergast, Chairman of the MTA, "Middletown will take them to Beacon and Harriman will take them to Tarrytown.”

Commuters can also access the buses through at a park-and-ride facility at exit 12 on Thruway near Nanuet, where they will also be transported to Tarrytown. Prendergast said riders will be able to continue to use their commuting passes.

"We’ll be prepared for them on the subway,” he added, "Many of the NJ Transit customers come into Penn Station or other locations, and PATH for example, and access our system with a metro card. So we’ll have additional staff on hand to be able to handle that.”

Governor Christie said he will be on vacation celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary as the strike inches closer, but he said he’ll be monitoring developments. Without a resolution, all NJ Transit trains will stop, bus service will be limited and those who drive to work will face mass traffic. The strike is scheduled to begin on Sunday morning.

“I used to take 2 trains and a bus to Union City when I used to work out there, and it’s bad as it is. So I can imagine how traffic is gonna be now,” said Elizabeth Torres, a healthcare worker who said she now commutes to work on foot.

Hospitals throughout the region are preparing their workforce for the strike.

“Even during Sandy we were here,” said Torres.

Trinitas Medical Center in Elizabeth, N.J. has a three-pronged plan in place to ensure that all essential staff can get to work to help patients.

“Actually going through a number of blizzards over the years has given us a lot experience in dealing with employees having difficulty getting to work,” said Doug Harris, Trinitas’ Vice President of Marketing.

"Unlike a storm though, we have a little bit more time to prepare,” he added.

He said they will poll workers to see who depends on New Jersey Transit. They plan to help employees find other ways to work, such as carpooling. If that fails, they’ll offer cots inside the hospital. A last resort is sending security personnel out to pick up essential staff.

“It’s fairly difficult especially because we have to get here at early morning hours,” said Tyler Stamberger, a medical student, "You need to rely on mass transit in order to be able to get here in the morning. And without that available, people are going to have to leave work earlier, dropping their kids off earlier, getting a daytime babysitter. So it’s definitely, people are feeling the effects of it.”

A spokeswoman for NJ Transit called today’s discussions “productive and positive”, but said there is still more work to be done.