What to Know
- PATCO is halting its planned changes to overnight Owl Service between South Jersey and Philadelphia.
- The agency cited safety as a big reason for having fewer overnight trains and stops.
- The agency is now looking for community feedback before releasing a new plan to be implemented in June.
Attention PATCO riders, your overnight service isn't changing just yet.
PATCO is delaying its plans to cut overnight Owl Service after outcry over how the plan was announced, including the Delaware River Port Authority not speaking with leaders of communities that would no longer be served by early morning trains.
Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley expressed concern that leaders weren't told of the changes that would leave their towns without overnight service.
"My initial reaction is that it makes no sense, I don't get how it's a safety issue," Maley said Tuesday.
DRPA CEO and PATCO president John Hanson took responsibility for not alerting local officials of the changes ahead of time. He also told NBC10's Cydney Long that any service changes would be delayed until June 1 at the earliest.
On Wednesday, PATCO made the delay official: "The targeted implementation date will allow PATCO to analyze feedback from riders and the community, as well as provide additional time for notification of the changes to the public," PATCO said in a news release. "It is our goal to incorporate the feedback and concerns to greatest extent possible to the new Owl schedule when implemented."
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PATCO to Postpone Recently Announced New Owl Service
The new start date is 6/1 & will allow PATCO to analyze feedback from the community & provide additional time for notice. It is our goal to incorporate feedback to greatest extent possible to the new schedule when implemented. pic.twitter.com/40Ougkhefc — PATCO (@RidePATCO) May 8, 2019
Citing safety as a top priority, PATCO had said on Monday that it was planning to stop overnight train service to half of its stations in Philadelphia and South Jersey and running trains less often.
Owl Service speed line trains would run every 60 minutes instead of every 45 minutes, PATCO and the DRPA said. Besides fewer trains transporting people between Philadelphia and South Jersey, the agency would be serving less than half of its 13 stations. The Ashland, Haddonfield, Westmont, Collingswood, City Hall, 9/10th & Locust and 12/13th & Locust stations would be closed, PATCO said.
“The Owl Service adjustments increase and maintain a safe and comfortable travel experience for our owl riders,” agency general manager John D. Rink said Monday.
The agency said there would be an increased presence of police officers at the six stations (Lindenwold, Woodcrest, Ferry, Broadway, 8th & Market and 15/16th & Locust Stations) that would remain open and on the overnight trains.
Hanson said that a sex assault on an empty train in part prompted the changes. Earlier this year the woman passed out on an otherwise empty PATCO train early in the morning was sexually assaulted. A South Jersey man was charged in that incident.
Hanson also said that overnight ridership is also very low, with only a handful of riders at each station.
“There’s safety in numbers, having more riders together on trains and in stations provides greater security and better police coverage,” DRPA/PATCO Police Chief John L. Stief said Monday. “We evaluated ways to increase our police presence throughout the system during the owl hours. These service modifications allow us to do just that.”
Stay tuned for PATCO's new night owl plans.