Startups, library offering NJ Transit alternatives during 'summer of hell'

The so-called summer of hell for commuters who use Penn Station in Manhattan starts Monday when Amtrak begins major track work that will force reductions in service on LIRR and New Jersey Transit. Some businesses are already reaching out to riders who don't want to brave a ride into the city.

A librarian, a small-town mayor, and two tech-company CEOs walked onto New Jersey Transit platforms Wednesday and explained their plans to help riders forsaken by their railroad during the next six weeks of transit hell.

"We are chartering buses that will leave directly from five New Jersey train stations," Boxcar CEO Joe Colangelo said. A year ago, he founded the "Airbnb of parking spaces" to provide parking for those in suburban communities with long waiting lists for expensive spots at train station lots. On Monday, his company launches $14 round-trip bus rides with Wi-Fi, power outlets, and air conditioning from Madison, Short Hills, Summit, Chatham, and Millburne to Penn Station.

In the absence of reliable train service from Morristown, Craig Nestler's Skedaddle, which allows users to create and join custom public transit journeys by van and bus all across America, also plans to launch a round-trip bus service from that town to Penn Station Monday.

Maplewood Memorial Library Director Sarah Lester plans to open an hour earlier and offer reserved private work rooms in addition to all of the everyday high-speed Wi-Fi, public computer, notary, and fax services to her community's commuters served by only a few direct trains and buses until September 1.

"And they can use the room for conference calls, Skyping, business meetings," she said.

Maplewood Mayor Victor De Luca has worked to reduce the level of underworld to which commuters may descend during this so-called summer of hell but admitted that riders will still suffer. The mayor declined to even entertain the possibility that the slashed service might continue beyond the estimated September 1 finish date.

"This is not going to continue. We're just going to not let it continue. This was sprung on us," De Luca said. "We were not invited to be at the table to do any planning."