EDITORIAL: Trainwreck created by NJ Transit
New Penn Station policy is targeted at homeless community
A lot of Rutgers students rely on the train to get to home and back. Being affordable and convenient, sites of train stations become popular areas with high volumes of people. If you have ever sat down to wait for a train amongst these crowds of people, you have probably noticed that there are some homeless people who inhabit these areas. But this might not be the case anymore at Penn Station in Newark.
Any passenger who wishes to sit in the main waiting room at Penn Station must show an NJ Transit official their train ticket. This change in procedure also includes enforcing the already instated two-hour time limit that the station has for waiting rooms. Officials from NJ Transit have explained that their reasoning for making this decision is just to ensure that those who are actually passengers may have room to sit down. But the policy seems to be targeting another “problem” that NJ Transit thinks they have.
Although NJ Transit officials have denied that their decision has nothing to do with the removal of homeless people from their waiting rooms, this decision seems like it has everything to do with homeless people, as the New Jersey American Liberties Union has expressed. The only other seating area NJ Transit said that accommodates for the public is a seating area with benches that is located far behind the Amtrak’s seating. It is in an area difficult to find. Considering this along with the new policies, NJ Transit really seems to be sending a message that they want to keep the public out of the station. This decision is not only borderline unconstitutional but also morally problematic: ACLU and NJ Transit made an agreement which states people without tickets are not allowed on station platforms but everywhere else is allowed.
Homelessness is an institutional issue. Although New Jersey has reported a decrease in homelessness over the past year, the issue is still prevalent and these people are still suffering so heavily from poverty that they are forced to live on the streets. When public places homeless people rest in find ways to force them out, they are left with no options.
This NJ Transit policy resembles previous architectural designs other cities have implemented to keep homeless people from sleeping or resting in public places. Benches with added arm rests and building fronts with spikes in sheltered areas appear to be obvious attacks at the homeless community, displaying not only the indifference of cities towards homeless people but also their contempt.
As for Penn Station, regardless of its true intentions, it is creating an inconvenience for the homeless community and claiming that it is doing the opposite for the paying customers. But think about train station waiting rooms. There are apps and websites where people are able to check the time that trains arrive at, allowing them to spend as little amount of time in the station as possible. Even when there are delays, people should not be spending more than a few hours in train stations. How much trouble can the presence of homeless people cause for those who are waiting for trains? Are homeless people sitting in seats so inconvenient that it needs the installment of officers and checkpoints to have tickets checked? It’s not as if these people are freeloading and attempting to get free rides on the train — conductors check tickets while passengers are actually on the train. This new policy is hurting a group of people that has already been hurt by society and circumstances enough.
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