'Quiet cars' gain ground on commuter rail systems

Posted on August 10, 2010 by METRO Staff

[IMAGE]Quiet.jpg[/IMAGE]New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) will designate "Quiet Commute" cars on some trains in a 90-day pilot program beginning Sept. 7. NJ Transit will be the largest system with quiet cars once the program begins.

Quiet Commute cars will be available on weekdays on the first and last cars of Northeast Corridor express trains. The 3900-series was selected because the trains' relatively long trip times and regularly high ridership provide an ideal testing environment, according to NJ Transit.

The agency worked with Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) to learn about their experience managing a quiet car program.

"We want to make sure that it works, that there aren't any unforeseen consequences," Executive Director James Weinstein said. "We don't believe that there are - we think it's going to be a huge success. It's one of the things our customers ask for most."

In fact, SEPTA's quiet cars have been so popular that the agency is expanding its program from covering just peak hours to now covering the full work day. "We understand by expanding it to midday hours, that we're reaching a new demographic," Chief Press Officer Jerri Williams said. "We're not just reaching people that are used to it because they're commuting to and from work but, now, we're reaching those people that just come occasionally into Philly. We have a whole new education program, talking to them and having things in the paper, so they're fully aware of what the program entails."

In its customer surveys, SEPTA found that 92 percent of passengers agreed with a proposal to extend the quiet car program to all services, where possible. In addition, more than 90 percent of riders said the experience of riding in a quiet car met or exceeded their expectations.

NJ Transit will collect customer feedback on board and online during its pilot program. Assuming it goes well, Weinstein says the agency will likely begin adding quiet cars on the system's other 11 rail lines. "Based on the reaction we've gotten from our customers whose lines weren't chosen for the pilot, I see us rolling this out pretty quickly thereafter," he said.

Quiet car rules are enforced by fellow passengers and conductors, both agencies said. "It's basically self-policed," Weinstein said. In the initial stages, NJ Transit conductors will hand out small business cards explaining the quiet car rules - a practice borrowed from SEPTA's program.

"You know, no cell phones, if you have an iPod, you need to use your earpieces and keep the volume down to a minimum, if you do need to speak, you need to speak in a whisper - those types of rules," Williams said. "They were all laid out in a very friendly, comfortable way. It's a courtesy that we're hoping that all the passengers understand and follow."

"If you're looking for a relaxing ride, all of those things contribute to depriving you of that," Weinstein said.

NJ Transit is publicizing the Quiet Commute cars on its Website and also plans to wrap one of the cars to advertise their availability.


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