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Potential NJ Transit strike could have an outsized effect on this central N.J. town

Wednesday, March 9, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 03/08/2016

The Metuchen train station is sometimes described as the town's center of gravity. Without the vital link to New York City, it's hard to imagine what this small, vibrant borough would look like. So what happens if NJ Transit rail workers go on strike or are locked out next week amid a labor dispute? Nobody knows, but the general consensus is that it could give the Brainy Borough some serious headaches, especially for local businesses. "We are concerned about the weekday," said Metuchen Mayor Peter Cammarano. "The station is right in the middle of downtown Metuchen. The impact it'll have on businesses is significant." Workers could be off the job in a week, although labor leaders have said there's some progress on an agreement to keep the trains running on time by a March 13 deadline. NJ Transit and 11 rail unions resume negotiations as the deadline to a rail strike is less than a week away.

In Metuchen, local leaders aren't just worried about the inconvenience for its commuters or the increased abundance of cars on the road. It could also deplete a customer base that hits happy hours and bakery shops after work, drops off suits at local dry cleaners, and hitches rides from a nearby taxi stand. Perhaps more than any other Middlesex County town, the effects will be evident here: Just walk around the train station around 5:30 p.m. and — actually, on second thought, don't bother, it's too crowded with disembarking commuters. NJ Transit Rail Strike Plans Buses and highways will bear the brunt of displaced train riders if there is a rail strike Metuchen's downtown carries with it no shortage of civic pride, but also civic fretting. Several businesses, including the To Be Continued bookstore and an Indian restaurant across the street, have recently gone out of business (the Mariachi Mexican restaurant, the Phattra Thai restaurant and others have opened, helping fill some of the gap). People often point to a lack of foot traffic downtown as one of the culprits for downtown's struggles.

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