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Challenging Morning For NJ TRANSIT, LIRR Commuters Amid Penn Station Repairs

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — It was a challenging start to the day for some NJ TRANSIT and Long Island Rail Road commuters as delays, cancellations and suspensions all snarled the morning rush.

The LIRR's Long Beach Branch service was suspended Tuesday morning after two cars of a train with no passengers partially derailed, blocking access to the Long Beach train yard. MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said the train was going about five miles per hour at the time.

"This morning's situation it's not something we expected to happen, but we know anything is possible when you run a railroad and so we have alternatives available to be able to work with each and every one of the folks who needed to come in," Lhota said.

Lhota said planning for the "summer of hell" repairs made coping with Tuesday's derailment faster and more efficient.

"We looked at this summer from an abundance of caution and converted it into an abundance of choice," he said. "Part of that choice is being able to use whatever resources we could find, whether it's busses or rerouting the trains, getting people to the trains."

Lhota was also called to task for the Monday track fire at 145th Street in Harlem that brought subway service to a standstill for thousands.

On Tuesday, the chairman said track fires are down 90 percent since 1981. Still, CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reports there were some 680 track fires in 2016.

He said the agency is expecting delivery by the end of the year of new track cleaning trains and track vacuums.

"The goal is no fires, plain and simple," Lhota said.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer says the MTA should have acted sooner.

"This is outrageous, we released an audit two years ago that showed there was so much trash on the tracks the rats were standing upright," Stringer said.

In the wake of Monday's track fire, officials started discussing an unusual move to deal with the track trash -- a possible food ban.

"I think it's a great idea," one man said. "There should be a serious fine for putting trash on the tracks."

"If it's going to stop fires and stuff like that, then I have no problem with that," another man said.

Still, others weren't sure how the MTA will enforce a possible food ban.

Lhota said the decision to ban food would be included in his 30-day review report.

He said the MTA is going to canvas other transit agencies to see how they handle the problem. Also, instead of banning the food outright, Lhota said the agency might engage in a public education campaign instead.

Meanwhile, some NJ TRANSIT trains have been canceled this week because engineers are choosing not to work under the terms of their contract amid the summer-long repair work at Penn Station.

NJ TRANSIT had to cancel two North Jersey Coast Line trains Tuesday morning due to a manpower shortage. Several trains were canceled Monday afternoon on the North Jersey Coast Line and Northeast Corridor line.

NJ TRANSIT spokeswoman Nancy Snyder says engineers are allowed a 48-hour grace period to report for work after schedules are changed. She says that happens a few times a year and trains occasionally are canceled.

The Associated Press sent emails to engineers' union officials seeking comment on the cancellations.

And for the second day in a row, NJ TRANSIT's Princeton Shuttle service was suspended Tuesday.

NJ TRANSIT says the suspension was due to rail service following maintenance to overhead wires, but on Twitter earlier Tuesday morning, it said the shuttle service was suspended "as a result of no engineer."

The service is known as the Dinky and NJ TRANSIT says substitute bus service is being provided. Passengers are advised to arrive 15 minutes before their planned departure.

Separately, NJ TRANSIT says bus service to the New York Port Authority is facing delays Tuesday due to a disabled bus in the express bus lane.

For more information, click here.

In addition, PATH trains on the Journal Square-33rd Street and the Newark-World Trade Center lines also faced some delays for a time Tuesday due to an electrical problem. Normal service has since resumed.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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