NEWARK — How many NJ Transit engineers will stay home for the afternoon commute?

There were only two trains canceled Tuesday morning because of "crew shortages" created by union locomotive engineers exercising their option to stay home from work for 48 hours if they are bumped from an assignment by a worker with more seniority.

"We prepared very carefully and proactively with the union leadership ahead of the summer schedule being cognizant of this contractual option. [We told them,] please make sure your members are assuming their assignments expeditiously to make this as seamless as possible,"  NJ Transit Nancy Snyder told New Jersey 101.5.

Snyder compared the process of workers trying to bump out less senior employees in search of an assignment option to the 1980s' Faberge shampoo commercial.

"I told two two friends, and they told two friends. And so on and so on and so on."

She said crew shortages have happened before, especially during system-side schedule changes and is confident things will settle down.

"There is a heightened awareness" this time because of the summer schedule.

"Exercising this contractural option is not doing the public good," Snyder said.

James Brown, general chairman of the New Jersey Chapter of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and Steve Burket, general chairman of SMART Local 60, have not yet returned calls seeking comment.

Brown told the issue for engineers is not work schedules but a shortage of engineers. The Penn Station project has used up engineers on the "extra" list and crews are spread too thin.

Snyder said the canceled bus runs on Tuesday morning were the result of a "reallocation of assets" that will improve the summer service plan.

"Sometimes we see demand growing here in one location and not another. Some assets are relocated from routes with less demand to cover higher demand  areas that work around the rail service changes."

She said that there are cases where another bus is often times right behind to pick up passengers.

Share your “Summer of Delays” experience with New Jersey 101.5 and join our commuter panel. Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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