North Jersey writes a detailed obituary for the notoriously unreliable AirTrain—if a bit premature. While acknowledging the broken system fraught with delays and mechanical failures, the Port Authority is planning to keep the service running until 2022, when it will be replaced with a (hopefully) more robust solution.
When the AirTrain monorail opened at Newark International Airport in 1996, it was viewed as an engineering marvel. Finally, the airport’s old fleet of bouncy, slow, diesel-fuming jitney buses had been replaced by a sleek train passing silently overhead.
But AirTrain Newark was never reliable. And that should have come as no surprise to the people responsible for bringing it to the airport. They knew because they were told by the man who sold it to them.
“It was a system that had not been run previously in the snow,” said Paul H. Wyss, now 80 and retired for 20 years. He conceived the project in the early 1990s when he was chief of American operations for Von Roll Transport. “Everybody knew ahead of time that there would be issues with snow and snow removal,” he said.
That proved to be an understatement. Even before AirTrain was finished, the Port Authority had serious problems clearing snow and ice, which delayed the monorail’s opening. Those issues — plus a half-dozen more — grew worse over the next two decades.
(Photo credit: Port Authority)