By Mike DeNardo

By Mike DeNardo

CAMDEN, NJ (CBS) – PATCO ridership is down over last year — but the ongoing track reconstruction on the Ben Franklin Bridge (see related story) isn’t entirely to blame.

Delaware River Port Authority CEO John Hanson says ridership on PATCO trains is down more than six percent over last year.

“In the beginning of the year it was the weather. And then we went into the extended weekend outages.  But that doesn’t explain the other four days,” because that lower ridership has held about steady since the beginning of this month when the single-tracking over the Ben Franklin Bridge started.

“I think people are probably not taking the discretionary trips and they’re doing other things, maybe working from home.”

For summertime riders who are packing onto crowded rush-hour trains, Hanson says the agency is trying to make the trip more comfortable.

“We changed the thermostats on the cars and I know we’re still hearing that they’re hot.  But, we’ve changed the thermostats to make the cars cooler.  We’re in the process of putting fans on the platforms to make the wait on the platforms a little cooler.”

Hanson says he hears riders’ complaints about fewer and more crowded trains during the track rehab.

“There’s longer headways, longer time between trains. So, when there’s longer time between trains, they’ll be more crowded. But, off-peak rush hour, we don’t typically have a problem with crowding.”

And for riders waiting for the first refurbished PATCO cars to go into service, their long-delayed debut has been delayed again, until at least August.

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