(Bloomberg) -- Bosses are increasingly demanding that workers get back to the office. But mass transit isn’t cooperating.  

After three major delays on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit into New York City this week, some people say that commuting by train has never been worse.

Carissa Abraham, a 30-year-old media and influencer marketing lead at a luxury beauty company in New York City, says taking NJ Transit from Union, New Jersey, has become an “absolute nightmare.” Her commute home on Thursday, which normally takes two hours, took four hours. And the delays haven’t just affected her this week:  “This has become the norm, and it’s just never been this bad. Pre-pandemic it was never like this.” 

But Abraham’s firm “does not believe in work from home.” While Abraham and many of her colleagues commute in from New Jersey, their boss, who lives just blocks from the office, “doesn’t understand what everyone else has to experience.” 

Thursday’s problems followed major delays on trains coming in and out of New York’s Pennsylvania Station on Tuesday and then again on Friday, when all travel in and out of the station was suspended. A spokesperson from NJ Transit said that along with Amtrak, it was still investigating what caused the problem. 

“The reality is, because NJ Transit has been underfunded for decades, there are workers every single day that are left stranded on the side of the road,” said Alex Ambrose, a transportation and climate policy analyst at the New Jersey Policy Perspective. 

Even commuter efforts to start traveling earlier don’t help. “On days when I take earlier trains the delays are the worst,” said Shay Tucker, an East Orange, New Jersey resident. The 34-year-old said her 30-minute commute can reach up two and a half hours with delays. 

“People are trying to get on the trains, at this point everyone is late and we’re all tightly packed,” Tucker said. Luckily, she has an understanding boss. “As long as I text her or send her a Teams message,” she says, “I don’t have to come in to a toxic space.”  

Due to the more frequent delays, Tucker canceled her $211.00 monthly pass and buys $6.75 single tickets instead. She’s also turned around and worked from home some days due to delays.

On Thursday, a Bloomberg reporter got on a 1:47 p.m. train from Maplewood, New Jersey, to Penn Station to head to an event. At 2:18 p.m. — less than 10 minutes before it was scheduled to arrive — the train stopped dead in the Meadowlands. The conductor first blamed the delay on congestion, but then said there was a signal problem and that the train would move backwards to Newark’s Broad Street Station. But the train didn’t stop at Broad Street, and instead went backwards for several more miles. At around 3:05 p.m., it slowly started moving forward. At 3:08 p.m., it arrived Broad Street station and the conductor announced that it wouldn’t be moving. The doors finally opened there at 3:20 p.m. 

As the reporter got off the train, a woman in front of him was on her cell phone to see if she could take the PATH train to Manhattan to book a helicopter to John F. Kennedy airport — her only remaining chance at making a 5:30 p.m. flight.

Abraham, who commutes to the beauty company, sometimes has to take an Uber to get to work when the trains aren’t running, expensing the $150 to $200 ride to her company. At other times, “I say I can’t do this, and I’m just not coming in because I physically cannot deal with it,” she said. 

Despite all the mass transit hurdles, some New York City workers are still making it to the office, according to Kastle Systems data, with badge-ins reaching 53.8% of pre-Covid-19 levels the week ending June 12. 

Commuters may soon have another complaint: the cost. NJ Transit will hike its fare prices 15% percent across its bus, rail and light rail services effective July 1. The last fare increase was in 2015, when prices rose 9%.

Anandita Jha, who commutes to her job as an investment analyst at PGIM Fixed Income three days a week, is connecting with friends and neighbors in Princeton, New Jersey, as a way to prepare for delays with car pools and Ubers. WhatsApp groups that locals are using to coordinate filled up before she could even join.

“Having an exhausting commute, come home and barely have any time to eat, shower — it’s mentally exhausting the next day,” the 23-year-old said. And while she joked on TikTok about how nice it would be to move to New York City, she likes being at home with her parents for the time being. “I just graduated college last year, and the city is expensive,” she said.

Some commuters worry that their boss’s patience may be wearing thin. Mathew Leriche, a 24-year-old Bloomfield, New Jersey, resident who works as an engineer at a financial corporation, said his manager was understanding with him working from home this week. But if the delays continue, he’s worried this flexibility may wane.

“Next week, if it’s the exact same situation, I don’t think we’re going to have as much leeway,” he said. 

--With assistance from Skylar Woodhouse and Robert Langreth.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.