Murphy calls NJ Transit a ‘national disgrace’
SECAUCUS — Gov.-elect Phil Murphy says a primary goal of his newly appointed head of transportation is to fix embattled NJ Transit, which he called "a national disgrace."
The Democrat on Wednesday announced Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti as his choice for transportation commissioner.
Gutierrez-Scaccetti spent the last six years as a top official in Florida's transportation department. Before that she served for more than 20 years at New Jersey's DOT, including nearly 12 years as deputy executive director.
Murphy vowed to fix “the national disgrace that is NJ Transit.”
Murphy said to accomplish this requires “turning it upside down and shaking it up so that we can make it right again.”
Murphy said travelers have had to put up with “years of deferred maintenance or problems ignored altogether, rank patronage and questionable finances, defunding by the state.”
He said another problem has been NJ Transit “looking at commuters not as commuters, but as piggy banks to be raided and not customers to be served, riders cannot be blamed for their anger, NJ Transit has failed them.”
NJ Transit has come under criticism for problems including equipment breakdowns and frequent delays.
This week, riders experienced 90-minute delays, but the agency blamed Amtrak.
NorthJersey.com also reported this week that NJ Transit paid $4.4 million to purchase office space at its Newark headquarters that it did not use.
A plan put forth last week by Republican Gov. Chris Christie would raise fares on NJ Transit riders beginning in 2020 to help pay for a new rail tunnel into New York.
Scaccetti said she will study the situation carefully as the new DOT commissioner.
“If there are patronage jobs and they’re not valuable or the people aren’t performing services, then we need to deal with that, we need to make certain that we have people in the right seats on the bus, so you either get in the right seat on the bus, and you row in the same direction as we do, or you have to get off the bus," she said.
As for possible NJ Transit fare hikes in the not-too-distant future, Murphy said “commuters on NJ Transit are now paying 36 percent more than they were eight years ago, and I always ask when I’m around the state: Is your commuting experience up 36 percent? The answer, of course, is no.”
Murphy also said repairs roads and bridges in the Garden state will be a top priority.
“Investing in our infrastructure will create jobs, good paying jobs immediately," he said. “I don’t think I can possibly overstate how important this job is or how challenging it will be, and we can’t overstate how qualified Diane is to meet these challenges.”
The Associated Press and David Matthau contributed to this report.
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