NJ Transit director explains why they can’t get trains to run on time
NEWARK — On a day when NJ Transit canceled 10 morning trains, the agency's leadership shed some light on why cancelations and delays have become the norm this summer.
Executive Director Kevin Corbett blamed an engineer shortage exacerbated by years of underfunding as well as ongoing efforts to install positive train control braking technology.
A commuter that addressed the NJ Transit board meeting on Wednesday said her trains had been cancelled so often in the past week that she could "fly to Florida" in the time it takes her to get to work in New York.
The agency has said it is about 50 engineers short. Corbett said that between 2010 and 2017, the agency offered eleven locomotive engineer classes but 47 engineers left NJ Transit.
"Now we are forced to make up for eight years of inattentiveness to engineer recruitment," Corbett said in his August report, a dig at budget cuts made by former Gov. Chris Christie.
In addition to the nine engineers graduating classes this month, the agency is "incentivizing" conductors to consider becoming engineers.
NJ Transit's pay is much lower than that of engineers for Metro North and the MTA and engineers often are lured away by bigger pay and incentives.
Corbett acknowledged the increasing frustrations of riders.
"It has been a difficult time lately to be a train rider and our customers' patience has been put to the test. As a train rider myself, let me assure you that I have felt our customers pain," said Corbett, who rides the Morris & Essex Line.
The board voted to move $511 million from its capital budget to day-to-day operations and admitted it's a practice not favored by Gov. Phil Murphy.
“The operating and capital budgets represent balanced, fiscally-sound spending plans, which keep fares stable and allow for long-needed investments as we continue our commitment to safety,” Corbett said in a statement about the budget. “This budget will allow us to continue to serve the needs of our customers who rely on NJ TRANSIT for life’s everyday commitments."