Audit of NJ Transit is released — Murphy says it won’t be ignored
METUCHEN — The long awaited audit of NJ Transit confirmed what many people already knew: The agency needs to hire more engineers and to improve communication with riders.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the audit, which he commissioned within a week of taking office in January, identified five areas to focus on: streamlined executive structure, better customer experience, improved procurement of parts/stock, enhanced personnel and more operating funding.
The report was blunt about its findings.
"NJ Transit has no strategic plan, no retention program, no knowledge management program, and no succession plans," the report by North Highland Worldwide Consulting concluded. "The organization has an overly complex organizational structure matched by equally as complex business processes. The organizational culture reflects `buck passing' and siloed behaviors, low employee morale, and ill-defined roles, authorities, and accountabilities."
Murphy said at an event at the Metuchen rail station that the report will not gather dust.
"Each of us knew that there were shortcomings in the way NJ Transit worked at its most basic and elemental level. We all watched over a period of years as what was once a national model for regional mass transit was racked by politics and poor management and virtually defunded."
Murphy attempted to put a human face on the issues facing NJ Transit with commuter Laura Kean, of Metuchen, who said she knows that her day is about to be compromised when her inbox is filled with alerts about canceled trains.
"I'm filled with the impending doom that I'll be late for a meeting, a parent/teacher conference, a baseball game, a band concert or worst of all, late for dinner and bedtime," Kean said.
Although the 166-page report took 10 months to release, Murphy said many of the conclusions of the report have been implemented including new leadership, improvements in communications with riders, recruitment of engineers and positive train control emergency braking installation.
“These audit results and recommendations will serve as the road map to rebuild NJ Transit to the national leader it once was," NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said. "We have already begun the process of making important reforms, which will provide the residents of New Jersey with a transportation system they deserve."
Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said the document is being used as a foundation to bring the agency into the 21st century. She said it does not point fingers at Amtrak, which owns and maintains the tracks used on the Northeast Corridor.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, R-Union, said the audit has left no doubt that legislative reforms are needed to help NJ Transit improve service and increase responsiveness to customer concerns.
“I look forward to working with Gov. Murphy and my legislative colleagues on the passage of reforms that will make it possible for New Jersey Transit to achieve its goal of providing dependable, affordable, and safe service to every passenger," Kean said.
Murphy said PTC installation is 70 percent complete and is so confident that NJ Transit will meet its December 31 deadline that there is no "plan B" in case the effort falls short.
"We will succeed," Murphy said.
Corbett added that he is keeping Amtrak and the Federal Railway Administration apprised of PTC installation. The project will step up starting Sunday when service will be suspended on 18 lines system line and fares reduced by 10 percent for November, December and January.
Murphy did not rule out a fare increase for riders after June 30.
"In a perfect world, I'd like to see that go on even longer but I'm not sure we're in a perfect world."