More budget money for NJ Transit: Would it really fix things?
TRENTON — In his budget speech on Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said his fiscal year 2021 proposed spending plan includes an additional $132 million to continue to fix New Jersey Transit.
Murphy said the extra money will be used to support bus and rail enhancements, new hiring and the first phase of what will become an electrified bus fleet.
But not everyone believes the additional funding will really get to the root of the embattled agency’s problem.
Len Resto, the president of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers, said getting more money will certainly help to fully implement the positive train control emergency braking system and to purchase more equipment, but the main issue at NJ Transit is the people in charge.
“The present executive management has just proven singularly unable to reverse the slide that has been happening over years," Resto said. “They just have been unable to get things fixed."
Resto said the DOT commissioner also serves as the president of the NJ Transit Board of Directors, an organization that until recently consisted of three people.
He said one problem is that NJ Transit’s customer advocate official is an NJ Transit employee, who will temper his criticism of the agency because that’s where he’s getting his paycheck from.
Another big problem continues to be communication.
He said if a train is cancelled, the announcement shouldn’t come 10 minutes after the train was supposed to arrive at the station.
“That announcement should be made early enough so that people know not even to go to the train station," he said.
Resto said if an engineer doesn’t show up for work, NJ Transit should immediately inform passengers at all stations along the route that the train has been cancelled.
Staffing shortages means that train tickets sometimes go uncollected.
He also pointed out many trains are filthy.
He also pointed out the state auditor issued a scathing report on NJ Transit, suggesting the positive train control implementation deadline of Dec. 31 might not be met.
“If it’s not met, you risk having the system shut down because Amtrak won’t allow non-PTC trains to operate on Amtrak territory," he said.
NJ Transit’s Northeast Corridor line uses tracks owned by Amtrak in their normal day-to-day operations.
Resto said that when Phil Murphy became governor, “he promised he was going to fix NJ Transit even if it killed him. We’re afraid it may kill him.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com