Trenton — With NJTransit in a state of crisis and frayed commuters crying out for leadership to fix the system, Phil Murphy today unveiled a multi-tiered action plan for overhauling the agency and ensuring the system restores the confidence of New Jersey commuters. Murphy noted that a modern, functioning transportation infrastructure is key to creating economic growth for New Jersey.
“New Jersey’s exasperated commuters need an NJTransit that will take their concerns and complaints seriously and a governor committed to cleaning up this mess,” said Murphy. “Over the past seven years, Gov. Christie has allowed a nationally recognized transit agency devolve into an unreliable and unsustainable punchline. I am ready to be the governor who turns NJTransit around and restores both competence and confidence in the NJTransit system.”
Murphy noted the while Amtrak shares in the blame for the recent commuter nightmare, Gov. Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC Tunnel and his 90-percent budget cut to NJTransit has left the system broken and unresponsive to commuter needs.
“Not only have commuters suffered through interminable delays, now they’re facing the prospect of potentially crippling outages throughout the summer. This is a time for real leadership to step in and let NJTransit’s fare-payers know that someone has their back,” said Senator Robert Gordon (D-Bergen), chairman of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee. “This is the time for a governor who has a long-term vision and plan for restoring NJTransit and rebuilding the public’s trust. Phil has shown he would be that governor.”
“While Governor Christie has been pointing fingers at anyone and anything to try to distract the public from his culpability in NJTransit’s downslide, the system continues to fall apart and commuters continue to be left behind,” said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), who chairs the Assembly Judiciary Committee. “NJTransit’s waiting area in New York Penn Station is always unbearably hot, and without action it’s only going to get worse in the coming months. This plan to make NJTransit work — both literally and figuratively — is exactly what we need to fill the Christie leadership void.”
“We need to reverse the Christie curse at NJTransit. The crisis at Penn Station exemplifies eight years of neglect for transit riders. Instead of getting into their cars or abandoning transit, this plan gives riders a lifeline – your commute is going to get better,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey and cofounder of NJ For Transit. “NJTransit is not going to transform overnight – it’s a system in crisis. But the road to recovery starts by acknowledging how bad things have gotten. This plan starts to fix the little things – like creating true transparency with commuters – while tackling transit’s funding woes by moving towards more stable funding, eventually from dedicated sources like neighboring states. NJTransit riders are paying too much for disastrous service, and this plan will finally start to put NJTransit back on track.”
In April, following the derailment that set off a series of massive delays from New York Penn Station, Murphy convened a roundtable of transportation experts, transit union leaders, and commuter advocates to solicit their thoughts on how to fix NJTransit.
Murphy called for a series of immediate steps to provide near-term commuter relief:
- Appointing an Emergency Manager to re-convene a working relationship with Amtrak — a relationship that currently is broken — around issues at Penn Station, as well as coordinate with various state and federal agencies, including the Port Authority.
- Undertaking an immediate capital and personnel audit of NJTransit to understand the true needs of the agency.
- Improving customer service by deploying more uniformed NJTransit personnel in NY Penn Station, Secaucus, and Newark Penn, among other key stations. Murphy also would require NJTransit to have push notifications about delayed trains on its app, create a “Where’s my train?” app that would mirror the “Where’s my bus?” app, and make it easier for commuters to obtain delay letters both online and through the app.
- Expanding options for alternative service by creating an indefinite cross-honoring agreement with PATH and also cross-honoring with ferries and bus services, including private carriers.
- Increasing transparency by requiring weekly reports by NJ Transit including data on number of trains on time during peak and off-peak hours and length of delays, as well as opening more NJTransit board meetings to the public and streaming them online.
- Holding Amtrak accountable on repairs to ensure that no hour in which tracks are closed is wasted and disruptions are minimized disruptions, including requiring work to be done during off-hours and through holiday weekends.
At the same time, Murphy said he would undertake a long-term reform effort to fundamentally rebuild NJTransit and ensure the creation of new infrastructure needed to make the system sustainable and reliable:
- Restore operating assistance for NJTransit and explore dedicated funding sources. Gov. Christie’s budget cuts have required NJTransit to either raid its capital fund or raise fares to pay for operating expenses. Further, NJTransit’s lack of a dedicated funding source makes it overly reliant on fares — 57% of the operating budget is funded by fares, which have increased 36% under Christie.
- Work with New Jersey’s Congressional Delegation and federal and regional officials to secure funding for the Gateway Tunnel Project and the Port Authority Bus Terminal among other critical infrastructure investments. In addition, he would work to build new relationships with public sector actors throughout the region – including both legislators and Port Authority commissioners – to better coordinate infrastructure investment.
- Restore professionalism to NJT management by implementing the recommendations of the capital and personnel audit to hire a new class of professional and nationally-qualified management.
- Ensure NJ Transit’s board has commuter representation to better allow the agency to respond to consumer concerns.
- Establish an ongoing working arrangement with Amtrak, NJTransit, and the LIRR to fund capital improvements in and around Penn Station, including those that would facilitate better passenger movement.
- Expedite implementation of safety measures, including Positive Train Control automatic braking technology, to guarantee long-range passenger safety.