“Governor Christie’s mismanagement of NJTransit has wrecked what was once a national leading transit agency. The quality of service has declined even as fares keep rising – and too many people feel unsafe simply by riding the train. People’s jobs and businesses depend upon a safe and reliable transit network. We must do better, and when I am governor, we will.”
Tens of thousands of New Jerseyans depend on NJ Transit to get to and from work every day. It is a vital engine of our state’s economy.
Governor Christie has neglected NJ Transit. He has slashed state funding for NJ Transit operations by over 90 percent. As a result of this sharp decrease in aid, NJ Transit had to raise fares by 36 percent under Governor Christie – passing more costs onto New Jersey’s working families, which in effect created a burdensome commuter tax. And he has diverted billions of dollars from NJ Transit’s capital budget – which should be used to make essential investments to expand service – in order to make up for his lack of fiscal discipline.
At the same time, Governor Christie has staffed NJ Transit with political cronies who lack the professional and technical expertise to manage such an essential agency. He drove top officials out of the agency, including a respected executive director who left NJ Transit to join the MTA.
And to make matters worse, in one of the worst public policy decisions in the history of our state, Governor Christie canceled the ARC tunnel – which would have expanded capacity for our tunnels and made us more secure after Hurricane Sandy. The ARC project would have been completed next year, and canceling the tunnel set our state and our region back at least a decade and many billions of dollars. It caused businesses not to invest here and people not to move here – and our rail service and economic security have been badly damaged as a result.
By omission and commission, Governor Christie has taken NJ Transit from a system that was widely viewed as a national model to one that is in a state of disrepair. NJ Transit had the most mechanical failures of any peer railroad in 2015, with over 50% more failures than the second-highest ranking railroad. The agency won federal approval to install modern safety technology in 2010, but the technology – which could have stopped the September 2016 crash in Hoboken that killed one and injured 110 – has not yet been implemented.
In April, following the derailment that set off a series of massive delays from New York Penn Station, Phil convened a roundtable of transportation experts, transit union leaders, and commuter advocates to solicit their thoughts on how to fix NJTransit.
Phil 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, Phil 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. Gov. Christie’s budget cuts have required NJTransit to either raid its capital fund or raise fares to pay for operating expenses. Further, NJTransit is 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.