NJ Transit's persisting issues leads to investigation

By MATTHEW BEDELL
On October 7, 2019

Photo courtsey of Jason Lawrence, Flickr

New Jersey State Senate President Sweeney has announced investigations into the NJ Transit. The investigation itself stemmed from repeated issues with the NJ Transit's inability to meet the demand of its rail network in addition to shortfalls in its operating budget where it was operating at a loss. 

Governor Murphy has been keen on trying to fix the numerous issues within the organization, as it was a key promise he made since being elected.

He has already issued an audit of the NJ Transit and has signed a bill designed to bring about structural reform and changes. These changes were pushed as a direct response to the 2016 Hoboken crash that claimed one person's life and injured 114 people.

Nonetheless, issues have persisted. A committee comprised of Democrat and Republican State Senators is going to spearhead the effort to find solutions for the beleaguered NJ Transit. 

The investigation began over rumors of NJ Transit fare hikes. While NJ Transit's fares have been better than the Long Island Rail Road's, the gap between the two is so insignificant that it might as well be just as bad. 

Commuters are arguably paying more for less as the provided services continue to lack.

Historically, the reason behind many of the problems faced by NJ Transit has been a lack of adequate funding. While funding has increased by $240 million dollars since 2013, around 28% of NJ Transit's operating budget, Governor Murphy's proposal to increase funding by $25 million set off conversations in the State Senate. 

"We were disappointed because $25 million didn’t even cover their increased contract costs," State Senate President Sweeney wrote in a guest editorial for NJ.com, "our worries of a funding shortage were confirmed when NJ Transit’s four-year budget showed it was facing a $131 million budget shortfall by next summer."

Further investigations by NJ.com have proven NJ Transit to be multifaceted, but that they can be traced back to a root problem. NJ trains were being canceled at a significantly greater rate than the surrounding states due to staffing shortages or mechanical breakdowns. 

According to the New York Times, train 2606, an NJ Transit train on the New Jersey Coast Line corridor, was America's worst train; leaving its passengers waiting for it for far too long, and often being cancelled, 20 times in 2019 alone. 

Bus operations during this time also suffered, marking the need for greater reform.

While the full breadth of this investigation is not expected to begin until after the 2019 New Jersey elections, Sweeney has stated his inclination to fix the issue, forgetting to assign blame to someone. 

Whatever changes this may bring, whether it be additional funding for the NJ Transit, or continued changes to the organization as a whole, one thing remains certain: the people who use the NJ Transit are ready for a change that will better improve the quality and the service of the mass transit they rely upon to get to their destination. 

If left unattended, the lack of affordable mass transit will not do the state any favors in producing an economic boom.

 

mbedell@ramapo.edu

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