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Bill to Create Independent New Jersey Transit Rider Advocacy Commission and Customer Advocate Advances

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Trenton – The Senate Transportation Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Raj Mukherji that would establish an independent Rider Advocacy Commission and a New Jersey Transit Customer Advocate. The bill, S-1190, would provide an independent institutional voice for the interests, experience, and needs of New Jersey Transit customers, financed separately from NJT’s funds.

“On any given weekday, NJ Transit connects 350,000 riders to work, school, and family. As one of the largest transit systems in the country, it’s inexcusable that there is no independent official or body to look out for our riders,” said Senator Mukherji (D-Hudson). “An autonomous Rider Advocate and Commission, whose accountability is to the Legislature and not NJ Transit, would more fairly serve our commuters’ interests. The just-announced fare hikes, for example, would have been subject to analysis and a need determination by the Rider Advocate under the bill.”

The Rider Advocacy Commission would have three members: one appointed by the Governor, one appointed by the President of the Senate, and one appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly.

This Commission would then appoint a Rider Advocate, who in turn would head a newly established New Jersey Transit Office of Customer Advocate. The bill would repeal the provision of law for the New Jersey Transit Board to employ a customer advocate internally. The Commission is modeled in part after the NYC Transit Riders Council.

The Rider Advocate would have the authority to consult temporary expert assistants during NJT changes such as planned or actual fare increases and substantial reductions or expansions in service. The bill would also authorize the Office to engage in investigations, conduct research, and present comments and testimony to NJT’s board of directors and legislative committees.

In an effort to hear from riders about their experience directly, the Office would also be required to conduct meetings with NJT’s customers on at least a monthly basis. Additionally, an official website and voicemail to allow for public input on NJT operations would be created.

Funds for the Commission and the Office’s expenses would be appropriated by the Legislature and will be independent from any funds appropriated for the New Jersey Transit Corporation.

The bill advanced in a 5-0 vote.