Sweeney: NJ Transit’s failures hurt economy, housing values & quality of life for commuters
Trenton– Senate President Steve Sweeney announced today the creation of the Senate Select Committee on New Jersey Transit to investigate the reasons for NJ Transit’s continued failures and to develop an action plan to turn around the embattled agency.
Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland) said he will chair the high-powered panel, whose members will include Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), Deputy Majority Leader Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson), Senate Transportation Committee Chair Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) as well as Republicans who will be named.
“Our transportation system is the lifeblood of our economy, and the failure to turn around NJ Transit hurts our economic growth, tax base, housing values and the quality of life of over a million commuters and their families,” said Senator Sweeney. “NJ Transit’s record of service cancellations, delays and breakdowns is inexcusable, its long-term planning is non-existent, and it is already laying the groundwork for a fare hike next summer.”
Senator Weinberg, the Legislature’s leading mass transit advocate, said she believes that the state needs to provide more than the $75 million in additional operating support for NJ Transit in this year’s budget.
“The New York Times just told the world that the worst commuter train in America is an NJ Transit train. We need to hear from commuters, transportation experts, and others to determine an appropriate increase in operating funds to adequately support an agency that carries more than 900,000 bus, rail and light rail passengers,” Senator Weinberg stated.
The multi-year budget NJ Transit provided to the Legislature in April in compliance with Senate Bill 630, the NJ Transit reform legislation sponsored by Senators Weinberg and Diegnan that was signed into law last December, showed that the agency would be facing a $131 million budget deficit by June 2020.
“It has been three years since a young mother was killed in a train derailment at Hoboken station,” said Senator Cunningham. “The legislative hearings that followed showed a pattern of neglect, mismanagement, inadequate maintenance and poor planning by the previous Administration. We owe it to all mass transit commuters to face this issue head on.”
NJ Transit trains are four times as likely to be cancelled as Long Island Railroad and Metro North trains that serve New York and Connecticut suburbs, and NJ Transit’s accident and breakdown rate is worse than other major railroads. The agency has struggled to hire enough bus drivers, and breakdowns of old buses are a frequent problem.
“Everyone agrees we must do a better job of long-term planning,” said Senator Diegnan. “We trail other transit agencies in planning for conversion to an electric bus fleet, and the Gateway rail tunnel isn’t the only project that is in limbo. We need to know how we are going to fund expansion of rail freight capacity, make needed improvements to the Raritan Valley Line, and pay for the Hudson-Bergen and Gloucester-Camden light rail.”
Senator Sweeney said the Select Committee would hold public hearings and roundtables, and conduct site visits.