Senate, Assembly give final approval to bill to add commuters to NJT Board, mandate public hearings, establish legislative oversight and expand disclosure
TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assemblyman John McKeon and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. today lauded final passage of sweeping NJ Transit reform legislation that will add commuters to the NJ Transit Board, mandate public hearings prior to substantial schedule changes or fare hikes, expand legislative oversight, and mandate the disclosure of detailed fiscal, safety and personnel data.
“This legislation is not a panacea for all of the problems that have plagued New Jersey Transit,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “But it will help NJ Transit’s new leadership deliver the safe, reliable, on-time service its riders have a right to expect by making it one of the nation’s most representative, responsive and transparent public transit agencies. This bill responds directly to the many commuters who too often felt that NJ Transit had stopped listening and caring about their needs.”
“This is the first major structural reform of NJ Transit since the agency was created under the late Governor Byrne almost 40 years ago,” said Assemblyman McKeon (D-Essex). “The legislation includes the various reforms developed during months of investigative hearings by the Senate Legislative Oversight and Assembly Judiciary Committees. We worked cooperatively with the Administration to incorporate recommendations from the Governor’s NJ Transit audit.”
“The overwhelming bipartisan passage of this legislation exemplifies the cooperation of Republican and Democratic legislative leaders who have stood together in recent years on the most important mass transit issues, from improving NJ Transit service to pushing for funding to expand rail and bus capacity by building the Gateway Tunnel and expanding the Port Authority Bus Terminal,” said Senator Kean (R-Union).
The Assembly voted 77-0 to approve the bill today, and the Senate, which had passed an earlier version of the bill in June, gave final legislative approval to the amended bill by a 39-0 vote. The Governor is expected to sign the bill into law.
The legislation (S630/A1241) would:
- Create a new, broadly representative 13-member NJ Transit Board of Directors chaired by the Commissioner of Transportation that will include at least one rail and one bus commuter; one representative each recommended by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and by the New Jersey members of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission; four public board members with transportation policy experience, including one each recommended by the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker; the State Treasurer and one representative of the Governor’s Office; and two non-voting representatives of the largest NJ Transit rail and bus employee unions.
- Expand public hearing requirements to mandate daytime and evening hearings, each of which must be attended by at least two NJ Transit Board members, for fare increases and for the elimination or substantial curtailment of service on any rail, bus or light rail line
- Require the full NJ Transit Board to vote on all fare increases or the elimination or substantial curtailment of service.
- Require 50 percent of board meetings to be held in the evening to facilitate commuter attendance and input.
- Require NJ Transit to submit a two-year budget including operating and revenue projections, ridership data, employee statistics and the status of capital projects, by April 1 each year to enable the Legislature to ensure that the agency is adequately funded during its budget deliberations.
- Require the public disclosure of detailed data on accident and safety records, and on discrimination and harassment lawsuits.
- Require the appointment of a Chief Ethics Officer to investigate allegations of unethical conduct or illegal activity within the agency.
- Establish a whistleblower protection program and a toll-free hot line for reporting improper activity.
- Establish the right of legislative committees to call in NJ Transit’s chair and top two executives for public hearings.
- Set up broadly representative 15-member North Jersey and South Jersey Transportation Advisory Committees to be made up primarily of rail, bus and light rail commuters to advise NJ Transit’s management and its Board of Directors.
- Create a Customer Advocate, as recommended by the Governor’s NJ Transit audit, to represent the needs of commuters within the agency on a daily basis.
- Revise procurement and contracting provisions to make NJ Transit more efficient.
- Authorize NJ Transit to enter into contracts to operate passenger ferry and light rail service, which were not included in the original law.
The NJ Transit reform bill grew out of joint Senate-Assembly hearings held over a 15-month period following the fatal Hoboken derailment that were chaired by former Senator Bob Gordon and Assemblyman McKeon, with Senator Weinberg and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson serving as vice-chairs. Senator Kean, who served as the ranking Republican on the investigative panel, cosponsored the bill.