TRENTON — Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) made the following remarks today at the Summit Rail Station regarding the signing of the NJ Transit reform legislation (S630/A1241) she sponsored:
“This reform legislation is the culmination of months of hearings into the systemic problems that have plagued New Jersey Transit, and after months of negotiations, I am proud that all of the major reforms we recommended remain in the law being signed today.
“This bill is not a panacea. But it will make NJ Transit one of the most representative, responsive and transparent public transit agencies in the country.
“That will be critical in ensuring that NJ Transit’s new leadership will be able to deliver the safe, reliable, on-time service its riders expect.
“We have a message for commuters. We have been listening.
“This legislation responds directly to the concerns of the many commuters who too often felt that NJ Transit had stopped listening to them and stopped caring about their needs.
“This bill ensures that will never happen again.
“This bill creates a new NJ Transit Board that will include both rail and bus commuters, and trustees recommended by the major North and South Jersey transportation planning agencies. It sets up 15-member commuter advisory boards for North and South Jersey, and creates a Customer Advocate to represent the needs of commuters within the agency on a daily basis.
“It requires public hearings not only for fare increases, ,but also prior to the elimination or substantial curtailment of service on any rail, bus or light rail line — and for the first time requires board members to attend those hearings to listen directly to the public. And for the first time, it requires the full Board to vote on these changes.
“It not only provides for continued legislative oversight, but requires the agency to provide a two-year budget and detailed financial information to the Legislature by April 1st of each year so that we can ensure that the agency is adequately funded.
“It requires detailed reporting of accident and safety records and of discrimination and harassment lawsuits.
“We are proud of this legislation. I would like to thank my former colleague, Senator Bob Gordon, who championed this legislation, and Assemblyman John McKeon, who co-chaired the hearings with Senator Gordon and has been equally steadfast in fighting for reform.
“I would also like to thank the legislators who served with us on the investigative committees, the legislative leadership that backed us, the staffers and transportation policy, experts who have worked so hard on NJ Transit reform for so many years, and NJ Transit and the Administration for their cooperation in reaching a final agreement on the needed reforms.”
FACT SHEET ON NJ TRANSIT REFORM LEGISLATION
The NJ Transit reform legislation (S630/A1241) signed into law today will:
• 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.