Hakim Tapped as Weinstein Steps Down

NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein has submitted his resignation and will leave his post by March 2, according to reporting by Karen Rouse in The Record (Feb. 18).  He will be replaced by Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, currently executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.  The transit agency has been controversial since flooding damaged stored rail equipment during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and further controversy erupted this year over difficulties handling unexpected ridership to the Super Bowl on February 2; in the letter announcing his departure, Weinstein however praised NJT employees for their performance at the Super Bowl event.  The Record had reported 1 day earlier that the resignation was expected.  The Record also is reporting that NJT employee morale is low, with workers complaining about low morale and “favoritism in the upper ranks”, tension between NJT and NJ Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson, and a breakdown-prone bus and rail system that is losing the confidence of its customers. Web-site breakdowns and a recent failure to renew NJT’s trademarks add to a sense of unease about the competence of the mammoth transit operating agency.

NJ State Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who has been critical of Jim Weinstein’s leadership, was quoted by Kate Hinds in the WNYC site Transportation Nation on Hakim’s appointment: ‘I think Ronnie Hakim has had a successful tenure at the Turnpike and is well regarded; I think she’ll make an excellent executive director.  My word of caution: nobody can run that agency without the necessary support from the state budget.” Observers have criticized the state for having diverted money from transit projects to highway maintenance.

Larry Higgs, reporting in the Asbury Park Press, quoted Lackawanna Coalition chair David Peter Alan: “NJ Transit has done very poorly this winter.  They haven’t seemed to be able to cope with the snow.  Sandy was a major contributing factor.  We’ve never been satisfied with the explanation why almost 400 locomotives and cars were left in places that flooded.  On top of that, the Super Bowl didn’t go well.”  Alan also said that the new executive director needs to make changes to NJT’s fare structure, make management changes, and strengthen working relationships with commuter groups.  Alan said that NJT needs to become “more customer-orientated and about moving people (rather) than moving buses and trains.” The new director needs to “come up with something new that gives customers a better experience,” Alan said.

The New York Times (Feb. 18) also covered the story in reporting by Matt Flegenheimer, headlined “Chief of New Jersey Transit to Quit after a Rocky Tenure.”

NY Daily News reporting by Tim O’Connor stressed NJT’s problems in dealing with the customer crush at the Super Bowl; the Daily News had reported that most of 100 buses held in reserve at the Super Bowl never got used.

The Record’s report was formerly at http://www.northjersey.com/news/NJ_Transit_executive_director_Weinstein_to_step_down.html

The Transportation Nation story is at http://www.wnyc.org/story/njtransit-weinstein/

The Asbury Park Press story was formerly at http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/201402182237/NJNEWS/302190022

Previous reporting (Feb. 16) in The Record noted that Weinstein might be on the way out; the article was formerly at http://www.northjersey.com/news/NJ_Transit_chief_likely_to_answer_for_agencys_key_failures.html

The New York Times story (limited free access):


The Daily News story: