A week after NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein retired and was replaced by Veronique Hakim, rumors circulated about a “clean sweep” that would further shake up the agency’s top management. According to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (March 5), the directors of NJT’s rail and bus operations are also about to be forced out. Frassinelli wrote that sources said that NJ Transit was “going in a different direction.”
Apparently on the line were the jobs of Kevin O’Connor, director of rail operations, and Joyce Gallagher, director of bus operations. Both had received generally good marks for operations during their tenure, but in each case jarring events tended to get more publicity. For O’Connor, the flooding of hundreds of NJT rail cars and locomotives during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, followed by NJT’s controversial performance carrying fans to and from Super Bowl 2014, apparently was his undoing. On the bus side, Gallagher got high marks for the rapid restoration of bus service after Hurricane Sandy and for innovations such as the MyBus information system that allows bus riders to determine predicted bus arrival times, but she could not avoid negative publicity from several bus incidents, including one in which a bus operator got lost, making riders two hours late for work. In one memorable exchange, rail director O’Connor had a testy response to former Long Island Rail Road planning director and Lackawanna Coalition technical director Joe Clift, who asked whether O’Connor would “accept responsibility for the decisions that led to $100 million in damages” during the Sandy event. “No, I am not going to resign,” O‘Connor replied at the time. But perhaps O’Connor’s statement will turn out to be prophetic.
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