NJT, NFL Skip Dems’ Super Bowl Hearing

Attempts by NJ Assemblyman John Wisniewski to investigate possible transportation failures at the February 2 Super Bowl were stymied on March 10 when both NJ Transit and National Football League representatives failed to appear at a meeting of the Assembly Transportation Committee, which Wisniewski, a Democrat, chairs, according to reporting in the Wall Street Journal by Andrew Tangel (March 11). Wisniewski said that the main target of his investigation was the NFL: “It was their plan that failed,” he said, saying the onus was on the NFL to defend itself.  He said that NJT also might share part of the blame, saying “I don’t think NJ Transit is entirely blameless.”  Newly appointed NJT executive director Veronique (Ronnie) Hakim had written to Wisniewski, asking for additional time to evaluate NJT’s controversial actions during the Super Bowl, which required hours to transport all the fans away from the stadium by train, and then also by bus, after the event ended.

One focus is the private bus service that was organized as an alternative to the main transportation option, NJT trains.  The private bus services cost about $50 per round-trip rider, much higher than the train fares, so many fans apparently chose the train over the bus, leading to much higher demand on the rail service than had been anticipated.  Many observers have wondered why NJT didn’t change its plans for the departure operation once the high traffic load became apparent as fans arrived, but Wisniewski said, “There isn’t enough time during any football game to put together a backup plan.  That is something that should have been worked out well in advance.”  At the time, even though clearing the departing fans took until after midnight, then-NJT executive director Jim Weinstein congratulated NJT on carrying such an unexpected crush of riders.  Weinstein later resigned and was replaced on March 1 by Hakim.