Hakim Meeting NJT Customers, Employees

Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim welcomes the opportunities presented by her new job as NJ Transit Executive Director, a post she assumed March 1. Reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (March 12) highlights the problems faced by NJT: old infrastructure, balky drawbridges and the like; but Hakim sees opportunity in these challenges. The 54-year-old Hakim comes to NJT from a career as former general counsel of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, followed by 3-1/2 years as executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. She says she’ll spend the first 30 days on the job listening to employees, senior staff, and customers; she has been riding trains and seeking out customers on them, and in waiting rooms. When she worked at the MTA, she commuted on NJT from Livingston, so she already has some perspective on the plight of riders. Lackawanna Coalition chair David Peter Alan, quoted in the Star-Ledger article, said he’s looking forward to meeting with Hakim, and called morale among NJT riders and employees “the worst I’ve seen in almost 30 years on the transit scene.” Alan called for a “new culture” more oriented toward moving people, not just trains and buses. Hakim said that what riders want most of all is more information: “I know that some days are more frustrating than others for our commuters and what I wanted as a commuter was information,” she said.