A new year starts this month: my 3rd as Lackawanna Coalition chairperson, and NJ Transit Rail’s 41st. The Coalition has a new Web site, the forum is back in operation, and we are looking forward to being the advocate host of the Rail Users’ Network’s in-person conference in the spring. Our resolution supporting the expansion of weekend service on the Montclair-Boonton line caught the attention of Board Member James Adams, who asked Kevin Corbett to look into the possibilities and interest of local communities. We continue to look for more transparency from NJ Transit, something for which we have advocated for years, if not decades.
The lack of a so-called Customer Advocate has become almost absurd; every meeting, there are at least a few members of the public asking about it, yet no progress—possibly because they have written a job description impossible to fill. How about just expanding telephone support hours? 6 a.m. to midnight would be great; we’d settle for a 10 p.m. closing, instead of the current 5 p.m.—actually earlier, as I have had the switchboard shut off at 4:50 when I was holding. Wouldn’t you expect that operators would answer the questions of those on hold before leaving? We all like to leave our office on time, but providing the best customer service means giving just a little extra. However, that should only rarely be a consideration: one would expect that shift schedules would allow workers to answer all waiting calls and still clock out on time.
For the past few years, we have watched the so-called NJ Transit “reform” legislation wind its way through the Trenton legislature. Our concerns about NJ Transit’s priorities, practices, and policies are ongoing, and we did not see that the legislation includes the sort of changes needed. True, the newest version has the purported “customer advocate” reporting directly to the board of directors, not NJ Transit management—but we have watched unanimous board approvals of just about everything for almost 2 decades. There have recently been a few No votes, primarily James Adams (to his credit) refusing to rubber-stamp a budget that was presented without a work session or other opportunity to consider alternatives, but the culture of approving everything remains strong. We have seen environmentalists feeling victorious at arranging meetings with NJ Transit executives—and seen the results: a proposal that looks very much the same as it did before the first meeting ever took place.
Continue Reading A Missed Opportunity
We were pleased to see Board Member James Adams again take seriously his responsibility to oversee the NJ Transit budget, and vote against the typically opaque presentation. From charts that mislead (e.g., showing claimed “savings” and showing only tips of the bars, which hides the actual magnitude), to larger-than-previous transfers from capital to operating costs, while federal funds sit untapped, there is much to question in this much-delayed budget. What is a concerned taxpayer to do?
Continue Reading Report from the Chair, Mar./Apr. 2022