Editorial: NJ Transit and the Super Bowl: We are Concerned and We Want Answers (Updated)

There have been a number of significant developments concerning NJ Transit’s performance in getting fans to and from the Super Bowl game last Sunday.  At first we reported that NJT had done an “incredible” job of moving everybody.  There were no wrecks or injuries, so they deserve credit for that.  Still, as we found out late Sunday night, thousands of fans were left at the Meadowlands Stadium, and it took hours to bring them out on the shuttle trains NJT was running between the stadium and Secaucus Station.

We have presented some updates since the game, but we have learned more since the last update.  Transportation Commissioner James Simpson told Karen Rouse of the Bergen Record that there were 60 to 80 buses ready to help evacuate fans from the stadium after the game, but they were not deployed for the purpose.  A report in the New York Daily News on Thursday placed the number of buses at 100 and called NJT “bus boneheads.”  If these reports are true, this is a massive service and planning failure, costing fans up to an extra hour of waiting time after the game.  Martin Robins, the original Executive Director of NJT, who spent most of his career at the Voorhees Transportation Institute at Rutgers University, told NJTV that NJT’s capacity was limited to bringing about 13,000 fans/hour to the game and back to Secaucus, and that NJT should have insisted to the NFL that its capacity was limited to that number.  Joseph Clift, our technical director, believes that the actual crowd could have been accommodated, but it would have taken better planning, more rapid transit-oriented rail operation, and extensive use of buses to supplement the rail service.  NJT reported that almost 28,000 fans used the trains to get to the stadium, and that over 33,000 used them to leave after the game.  We do not understand how so many more fans could have used the train to leave than to arrive at the stadium, given the security restrictions in place for the event.

As an organization representing NJT’s rail riders, the Lackawanna Coalition is deeply concerned about NJT’s apparently substandard performance.  Our mission is to represent the riders who use the Morris & Essex (M&E), Montclair-Boonton and Gladstone Lines, and connecting transportation.  All M&E trains outside peak commuting hours stop at Secaucus, and Montclair-Boonton and Gladstone Line riders can get to Secaucus by changing trains at Broad Street Station (Newark) or Summit.  Therefore, any trains that operate to or from Secaucus are within our purview, and lie within our area of concern.

Essentially all media reports indicate that the “Mass Transit Super Bowl” was a fiasco.  The Sporting News, which has no reason to cover a transit story on any other occasion, called it an “apocalypse.”  Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine, who attended the game, called for the ouster of NJT Executive Director James Weinstein.  So did the Bergen Record in an editorial.  We believe that it would be fair to give NJT management an opportunity to tell their side of the story.  Therefore, we have prepared a list of questions and concerns to present to them.  We will tell you what they say, if they respond.  We will tell you what they have to say, so you can draw your own conclusions about NJT’s performance concerning this big event.

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