Essex2045 Plan Moves Forward

On December 15th, I attended a virtual meeting of a Stakeholder Advisory Committee on the Essex2045 plan for the next 20 years of transportation in Essex County. In a study funded by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Association, Mercer Planning Associates, the consultants running the program, had conducted surveys and hosted 2 pop-up kiosks and participated in 2 safety fairs with University Hospital. The events were held in October and early November in Orange, West Orange, Irvington, and Newark. In West Orange and Irvington, a complex intersection was chosen and a demo “parklet” was outlined as a feature to gauge the reactions of passers-by. Study personnel were on the scene to explain the project and gather reactions on sticky notes. Overall, those reactions were positive, with more than half wanting to keep the demonstration projects installed permanently. Many people were pleased to see attention paid to underserved locations, emphasizing the need to make interventions in these areas a priority.

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Survey: NJT Doing Better; Rails Still Lag

For one year, NJ Transit has been encouraging its customers to participate in its periodic “Scorecard” survey of opinion.  The latest results show improvement, although NJT rail services continue to fare the worst among riders.  The latest results were from surveys between Feb. 21 and March 12, and were reported by Mike Frassinelli in the Star Ledger (May 10).  Scores run from 0 to 10, with 5.0 meaning “acceptable;”  NJT’s goal is to score 6.0.  On the latest results, the Access Link service for the disabled scored a resounding 8.3, followed by Light Rail (6.9) and Bus (5.9).  Rail services lagged with a score of 5.3, nonetheless above the Acceptable level.  Bus customers constitute 61% of total riders, Rail 31%, Light Rail 8%, and the handicapped Access Link less than 1%.  Both Rail and Bus customers gave relatively high ranks to NJT’s Web site.  The lowest scores for bus passengers were for information during service disruptions; rail passengers gave their lowest grade to fares, rating fares at only 4.1, perhaps a reflection of the 2010 25% average rail fare increase (47% for off-peak riders).

Rail Riders Score NJT Low

In NJ Transit’s customer survey, released July 13, rail customers gave their service a barely acceptable score of 5.2, lower than scores recorded by bus (5.5), light rail (6.5) and disabled access (7.5) users.  NJT Executive Director Jim Weinstein had predicted the survey would “show our warts,” and it certainly did.  Rail riders gave the lowest mark to fares, predictable after last year’s 25% increase (47% for casual off-peak riders), but also gave low marks on handling service disruptions, announcements, and on-time performance.  Mike Frassinelli, writing in the Star-Ledger, quoted 30-year commuter (from Hamilton) Ralph Fucci, “If my company were rated 5 out of 10, we’d be out of business.”  Fucci gave NJT mostly marks of 3 on his own survey, but did allow that NJT keeps the trains pretty clean, given the heavy use.  Despite the low marks generally, two-thirds of riders would recommend NJT to a friend or relative, and 63% use the service despite having access to a car.  Director Weinstein said he expects the scores to get better on future surveys; if not, “shame on us”.