NJ Transit's executive director, Steven Santoro, finally got to testify before Trenton legislators on Friday, Nov. 4, after incurring their ire by not showing up at an October session.  According to reporting by Larry Higgs for NJ Advance Media, Santoro's testimony covered a range of topics including safety, federal audits of the railroad's procedures and record, and progress on installation of Positive Train Control (Santoro said a six-mile test section will be in place on the Morris & Essex lines in April); Santoro said NJT is on schedule to complete PTC installation by the December, 2018 federal deadline.  But most of interest to NJT's customers is Santoro's disclosure that NJT will not ask for a fare increase before mid-2018. On the question of safety, Santoro admitted that accidents on NJT exceed in number those of other systems, but cautioned that NJT may using criteria that include more incidents as accidents than other systems do.  He pointed out that only six percent of the "accidents" exceed the damage threshold of $100,000 above which they must be reported to the Federal Railroad Administration, and also that NJT's rate of accidents per million passenger miles is actually lower than the average for all commuter railroads.

In reporting by Emma G. Fitzsimmons in the New York Times (Nov. 5), some details of safety violations uncovered by a federal audit were disclosed in Santoro's testimony.  These included workers' use of personal cell phones while on duty; failure to properly test brakes; and failure to blow horns at crossings. Santoro called the findings unacceptable and vowed to crack down on employees who violate rules, citing increased inspections and penalties for violators.  The Times article also reported that Santoro apologized multiple times for missing the previous legislative hearing, citing that he had only been on the job a few days and wanted to learn more about NJT's state of affairs before coming to Trenton.