photo of NJT train

NJ Transit will add 40 passenger cars to its rail fleet, according to an announcement on February 15 by Gov. Phil Murphy, in an effort to alleviate crowding on some trains. The announcement was reported by Larry Higgs for and appears in the Star-Ledger, Feb. 16. 20 of the cars will be leased from a Maryland commuter operator, presumably MARC, and the other 20 will be NJT cars that had been awaiting installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) hardware. It was unclear whether the PTC equipment has been installed; NJT faces a nationwide year-end deadline to implement the PTC safety system. In related news, Amtrak announced that commuter railroads that do not comply with PTC might be banned from its track at year end; many NJT trains operate over Amtrak, which owns the Northeast Corridor, including New York Penn Station.

NJ Transit has a new executive director, Kevin S. Corbett, as of Wednesday, Feb. 14 when Corbett was officially confirmed by NJT's board of directors. The transit agency has been roundly condemned by riders and observers alike, some saying that the system it operates is the worst in the country.  So what should Corbett do? According to reporting by Larry Higgs for (and published in the Star-Ledger, Feb. 15), NJT customers have an earful for the new boss. Reliability and overcrowding tend to be at the top of the list. Morris & Essex Line commuter John Ohlson, summed it up: "Forget cleanliness and prices. Just get me to work on time. Do whatever it takes for trains to follow their schedules." Rail rider Gary Kuppinger said "I take the Montclair-Boonton Line and there are always delays due to 'operational issues' on trains."

Bus riders voiced concerns about an aging fleet of buses that breaks down all too frequently, and often does not provide enough service to accommodate riders on some routes. Bus route 156 rider Ellen Herb said "NJ Transit needs to listen to customers when they're told there are not enough buses on a route, or when a route needs to be changed to accommodate changing passenger needs." Route 177x rider Eric Goebelbecker said "If there's one thing, it's 'fix the bus fleet.' Too many of them are breaking down and too many trips are canceled for operational issues, which I assume means no buses are available." Bus rider John Medway, who rides a bus into the Port Authority Bus Terminal, criticized both bus reliability and the maintenance of the special bus lane that his bus uses. "You can't have buses breaking down twice a week in the Xclusive Bus Lane (leading to the) Lincoln Tunnel . . . you can't have breakdowns causing 60-minute delays. Work with the Port Authority to stop this manual delineator replacement madness. They did it twice (on Monday)."

Customer relations also came under fire. Northeast Corridor Line rail commuter Paul Bell said that the top priority should be "courtesy, especially in making station announcements and not relying on the automated announcements, which may or may not be turned on, and conveying information to passengers during train delays." Jean Cook, a Main-Bergen Line rider, echoed Bell's concerns. "I'd start with customer service. (NJT should have) employees walking the "pit" (the waiting area at New York Penn Station) when there are delays, not standing in the corners with their cellphones. Answer questions with helpful answers, not 'I don't know.'"  But maybe it's all beyond NJT's management to control, George Young of Rahway feared: "To me it is the aging of an inadequate infrastructure and general lack of commitment in Washington to rail service."