When NJT eliminated the last trains on the Morris & Essex and Gladstone lines last year, we complained to the media and to our elected officials. We argued that eliminating the last train of the night constituted a “substantial curtailment” of service, which would have required notice to the public and a hearing. While NJT claimed that they could cut service on any line by up to two hours without telling anybody in advance, we managed to convince them to give us some of that time back.

Now, by law, we can no longer make the “substantial curtailment” argument. Assembly Bill 227 was recently enacted, and it allows NJT to cut service by up to two hours on any line without notice to the public. The bill was originally written to require notice and a hearing for any service cut. It was changed to allow NJT to cut service by one hour without notice, and then changed again to allow a cut of up to two hours without notice. It passed by wide margins; 78-2 in the Assembly and 38-0 in the Senate; the latter action took place on August 1.

We can no longer argue on your behalf, as transit riders and our constituents, that NJT cannot make the sort of cuts that they made last year. Even the elimination of the 1:00 train from New York on part of the North Jersey Coast Line, which makes the last train now 11:18, can be forced onto the public by surprise. If they wish, NJT can now eliminate the 11:56 and 12:56 trains and send the last M&E train out from Penn Station as early as 10:56.

This constitutes a severe setback in our campaign to move NJT toward being more transparent and responsive to the needs of transit riders. We are deeply concerned that our elected officials have given NJT such blanket permission to cut service without notice, and without consulting us or other representatives of the riding public. It is doubtful that these elected officials will lose any of their mobility, but we who depend on NJT can lose some of ours.

We consider it totally unacceptable that our mobility can be curtailed at any time, and without prior notice. We urge you to join the Lackawanna Coalition, so we can fight more effectively for new rules that will strengthen our position as transit riders, not weaken it.

Coalition members expressed their deep concern over the new rule in statements made on internal forums. One member, Sally Jane Gellert of Woodcliff Lake, who uses the Pascack Valley Line and lost her last evening train last year, said: “this actually removes rights of citizens to have input into a public agency’s actions; it further centralizes our transportation governance in the hands of unelected bureaucrats who may or may not use the service and are insulated from public displeasure by virtue of not needing to run for election.” We also note that it is elected officials who gave these “unelected bureaucrats” at NJT that authority.