For the past few years, we have watched the so-called NJ Transit “reform” legislation wind its way through the Trenton legislature. Our concerns about NJ Transit’s priorities, practices, and policies are ongoing, and we did not see that the legislation includes the sort of changes needed. True, the newest version has the purported “customer advocate” reporting directly to the board of directors, not NJ Transit management—but we have watched unanimous board approvals of just about everything for almost 2 decades. There have recently been a few No votes, primarily James Adams (to his credit) refusing to rubber-stamp a budget that was presented without a work session or other opportunity to consider alternatives, but the culture of approving everything remains strong. We have seen environmentalists feeling victorious at arranging meetings with NJ Transit executives—and seen the results: a proposal that looks very much the same as it did before the first meeting ever took place.
Given this ongoing situation, we are looking for new tools, new alliances, and a new plan to get some changes at the agency. Having attended a strong presentation by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) at the State Library in Trenton, I knew that the OSC had oversight and investigatory powers regarding all state and local governments in New Jersey. With the weak “reform” legislation, and with our belief that a manager cannot truly be an advocate (as compared to NJ-ARP, our Lackawanna Coalition, and some unaffiliated riders), our concerns continue. We note that, despite our long advocacy campaign, there is still not a single person on the board who depends on transit; we note that a “No” vote on an item at the board continues to be as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth. Thus, we wanted to learn what our rights were, what options we had to advance and advocate for the interests of our members and NJ Transit passengers. We were really looking forward to hearing some suggestions from a representative of the OSC at our February meeting, and are disappointed that we were turned down. Maybe someday, they will consent to consult. Meanwhile, I guess we advocates and activists are on our own.
Note: The N.J. State Library has excellent monthly lunchtime presentations, and currently they are done via videoconference, so check them out! https://www.njstatelib.org/research_library/learn_at_njsl/