Report from the Chair: July/August 2022

It has been a hectic month, including a wildcat strike that disrupted service for Juneteenth/Father’s Day weekend, with almost 500 engineers calling out, some 300 trains cancelled, and thousands of passengers scrambling to make alternate plans. NJ Transit filed a request for an injunction (on Friday) but did little to help passengers caught up in the mobility disaster. Shutting down all cross-Hudson trains for hours—virtually the entire system, and not even opening phone lines to assist routine rail riders with alternative options—shows a lack of concern for customers that is simply not acceptable.

Member Joe Clift pointed out that NJ Transit is making itself nonessential, which is a problem for many, but a disaster for those who depend for all their transportation needs on public transit (especially if taxis and car services are out of economic range, as witness the Paterson-bound passenger quoted in The New York Times as looking at a $110 Uber ride). Joe pointed out that, in his days as a LIRR manager, the culture was very different from that of today’s agencies: there, culture was analogous to the theatre’s famous “show must go on” attitude: the highest priority of everyone was that the trains run, regardless of weather conditions or other obstacles.

Last week, NJ Transit hosted an Accessibility Forum; though first described as in-person, later invitations made clear that it was a virtual- first event, with only limited seating in the Newark headquarters board room. What a mess! If the third-largest regional rail agency in the country cannot run a simple Microsoft Teams meeting, then how can they possibly run such a complex system of trains and buses? Read more in this issue.

Speaking of accessibility, we took our first Coalition inspection run in recent memory on May 20, a trip to Hackettstown, and there is a report on that trip in this issue as well.

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