Former New Jersey Governor Brendan T. Byrne died on Thursday, January 4th.  He was 93.  

Byrne began his career in local politics in Essex County and served as a county prosecutor and a judge before being elected Governor in 1973.  He served two terms in that office.  He was a Democrat and his party controlled the Legislature, but he presided over contentious politics in the state during his eight-year tenure in office.  Byrne was known for establishing the sports stadium in the Meadowlands, facilitating voter registration and surviving the establishment of the state income tax, but he is best-known to transit-riding community for the Transportation Act of 1979, which established New Jersey Transit (NJT).

Before NJT was founded, New Jersey's transit was in a state of crisis.  Train service was unreliable and funding for rail service, then operated by the Consolidated Rail Corp. (ConRail), was problematic.  Public Service Electric & Gas Co. wanted to get rid of its bus subsidiary, which it had renamed Transport of New Jersey.  Former Sen. Francis X. Herbert, who sponsored the Transportation Act, said that Byrne strongly supported establishing a new transit agency, and that he worked hard to overcome political opposition to the proposal.  The bill to establish NJT passed by a one-vote margin.

NJT started by taking over the TNJ bus service, and added NJT Rail Operations 35 years ago, when ConRail was forced to discontinue its commuter train operations throughout the Northeast region.  NJT then went on to become a leading agency in the transit industry during its early years.