NJT Board’s ‘No’ Vote on the Proposed Contracts
with Academy Is a Huge Break from Tradition

The vote by the NJ Transit Board to reject the pro-posed contracts that would have given Academy Express, LLC, the right to operate several bus lines in Hudson County for the next 3 years was historic, and it represented a radical departure from the past 42 years of Board practice.

The decision to reject the 2 contracts to Academy as an operator and instead award the contracts to Coach USA marked the first time that the NJ Transit board had voted against an agenda item of major significance in the agency’s history, dating back to 1979. It also marked the first time that such a negative vote was unanimous, although approvals almost always are.

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with Academy Is a Huge Break from Tradition

Live! In Person! The April NJT Board Meeting!

We are pleased to note that the April board meeting will be held live on Wednesday morning, April 13th, at 9 a.m., at NJ Transit headquarters in Newark—for the first time in more than 2 years. Since March 2020, all meetings have been by phone—and without even live-streamed presentations of the A number of people requested that the call-in option be maintained. Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti stated that in fact the call-in option will be continued, as it has proven quite popular, opening up participation to many who found travel difficult for various reasons. We hope that members of the public who make the effort to attend in person will have their full 5 minutes to be heard. In any case, it will be good to chat in person and to once again have the new board room used to its full capacity, presentations and all!

April Brings a Full NJ Transit Board:
James Adams Cancelled

When in-person board meetings resume in April, there will be a full 13 members present (or at least 10: 3 individuals are nominated, not directly appointed, and need Senate confirmation). Missing from the dais will be current board member James Adams, who was not reappointed. The reason given is the end of his term (Dec. 31, 2020), but we are skeptical. Flora Castillo voted No twice in 2016, and she was not renewed. At the time we wondered if her Nos were a factor—Mr. Adams’ removal after multiple No votes seems to indicate that, indeed, dissent is not tolerated.

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James Adams Cancelled

A Trip to the Symphony: State Theatre

Today, March 13th, I had a ticket for a 3:00 p.m. performance by the New Jersey Symphony at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, and I decided to go by train. I drove to the New Bridge Landing station, where I boarded Pascack Valley Line Train #2112, which departed at 12:45 p.m. and arrived at Secaucus at 1:12 p.m., giving me plenty of time to transfer to Northeast Corridor Train #7845, scheduled to depart at 1:23 p.m. The train operated a few minutes late, and we arrived at the New Brunswick station at 2:17 p.m., six minutes late. That was fine, as it takes about 10 minutes to walk to the State Theater, which didn’t open to the public until 2:30 p.m.

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Remembering Tom McBride (1938–2022)

West Orange resident and Lackawanna Coalition member Thomas G. McBride left usonJanuary28,attheageof83. He was a Coalition member for many years, but he was best-known locally for his long and outstanding service to Essex County residents, especially its transit riders, as longtime chair of the Essex County Transportation Advisory Board (ECTAB).

The TAB was founded in 1980 by the County Freeholder Board, now known as the Board of County Commissioners. Tom was a charter member and, as it turned out, the last-surviving original member. When I joined the Board in 1985, it was still new (one year younger than the Lackawanna Coalition, actually) and was deciding which aspects of transportation policy to emphasize within the county. Although the TAB seldom interacted with elected officials, its primary point of contact with county government was (and still is) the Essex County Planning Division.

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A Missed Opportunity

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.

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Report from the Chair, Mar./Apr. 2022

We were pleased to see Board Member James Adams again take seriously his responsibility to oversee the NJ Transit budget, and vote against the typically opaque presentation. From charts that mislead (e.g., showing claimed “savings” and showing only tips of the bars, which hides the actual magnitude), to larger-than-previous transfers from capital to operating costs, while federal funds sit untapped, there is much to question in this much-delayed budget. What is a concerned taxpayer to do?

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Who in Congress Represents You Now?

After the 10-year census, states’ populations are calculated and Congressional representatives are redistributed across the United States. Accordingly, every 10 years, a new map for New Jersey’s Congressional districts is drawn. The 2022-2031 Congressional redistricting map was adopted on December 22, 2021. Many New Jersey residents will find that their Congressional Representative has changed. Go to https://njredistrictingcommission.org/ to view the maps. There is the state map of the 12 districts and 14 municipal maps of the divided towns.

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It’s the End of an Era at NJ Transit, as the Last Original Employee Retires

In a way, NJ Transit will never be the same again. The agency’s last original employee, who was there even before it was founded in 1979, has retired. She was Joyce J. Zuczek, and she had become a favorite employee of a number of active Coalition members.

Joyce had 45 years’ service with “Transit” and, before it was founded, with the now-defunct Commuter Operating Agency in the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDoT). She was one of the original NJT employees, the list of whom reads like a roster of future industry leaders. One was Sen. Francis X. Herbert, who sponsored the Transportation Act of 1979, NJ Transit’s enabling legislation. In later years, Herbert was given the title “Father of NJ Transit”. Joyce later talked about typing Herbert’s original draft of the bill.

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