Simpson Trashes NJT Staff Off-Peak Report

“I threw the report in the garbage,” said NJ state transportation commissioner and NJ Transit board chairman Jim Simpson, referring to a report for NJ Transit rail operations saying that off-peak discounts for rail riders were not viable “for capacity reasons,” according to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (March 13). “I don’t think the report was worth the paper it was written on, so I’ve asked folks to go back to the drawing board,” Simpson continued. The report was written by staff under Kevin O’Connor, who reportedly has been forced out as general manager of NJT’s rail operations; O’Connor was not at the NJT board meeting on March 12, at which Simpson made his comments.

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Panel to Investigate NJT Super Bowl Performance

New Jersey Transit’s performance on Super Bowl Sunday remains controversial, after it took hours longer than expected for thousands of fans to be transported after the game.  NJT has congratulated itself on handling far more customers than expected, but that hasn’t placated riders who couldn’t leave the stadium station for hours after the final play.  NJT executive director James Weinstein subsequently announced his resignation, and at a special meeting on February 24, the NJT board of directors confirmed Veronique Hakim as Weinstein’s replacement.  At the same meeting, state Transportation Commissioner James Simpson announced that the Super Bowl situation would be investigated by an “independent panel” headed by retired U.S. District Court Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh, according to reporting by Larry Higgs in the Asbury Park Press; NJT board vice-president Bruce Meisel and member Jamie Finkel also sit on the panel.  Meisel said that the evaluation would be done by the independent committee and not NJT staff, so that “we can understand what we did well and what we did not so well or did poorly”.  Meisel characterized the Super Bowl transportation as “a very complicated process”, involving not just NJ Transit but also the National Football League, NJ State Police, and even the Secret Service.  Meisel did not take questions after the meeting.

At the meeting, Lackawanna Coalition chairman David Peter Alan submitted a letter suggesting five areas of the Super Bowl transit operation that should be investigated, including methods used to estimate the ridership demand, why apparently many more fans left the game by train than had arrived that way, and how buses were used to alleviate the crush on the train service.

The complete story was formerly available at http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014302240076

NJT’s Board and Executive Director Honor Jim Raleigh

At its meeting on Nov. 13, the New Jersey Transit Board of Directors paid tribute to the late James T. Raleigh (1934-2013), who had served as the Lackawanna Coalition’s Legislative Director for seven years prior to his death.

Commissioner and Board Chair James S. Simpson and NJT Executive Director James W. Weinstein praised Raleigh for his advocy and presented a plaque containing the signatures of all Board members and the Executive Director to his widow, Frances. This marks the first time that the NJT Board has honored a citizen-advocate in this manner.

This is the resolution adopted by the board, which is enshrined on the plaque:

NJ TRANSIT salutes the life of James T. Raleigh
WHEREAS, a noted transportation advocate, James T. Raleigh was Legislative Director of the Lackawanna Coalition and championed innovative transportation services; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Raleigh actively participated in the Regional Rail Working Group to help advance rail projects that would greatly benefit riders; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Raleigh attended NJ TRANSIT Board meetings as well as legislative hearings, community meetings and rail conferences and was a powerful voice for transportation; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Raleigh had a passion for history, particularly the American Revolution and was an active supporter and President of the Friends of Monmouth Battlefield, where he became further involved in regional rail; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Raleigh was interested in the “big picture” transportation issue such as New York Penn Station capacity and the best way to serve the rail commuters;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that James T. Raleigh’s tireless advocacy and dedication and commitment to public transportation will serve as an inspiration to all for many years to come.

NJT Secrecy Under Fire

NJ Transit’s methods for settling personal-injury lawsuits and other legal claims against it, as well as managing its insurance program, have come under fire.  According to reporting by Karen Rouse of The Record and reported in the Star-Ledger (Sept. 12), the railroad has not voted in public on such issues in years.  The votes apparently come behind closed doors, despite NJT’s stated goal of transparent operations.  Millions of dollars in expenditures are involved.

The secret votes do not appear in publicly posted minutes, but The Record obtained them through a public-records request.  Even these records obtained were heavily redacted; the amounts involved were often blacked out.  Previously, NJT came under fire for keeping its rail hurricane plan from the public, initially releasing only a blacked-out document.  The actual document was released only after The Record filed a lawsuit to obtain it.  Commenting on the reports of excessive secrecy, an NJT spokesperson said that the agency had recently updated procedures for closed-door sessions, but declined to be specific.

New Leadership Coming to NJ Transit

Governor-elect Chris Christie has appointed new leaders for the New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJ Transit.  His choice for transportation commissioner is Jim Simpson, a New Yorker who was federal transit administrator in the Bush administration from 2006 until 2009.  Simpson is familiar with the ARC Project and other NJT capital projects, as well as the positions taken by the Lackawanna Coalition and other rail advocacy groups.
The new executive director at NJT will be Jim Weinstein, who served as transportation commissioner from 1998 to 2002 in the Republican administration of Governors Whitman and DiFrancesco.  At this writing, NJT could not confirm when the change of leadership will take place.

NJT Promises No “Major” Cuts for Year

NJT Executive Director Richard Sarles said at the corporation’s board meeting in July that the 2009–2010 budget called for no “major” service reductions, despite a cut in aid from the State.  The Lackawanna Coalition remains skeptical of this claim, since the 2008 elimination of more than 40% of off-peak service on the Morris & Essex Line, including essentially all through service to Hoboken on weekends, was deemed a mere “service adjustment” by NJT.  We continue to express our concern that the upcoming year can still bring service cuts that NJT will not consider major, but will result in serious inconvenience to riders.