New Jersey Transit officials told lawmakers at a legislative hearing in Trenton that they’re taking steps to deal with train cancellations and delays that have angered commuters.
Executive director Kevin Corbett says NJ Transit has moved some of its personnel into a war-room atmosphere to improve communications with riders about train service disruptions.
“By centralizing our operations communications and combining it with our social media team in one room, we believe this will streamline the communications process in both getting messages to customers as well as from them through social media.”
A shortage of train engineers is being blamed for some of the cancelled service.
The transit agency is adding more training classes and Corbett is seeking an exemption from state residency requirements for the engineers.
“We are unable to successfully recruit out-of-state residents. Expanding the applicant pool to staff these critical positions would have a meaningful impact on the recruiting process.”
Senate Transportation Committee chairman Patrick Diegnan expects a bill will be passed the end of next month to eliminate the residency requirement for engineers and other critical transit personnel.
“And in the interim I would just say start the outreach now. Let’s admit it you’re down 30 to 40 people. The number one thing we have to do is fill those vacancies.”
Transit officials says progress is being made to meet the end of the year deadline to install the federally-required Positive Train Control safety system equipment on its trains. But no PTC work has been done on the Atlantic City Line and train service there will be suspended for four months.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo says that suspension will hurt the local area.
“Hard-working people travel from both Philadelphia and AC for their livelihoods and the tourism it generates is imperative.”
New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Dianne Gutierrez-Scaccetti says there was no option considering the short time left to meet federally-mandated milestones.
“If we didn’t shut down the Atlantic City Line, it would have shut down itself on December 31st because it would not have any PTC equipment.”
Transit officials promised that service on the Atlantic City line will be restored when the Positive Train Control installation is complete.