New Jersey lawmakers hold public hearing on NJ Transit in wake of fatal Hoboken crash

Passengers who were on board the train that crashed in Hoboken last year testify before a New Jersey legislative hearing about New Jersey Transit.

Passengers who were on board the train that crashed in Hoboken last year testify before a New Jersey legislative hearing about New Jersey Transit. (2/23/17)

HACKENSACK - New Jersey Transit riders had a chance to ask questions and bring up concerns to state lawmakers at a public hearing held in Hackensack Thursday.

This is the third meeting lawmakers have held in the wake of last September's fatal train crash in Hoboken. The crash killed one woman and injured about 100 other people.

Sheldon Kest walked out of the mangled train car on the day of the crash. He testified at the hearing that he still wishes he could thank the people who helped him.

“Two men, total strangers to this day, helped me as I climbed out,” Kest said.

Kest said that his transit line, the Pascack Valley line, was reliable. But in recent years he says that he noticed many trains were short on cars.

“There was never any explanation. Tt was a short to the point of apology for the car being short,” he says. “They were apologizing for the overcrowding.”

Other NJ Transit customers say safety isn’t their only concern. They say there issues that need to be addressed by the agency.

Rider Sally Gellert says she is concerned about the limited schedule, which does not provide her with enough convenience. She says the major issue is that NJ Transit's budget has been slashed so much it can't do well by safety or service.

“The operating budget has been cut 90 percent,” she says. “You can't run a decent system with 10 percent of the money you had before inflation hit.”

NJ Transit Executive Director Steven Santoro attended the hearing. He told Senate and Assembly members that he was there to listen to his customer’s concerns.

NJ Transit has committed to installing a positive train control safety system by the 2018 deadline to manage train speeds.

News 12 New Jersey reached out to NJ Transit for comment about the meeting, but the agency declined to comment.

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