Hearing held with NJ Transit officials to address staff shortage

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State lawmakers held a hearing with New Jersey Transit officials Thursday to address staffing shortages which have led to service delays and cancellations.

The service interruptions have put the agency under the microscope as customers deal with cancellations, late trains and overcrowded conditions.

NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said that the issues are a “perfect storm” of years of underfunding leading to an engineer shortage.

“A lot of times you don’t know until fairly shortly before, do you actually have an engineer who can cover that,” Corbett said.

Corbett and New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez Scaccetti said that they need help hiring more engineers and asked Gov. Phil Murphy to have the state lift restrictions requiring engineers to live in New Jersey.

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“We have 330 [engineers.] You need 291 to run the system, and if we could, we’d like 400,” the commissioner said. “If it’s a perfect world, if I told Kevin he had 400 engineers, he could go home and have a good night’s sleep. But you cut it really thin when you need 291 and you’re only over that by 35-36 people.”

There are now plans in place to work with New Jersey universities to train future engineers academically and then send them to NJ Transit for their on-the-job training.

“Kevin has been out there to meet those he serves and we'll continue to do that for as long as it takes to regain the trust of New Jersey residents and all of you,” Gutierrez Scaccetti told the lawmakers.

Corbett says that there are also plans in place to begin four training classes a year and to stagger graduation dates so that there won’t be a future shortage.

Gov. Murphy is now asking lawmakers to fast-track a bill for him to sign that will fully repeal the residency requirement for essential NJ Transit staff.

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