NJ commuters with disabilities testify about how to improve NJ Transit

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Some of New Jersey’s disabled residents say that they sometimes feel forgotten by New Jersey Transit and they testified before lawmakers in Trenton to suggest ways transit can improve.

Thursday's hearing was one of several held recently to suggest ways NJ Transit can better itself. The transit company has been plagued by unreliable service over the past few years.

“If we are going to fix NJ Transit, we can’t forget the disabled,” says state Senate President Steve Sweeney.

Sweeney listened to the stories of people like Johnesia McKenzie. Like many others inside the committee room, she is in a wheelchair and relies on NJ Transit to get around.

“Drivers don’t want to pick you up because if they see a wheelchair, they figure it’s going to take way too much time,” McKenzie says. “I have been passed by many times and not been able to get to my destination or get late to my destination.”

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Scott Elliot also testified, representing hundreds of riders from the New Jersey Association for Centers of Independent Living.

“Eighty-percent of people with disabilities do not work. You want to fix some of that…let’s make some improvements to the transportation system,” says Elliot.

Gov. Phil Murphy made fixing NJ Transit one of the goals of his governorship. He has made a promise to all New Jerseyans to fix what is wrong.

“I hope there will be a total reorganization of Access Link. It has improved a little bit over the last year or so since there’s been a new general manager. But it needs a long way to go to improve it,” says Audrey Winkler, executive director of JESPY House, an organization that provides adults with disabilities support services.

Sweeney says there are still several more hearings scheduled and then the state will likely see the recommendations and suggestions immediately implemented into NJ Transit.

“We have to talk about the people who are actually relying on NJ Transit to try to have as full a life as they can have,” Sweeney says.

The Senate president also says that he wants the funding in place, along with the recommended fixes, in time for the governor’s budget address.

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