Lawmakers hear list of complaints as they probe New Jersey Transit woes

Fed up commuters and transit activists gave New Jersey lawmakers an earful as they expressed their concerns and frustrations with New Jersey Transit train and bus service.
The lawmakers held the public hearing Wednesday at Hoboken Terminal, site of an NJ Transit train crashed in 2016 that killed one person and injured more than 100 others. Rail commuters have been plagued by train delays and cancellations in recent years as NJ Transit struggles with an engineer shortage and having to install a federally mandated emergency braking system.
State Sen. President Steve Sweeney was on the panel. He has been a big critic of the transit agency.
"Unfortunately, our first person to give testimony, his train was delayed. Symbolic, right?” Sweeney said as the hearing got underway.
Legislators sifted through over 40 written comments and in-person presentations delivering complaints about NJ Transit.
"Oftentimes the [train] doors don't open. This morning there was, actually I've never seen this before, a sticker on the door that says out of service,” said commuter Jeffrey Goldman.
Elizabeth resident Latoya said that she works non-traditional hours, so she needs more buses on her route.
“And extended operational hours. Not just for my work commute but also to get to my doctor’s appointments for my son who is also a Special Ed and has special needs,” she said.
Among the criticism lawmakers heard Wednesday was that NJ Transit’s board is one-third staffed a year after legislation mandated a 13-member board.
Sweeney noted NJ Transit still doesn’t have a dedicated source of funding and said he plans to have a proposal by February’s budget address.
"Transportation's not free. It never has been. Mass transportation's always been subsidized,” Sweeney said.
A spokesperson for Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement, "Gov. Murphy inherited an agency that had been ravaged by the Christie Administration's neglect and mismanagement...During the nearly two years he has been in office, Gov. Murphy has begun to turn the agency around to restore it as a national leader in mass transit."
Sweeney says the next people he wants to hear from are in NJ Transit management.
He wants the panel to provide funding recommendations to Murphy before the governor's budget address which is expected in March.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.