Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday celebrated 11 NJ Transit conductors finishing their training.
“NJ Transit wasn’t broken in a day. It was broken down by a series of systematic failures over nearly a decade,” Murphy said. “We can’t fix it in one day either. We’re all in this together, and we’re all in this for the long haul, but with every step, we are making real progress, and we need you more than ever before to help us keep this progress up.”
The state of the beleaguered rail line is not without importance to Murphy’s re-elections.
One of the governor’s favorite quips — that he’ll “fix NJ Transit if it kills him, and it might” — while not literal, may prove true for his 2021 re-election bid.
Chris Christie cut NJ Transit funding 90% and stopped work on the ARC tunnel project
As he did Wednesday, Murphy frequently points to former Gov. Chris Christie to explain away the transit network’s problems.
Murphy’s largely right in that.
NJ Transit saw its state funding cut by as much as 90% under Christie’s tenure, and the former Governor waylaid a 2010 tunnel project that could have prevented some of the commuting snarls the transportation network has faced over the past two summers.
Adding engineers addresses staff shortages
But Murphy can’t blame the ghost of Chris Christie forever.
Train cancellations and delays have improved somewhat over the first two years of Murphy’s tenure, though they continue to be a plague for NJ Transit commuters.
Murphy and his administration have pointed to staff shortages as the cause of many of those cancellations, and it’s possible that adding more engineers will further increase the reliability of the network’s rail lines.
“As I’ve said before, we can purchase all the new locomotives, passenger cars, buses and other critical equipment we want, but unless we invest in the men and women of NJ Transit, in you in particular, they’ll still only amount to big, expensive pieces of metal,” Murphy said.