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Gov. Phil Murphy at a budget press conference with NJ Transit officials and transit union leaders on June 19, 2018.

Murphy: NJ Transit delays could persist despite staffing increases

By Nikita Biryukov, May 17 2021 4:09 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy isn’t expecting NJ Transit delays to disappear as ridership increases this summer despite growth in the ranks of the transportation’s networks locomotive engineers.

“You’re going to see a system that has a sufficient amount of engineers that allows us to avoid the stuff, particularly as you recall we saw a lot of in the summers past. Somebody decides to take — which is their right — a Friday off and a Monday off and you have to take down an entire line for the day,” Murphy said. “I can’t say we think it’s going to be gone completely, but you’re going to see a lot less of that.”

NJ Transit commuters have, for years, faced a “summer of hell” each time the season comes around, with trains regularly delayed or cancelled.

Administration pointed to staffing deficits as a major cause of those delays, and they say that gap has now been bridged, with more than 390 locomotive engineers now on the agency’s rolls.

The pandemic did not spare NJ Transit. Revenue from fares is down hundreds of millions below collections for the previous fiscal year, and the agency has lowered revenue projections for the current fiscal year by about $130 million as it struggles to find riders amid a crisis that has forced many to work remotely.

But the governor is anticipating a spike in ridership as the state continues to ease its virus restrictions and as the summer tourism season arrives.

“I think you’re going to start to see, particularly when moves get made on masking and what not, you’re going to start to see ridership — and we’re already seeing the early stages of that — tick upward,” he said.

The governor praised the transit network’s implementation of positive train controls just weeks before a deadline and lauded budgeting that he said devoted funds to NJ Transit at record levels.

“I feel good about how they’ve used their time over the past 14 months to get themselves to a place that would probably have taken a lot longer to get to,” he said. “The investment right now in NJ Transit is as high as it’s been.”

Though, that investment still pulls money from the transportation network’s capital fund and the Clean Energy Fund, mechanisms critics have derided as unsustainable for funding NJ Transit.

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