Murphy uses Summit for NJ Transit executive order backdrop

Photo by Jenny Goldberg
Gov. Phil Murphy used the Summit train station on Jan. 22 as a stage to make his announcement issuing an executive order to audit NJ Transit.

SUMMIT, NJ — Jose Molina is a commuter who often meets with delays while taking the 10:27 a.m. train out of Summit. However, he seemed hopeful that Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent executive order would shorten his wait time.

With the hustle and bustle of the Summit Train Station as a backdrop, Murphy signed an executive order to audit NJ Transit on Monday, Jan. 22.
“I pledged during the campaign that I would call for this audit, and today we are delivering,” Murphy told those in attendance. “If we are to make this system work again for the hundreds of thousands of daily riders who rely on NJ Transit for work, and to go about their days, we must begin here and now.”

The audit will include a critical review of NJ Transit funding, leadership structure, personnel hiring and customer service.
It will also evaluate its relationship with Amtrak and the implementation of positive train control technology — a system that requires a conductor’s attention for the train to operate. Some have speculated it could have prevented the 2016 train crash at the Hoboken station that left one dead and injured 114 others.

While the Summit station provided a typical vista, it also symbolized the regular headaches NJ Transit riders experience along the Morris-Essex Line.

Murphy referred to the Amtrak track work that rerouted the Morris-Essex Line during summer 2017, when trains to New York Penn Station were diverted to Hoboken, leading to longer commutes.

“They suffered through that ‘summer of hell,’” Murphy said of the 3,000 Summit riders who daily board trains to New York City.
He claimed the state can’t continue with a system that has increased fares 36 percent in the past eight years while the customer experience has eroded.

In December, nearly 12 percent of rush hour trains along this line were late, he said.
Despite the declining experience, it was not until the 2017 gubernatorial election that discussions about fixing NJ Transit became the subject of both local and state political debates.

“The issue has taken center stage because our commuters have hit their breaking point,” Dan Bryan, Murphy’s press secretary, told LocalSource in a Jan. 26 email. “Governor Murphy has made it clear that this cannot continue.”

Bryan told LocalSource that “NJ Transit needs to rebuild in order to become a reliable, world-class transportation agency and the governor is committed to making that goal a reality.”

When asked when the audit will be complete and where the results will be published, Bryan responded that the audit “will be completed as expeditiously as possible.”

“I believe that this is a strong first step to address the serious ineffectiveness of NJ Transit,” Summit Mayor Nora Radest told LocalSource. “Infrastructure issues and inefficiencies continue to have a negative impact on Summit residents.”

Radest was among several politicians attending Murphy’s press conference, including: state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., state Assemblyman John McKeon and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz. NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith told LocalSource in an email on Jan. 25 that the Morris-Essex Line carries 59,500 passengers during the average work week.
When asked to comment on Murphy’s executive order, Smith did not respond before press time this week.