New Jersey

NJ Transit in ‘Crisis,' Murphy Says; Rail Officials Take the Hot Seat Over Recent Cancellations

A shortage of engineers combined with required track safety work has led to the train trouble

What to Know

  • New Jersey Transit rail officials were on the hot seat to answer questions from lawmakers over the dozens of recent train cancellations
  • A shortage of engineers combined with required track safety work has led to numerous cancellations and stoked commuter anger
  • Murphy has called the recent NJ Transit rail cancellations a "crisis"

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has called the current state of New Jersey Transit a "crisis" as rail officials for the agency take the hot seat over dozens of recent train cancellations.

New Jersey Transit officials face a difficult situation due to the recent train cancellations, while Murphy is urging legislators to change rules so the agency can address engineer shortage.

Murphy says he wants legislators to change residency rules so New Jersey Transit can hire more engineers to address a shortage that has plagued the agency.

A lack of engineers combined with a spate of unexcused absences andrequired track safety work has led to numerous cancellations and stoked commuter anger with continued gripes from riders following dozens of train cancellations recently.

The disruptions are expected to ease up but still continue until the end of the year as NJ Transit finishes installing the federally required emergency braking system.

Murphy, a Democrat, said Thursday he wants lawmakers to send him stand-alone legislation addressing the rule change as soon as possible.

NJ Transit officials testifying at a legislative hearing Thursday in Trenton say they need the rule changes so they can hire engineers from neighboring states, citing that under-investment over the last decade has caused shortages.

NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said the agency could get more engineers from Pennsylvania and New York if the residency rule for critical employees is repealed.

In an another effort to address the need for engineers, NJ Transit is working with community colleges as of this week to get engineer training into the curriculum, Corbett said while testifying Thursday.

In regards to engineers calling out, Corbett said officials will try to renegotiate the contract that expires at the end of next year.

Lawmakers also are criticizing NJ Transit for not adequately communicating effectively to commuters about cancellations.

Corbett says the agency has moved its social media operation to a "war room" where train movements are monitored.

Murphy has made reforming NJ Transit a key goal of his administration and has taken heat for the recent troubles.

He has blamed the agency's problems on under-investment under former Gov. Chris Christie.

Officials have already said commuters need reliable mass transit in New Jersey ahead of the Route 495 construction that is expected to jam traffic for two and a half years. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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