By Desirée Taylor
When thousands more fans than expected overwhelmed NJ Transit on Super Bowl Sunday, former agency executive Martin Robins wasn’t surprised. He explained why during an interview with our Managing Editor Mike Schneider.
“They had an experience like this — U2 concert — that concert drew drew 32,000 people to the rail. It was a colossal failure in terms of movement of people. That was almost on the same scale, this exceeded the U2 concert,” Robins said.
“We think that it was a success, the first mass transit Super Bowl. We moved 28,000 people to the game during the afternoon. We moved 33,000 people from the game,” said NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein.
Post Super Bowl, Weinstein defended the agency, but declined to comment today. Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Gordon is demanding answers.
“I’m not looking for scalps. I am looking for accountability,” Gordon said.
It’s not just the Super Bowl fiasco that put NJ Transit on the hot seat. The agency faced a flood of criticism after it failed to follow its own three-page storm prep plan by leaving expensive equipment in low lying areas during Superstorm Sandy.
“We heard reports that were emergency plans that were put in place that were not followed. We heard reports that the decision was made by low level employees,” said Gordon.
The sandy missteps prompted Gordon to call for hearings, but the focus will now be broadened to include other issues.
“NJ Transit allowed its trademark protections to lapse. There was a failure of the website during a recent snowstorm. All of this suggests to me a pattern in the failure of the planning process,” Gordon said.
Commuters we spoke with welcome the hearings, but they have mixed opinions about NJ Transit’s service.
“I had to commute to work on Super Bowl Sunday. It was absolutely horrible,” said Matthew Aversa.
“I think that they are doing a good job though. I love the state at Secaucus, it’s great but I think there is some room for improvements,” said Elyse Cohen.
Sen. Gordon expects top NJ Transit officials to testify at these hearings. They will likely be scheduled for early March.