NJ Transit made headlines recently when a commuter train got stuck in a tunnel on its way to New York City March 6. The transportation company attributed the cause to a wire problem. In the latest NJ Transit quarterly customer satisfaction survey, the overall rating was 4.1 out of 10, down from the previous rating of 4.2. Voorhees Transportation Center Founding Director Martin Robins spoke with NJToday Managing Editor Mike Schneider about issues along NJ Transit’s Northeast Corridor Line and Amtrak‘s responsibility.
Robins said Amtrak controls the Northeast Corridor, which contains NJ Transit’s most important rail line, so he said Amtrak takes a lot of the blame when problems occur. He said, however, that Amtrak is trying to correct the issues.
“Amtrak is a victim of circumstances — funding circumstances, policy support circumstances — and it goes back I would say at least 40 years,” Robins said.
Robins said Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez are supporting a transportation bill that would preserve the federal program of support but wouldn’t increase funding.
“What is really needed is a special program for the Northeast Corridor,” Robins said. “This has been discussed over and over and over again but the money has been very slow in coming.”
Robins underscored the importance of the Northeast Corridor for transportation. “In the Northeast, the Northeast Corridor is an essential part of our transportation system. It now carries the majority of people far more than the airplane between places like New York and Washington and New York and Boston so it a vital part,” he said. “In New Jersey it is of excruciatingly great importance because it is not only an intercity service, but it also is really the focal point of the commuter rail system.”
Robins anticipates that more experiences like the train stuck in the tunnel will happen in the future, though he was encouraged by the $495 million that the Senate agreed to on improvements for signals and electrical traction system between New Brunswick and Trenton.
The next hurdle is in the House. “We could have a chaotic fiasco in transportation funding if the House were to get its way,” Robins said.