While commuters waited at the New Brunswick station, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Kevin Corbett as the new executive director of NJ Transit.
“In a state that is full of tough jobs, Kevin is certainly taking one of the toughest,” said Murphy.
Murphy is tasking Corbett with turning around NJ Transit. It currently ranks number two in America for rail system breakdowns. Commuters, Murphy said, need trains and buses they can rely on.
“Given our location and our density, you’d think the one thing we would have gotten right would be commuter rail and bus,” he said.
Corbett has a sterling resume. He is executive vice president of AECOM, a major infrastructure company that has worked on the Gateway Tunnel Project and the 2nd Avenue Subway. He was chief operating officer of the Empire State Development Corporation. He sits on the boards of the Regional Plan Association and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. He has been commuting daily from Mendham into New York for many years on the Morris and Essex Line.
“This past summer from hell, for those of us on the M&E, we learned the mantra ‘improvise, adapt, overcome.’ And while that may be okay for the U.S. Marine Corps as a mantra, that should not be the mantra for NJ Transit commuters,” said Corbett.
Murphy said the system was great 10 years ago, but has since suffered disinvestment and neglect. He vowed to make it better.
“It will not be easy, of that we are certain. There are years of overlooked issues to account for, but with the right leadership, and we think we’ve got just that, we can yank the system back from the brink,” said Murphy.
The transportation commissioner chairs the NJ Transit board. Murphy’s previously announced choice for that post is Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti.
“I will not accept, Diane will not accept, and neither will Kevin, a continuation of the status quo. We will not accept answers of, ‘That’s just how it’s done,’ or ‘You can’t’ or ‘That’s not my job.’ This is how we got into the position we’re in to begin with. I won’t stand for it and we won’t stand for it,” said Murphy.
Murphy announced a performance audit of NJ Transit last week, now he’s got new leadership in place. Two changes in two weeks, he said proudly. Transportation advocates were pleased.
“He is a wonderful, well-rounded transportation expert and that’s what really is needed in New Jersey right now,” said Janna Chernetz, senior policy analyst for New Jersey at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
“Kevin’s a great pick because one, he’s been riding the rails for more than 30 years. He someone who gets it. He gets the anger of New Jersey commuters. He also has professional experience related to the transportation sector. And he is going to build a great team around him,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.
The governor has not backed off from his campaign rhetoric about remaking NJ Transit. If the system isn’t better in a year, commuters are likely to hold Murphy and Corbett accountable.