NJ Transit officials expect earful at ‘We Are Listening’ forum

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

NJ Transit’s senior managers and operations personnel are allowing commuters to chime in on their performance. Senior Correspondent David Cruz is listening at the Hoboken Terminal.

Cruz: Mary Alice, Executive Director Kevin Corbett has agreed to take a few minutes to talk with us. I appreciate it, director. This is your first one of these, yes?

Corbett: Yes, it is.

Cruz: What are you looking forward to?

Corbett: A lot of people will post things online, or you here scuttlebutt, but when you actually get to people face-to-face, I think most people really generally want to share either their frustrations or their ideas. I think that tends to be more productive face-to-face.

Cruz: Do you expect more people to say, ‘Hey, good job guys,’ or are you expecting to really hear it from folks who are tired of a lot of the shortcomings?

Corbett: I think most of the time people take good news for granted, so I expect it to be more feedback of things that they’re not happy with than happy. Although, I think that also occasionally you hear things about a conductor, and people gripe about conductors, but I think the great majority of conductors actually have a great sense of humor and a lot of the regulars really know the conductors pretty well. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some positive feedback as well.

Cruz: You haven’t been on the job very long and you knew what you were getting into when you came here. What has been the biggest surprise for you, or the biggest challenge?

Corbett: I think there’s two things. There’s not a lot that been a big surprise. I think the biggest challenge certainly is Positive Train Control. It’s a safety enhancement. We run a very safe railroad actually and very safe bus system, etc. But, that is a federal mandate, unfunded mandate, whereas like a horse race, we are way behind on and we’re really pushing very hard to close in and come up to the finish line by a nose.

Cruz: It’s ironic that the thing that you see as the most important, most critical, is something that most riders are not going to see, right?

Corbett: That’s true, but I think at the end of the day, just like air travel, rail travel, we want to make sure it is safe now, but that all the riders feel that we are not just in the pack, but we are the premier transit line in the country. That’s what they expect and that’s what we intend to deliver.

Cruz: You’ve gotten a bit of an infusion of cash, but there’s still a lot to go here.

Corbett: Yes, well that infusion only starts in July, but we’re already starting to gear up for that. I think we have to show to the public and the Legislature and the governor that that money is being very well managed, very well spent by NJ Transit so that we can warrant getting further funds next year.

Cruz: Alright, Kevin Corbett, good luck and have fun tonight.