TRANSPORTATION

NJ Transit officials hear from commuters following audit report release

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

Thursday in Hoboken, NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett was out meeting with commuters. He took a few minutes to speak with Senior Correspondent David Cruz.

Cruz: I was talking to a friend this morning and she said that she had a meeting in Montclair — and she’s a pretty intrepid commuter, you know, mass transit all the time — but she had an important meeting and she said because the trains were so off so frequently that she, rather than miss an important meeting in Montclair, she decided to drive. For a guy that runs a railroad, that cannot be music to your ears.

Corbett: You’re absolutely correct. As someone who’s a daily commuter myself, and who was also commuting last year with the trouble, I get the feeling of accumulated pressure that happened even before my watch, so I’m sensitive to that. You know, I remember going though that where you say driving is an alternative. Once you drive, you’ll probably come back to the train, but those are two very painful choices. The best thing is for us to be running on-time trains with enough equipment that people can actually depend on a reliable service and that’s what we’re aiming at.

Cruz: So the audit came out this week. I guess the bad news is things are bad, but the good news is you know how bad they are.

Corbett: You know, I’ve been on the job seven months and it didn’t take much to realize where the significant problems were to start taking action already with the people who were doing the audit. We informed them of what we were doing, but we needed to move quick, so we already started a number of things in action that will start showing through next year, but it’s going to be a very tough fall — no two ways about it.

Cruz: I have two very important questions. One, positive train control — where are you on that?

Corbett: That is the good news, which is naturally not appreciated by the average rider. When I came in, we were at 12 percent complete back in February. Now we’re over 70 percent complete and we have two and a half months to get to 100 percent, so we’re making tremendous progress. It’s a very complicated project and we’re making tremendous progress.

Cruz: The governor said this week that in a perfect world you wouldn’t see a fare hike next year, but that this is not a perfect world. Do you want to warn commuters now that there’s a fare hike in the near future?

Corbett: No, I think we look at the budget when we get into next year. The budget, what we get from the Legislature, from the governor, what he’s comfortable with, how we look at it and getting our cost control, really putting in a lot of cost down and look to see what we need before we go there. That’s definitely premature. Right now the riders want decent service. They don’t want to hear about anything like a fare increase.