NJ Transit Survey Finds Positive Signs For Agency

By David Cruz

NJ Transit announced the results of the agency’s “Scorecard” survey and officials were trumpeting the generally high scores. This is the third survey report issued by NJ Transit and officials say the numbers show improvement in customer sentiment about everything from on time scheduling to how the agency handles service disruptions to fares on trains and buses.

Overall, the agency’s rating from riders went from 5.1 to 5.8 out of a possible six. Executive Director James Weinstein says three out of four riders would recommend NJ Transit to a friend, an improvement for an agency some critics say was so bad, it had nowhere to go but up.

“At the worst point in our measurement on this, two out of three people would have recommended the service,” said Weinstein, “so I would suggest to you that those people who said that we had nowhere to go but up, don’t know what they’re talking about.”

NJ Transit says it got 13,000 responses to the survey and that the agency held a number of public meetings. Officials say riders, rail and bus alike, were pleased with how the agency responded to emergencies and that fares were not going up.

But Janna Chernetz, the New Jersey Advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, says it’s a little misleading to say that riders were pleased with the “No new fares” promise.

“In April of 2010, there was a historically high fare increase of about 22 percent,” she noted. “At this point in time, riders have probably adjusted to that, so that [fares] might not be an issue. There have been several comments by Executive Director Weinstein that there would be no fare hikes this coming year. This is good, so people might just be reacting to that.”

Riders at Penn Station today had a somewhat more mixed review of the agency.

“Oh, it’s great,” said Lateef Thomas, of Newark. “I use my smart phone to see what time the bus is coming and it always comes on time.”

But Phil DaMico, of Edison, said he was upset that – despite a major fare increase, his trains at Metropark were frequently behind schedule.

“Every single train is always late. Every time,” he said. “Maybe like 95 percent of them are late; that’s pretty bad, considering how much the tickets went up the last couple of years.”

NJ Transit Board Chairman James Simpson says, in the end, riders like the agency more when they can get to where they’re going — on time.

“Minimize delays,” said Simpson. “If we minimize delays everybody gets from point A to point B as quickly as possible and on time and they’re happy.”

Transportation advocates say they’re impressed with the agency’s outreach, but everyone involved admitted that while today’s survey was generally positive, the agency still has a long way to go.