Last month, New Jersey Transit announced itbhad completed the first phase of Positive Train Control installation, meeting a federal deadline for the end of the year. And commuters were told that meant they could expect to see rail service slowly begin to improve, without so many trains out of commission.

But so far in 2019, if there's been any improvement, it's been hard to notice.

Garden State rail riders have continued to be plagued by a variety of problems. One New Jersey lawmaker is fed up and wants NJ Transit officials to explain what is going on.

“We’re seeing cancellations and delays, lack of communications, and when New Jersey Transit suffers and it shuts down, those folks are forced to go on to our highways, which causes mass congestion,” said Assemblyman Tony Bucco, R-Morris.

 

He’s calling for the Assembly Transportation Committee to hold a public hearing to find out what the problem is with New Jersey Transit.

“We’re continuing to see the same problems we saw in 2018, and that’s unacceptable, I’m real frustrated and I’m real concerned for commuters that rely on mass transit in New Jersey.”

Bucco said commuters are getting shortchanged by ongoing cancellations and delays.

“Not only does it prevent them from getting to their job, getting, getting to doctor’s appointments, picking up their children, it also then has a ripple effect, as people abandon mass transit and start getting onto our roadways," Bucco said.

He said we need a public hearing to answer a number of questions, including how NJ Transit is doing in its quest to hire more engineers.

“Has that problem been fixed yet? Where are we in fixing it?" Bucco said. "We knew back in 2018 that our communications abilities were lacking. Where are we and why is it continuing?”

He stressed the public has a right to know “why we continue to suffer these problems with New Jersey Transit, and the only way you’re going to get to the bottom of it is to convene a public hearing.”

Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-Mercer, the chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, said everyone experiencing delays and disruptions in NJ Transit service is obviously frustrated, but he said we were told to expect a gradual, not immediate improvement in service starting at the end of this month. So Benson said at this point a hearing is not warranted.

Benson said what he’s looking for “is more concrete communication about what and when should we be looking for, to see that improvement in service.”

He said he’s been told now that the PTC deadline is met, NJ Transit must address a backlog of federally mandated inspections of equipment that needs to be quickly completed.

“We want a more concrete timeline for everyone. When they can expect to see improvements in service as well as restoration of cut service," Benson said.

Benson added he expects this information “sooner rather than later” from NJ Transit, but if it’s not provided in the next two weeks than holding a public hearing “is a conversation that we’ve got to have.”

NJ Transit said in a statement that cancellations caused by PTC installation were necessary because of "the dire consequences had we not met our federal 2018 year-end PTC requirements," and stressed how far behind the agency was at the start of the Murphy administration.

"Each vehicle that is newly equipped with PTC must undergo FRA-required inspections before returning to service.," the statement said.These additional inspections, along with the NJ Transit staffing resources needed to meet the vehicle installation requirements, has created a temporary backlog of vehicles awaiting other maintenance and FRA-required inspections. Crews are working overtime until the backlog is addressed."