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The bill by outgoing legislators to modify NJ Transit's reform law gets approval

The bill by outgoing legislators to modify NJ Transit's reform law gets approval

The State Senate passed a bill Thursday afternoon that would make a customer advocate more independent and providing riders more transparency.

The Senate approved a 25-to-4 vote, which now must wait until the Assembly version of the same bill passes the transportation committee and is sent to the whole Assembly for a vote before it can go to Gov. Phil Murphy.

However, the time is only getting it right.

When the last legislative voting session of this term takes place on Jan. 10, the identical bills must start the process over again without two of the Senate's main sponsors: Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, and Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, who will both leave the legislature at the end of the term.

Weinberg, who joined Kean in Dec. 2018, called the bill NJ Transit Reform 2.0 and underwent a formal approval vote by Gov. Phil Murphy in Dec. 2018.

While these modifications are not all I would have requested for, they provide greater accountability and transparency, give more power to the governing board, and represent a solid starting block from which to build a stronger NJ Transit in the months and years to come, Weinberg stated in a statement.

One of the bill's most important aspects revises the Customer Advocates, requiring greater public access, and NJ Transit's board to hold half of its ten annual meetings in the evening so that commuters may attend, as well as requiring the board to offer web steaming of meetings.

The Board's agendas will have to be given to the public five calendar days before a meeting to allow riders to have information to make informed comments.

This measure will help get things back on the proper track, Kean explained in a statement. NJ Transit has an extensive record of inefficiency and incompetency, ranging from the inability to manage the buses and trains on time, to dubious hiring and management practices, staffing and scheduling problems, and lengthy delays implementing mandated safety control systems on trains.

When the position was filled, commuters complained that the advocate functioned more as a public relations person for NJ Transit than as a rider representative.

The customer advocate would have to meet with passengers at least once per month under the new legislation. The Customer Advocate office would be transferred to the Department of Transportation, although the Transportation would be independent of responsibility.

Under the proposed legislation, the advocate would instead be appointed, supervised, and report to NJ Transit's Board of Directors, and not to executive administration.

The advocate would have the authority to conduct investigations, conduct studies, research, issue reports, and present comments and testimony to the board, legislative committees, and other government bodies.

Even though NJ Transit has a communications department, NJ Transit stated that the job description had been later modified. Weinberg and Kean were hired in 2020, according to an NJ Advance Media report.

Advocates have stated that having the job filled is crucial to completing and collaborating with a riders advisory council, similar to what the PATH system has, the advocate's position has been vacant for more than a year. that a new job description will be acted on and hiring date for a replacement.

Let us remember that this is just a start. A good start, but only a start, Weinberg said. We all have a lot to do if we want to ensure that NJ Transit is capable of providing the reliable, on-time service its passengers have a right to expect.

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Larry Higgs may be reached at.

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