State senate panel holds first hearing on NJ Transit

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Afternoon rush-hour trains await passengers at NJ Transit’s Hoboken Terminal. The station hosted the first of a series of hearings into NJ Transit issues by a group of state legislators on Wednesday.
Ralph Spielman

HOBOKEN, N.J. — At a jammed two-hour meeting Wednesday, vexed NJ Transit commuters told a committee chaired by State Senate leader Steve Sweeney exactly what was on their mind.

Their thoughts were not laudatory.

The meeting at NJ Transit’s Hoboken Terminal — site of a fatal crash in 2016 — was the first session for a bipartisan committee of state lawmakers to investigate NJ Transit problems and develop solutions for the nation’s largest statewide commuter agency. On Wednesday, upset commuters expressed their concerns about overcrowded, delayed, and cancelled trains; the eight panel members also received letters from others who could not attend.

Other hearings by the panel are planned. Sweeney told that the committee’s goal is to present its recommendations to Gov. Phil Murphy in time for them to be part of the discussion for the next state budget. He also indicated he, like many others, would like to see a dedicated and reliable source of funding for NJ Transit, rather than relying on a governor’s annual recommendation in the state budget.

The hearings come as NJ Transit attempts to address its ongoing problems, through engineer training classes to address an ongoing shortage, equipment orders, and its efforts to implement positive train control by the Dec. 31, 2020, deadline.

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