The New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers on Thursday called for New Jersey Transit Chief Executive Officer Kevin Corbett and New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti to resign. Gutierrez-Scaccetti is also chairwoman of NJ Transit’s board of directors.
Both began in their respective positions in early 2018, after Gov. Phil Murphy took office and appointed them.
NJ Transit customers say they endured delayed and canceled trains due to NJ Transit lacking enough engineers to operate them. Corbett has added training classes to train engineers.
NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder defended Corbett and Gutierrez-Scaccetti.
“While NJ Transit has been encouraged by progress on cancellations, on-time performance, and mean distance between failure, we know we’ve still got a long way to go before we deliver New Jersey residents the world-class commutes they deserve,” Snyder said. “Despite having to dig out from the incredible hole we were in after years of neglect and disinvestment, our progress has been steady and substantial, including more than 700 bus operators hired within two years, a record number of engineer classes restoring the ranks of our locomotive engineers; more than a billion dollars’ worth of long-stalled major capital projects advancing; a 35 percent drop in train cancellations in 2019 to go along with increased on-time performance and mean distance between failure metrics, and significant mobile app and website upgrades to name a few. NJ Transit is committed to once again becoming the world-class transportation agency that New Jersey commuters deserve, and we encourage them to follow our progress at njtransit.com/progress.”
“Governor Murphy has full confidence in the capabilities of Executive Director Corbett and Commissioner Scaccetti to address the long-term issues facing NJ Transit after nearly a decade of inaction and funding cuts,” Murphy spokesman Jerrel Harvey told NJBIZ. “To support NJ Transit’s continued resurgence, Governor Murphy’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal invests an additional $132 million into the agency to hire 98 new engineers, fund critical service enhancements, and improve daily rider operations. If enacted, the Governor’s budget would also protect commuters from a fare increase for the third consecutive year. This builds upon the customer-focused improvements made over the last two years to ensure that New Jersey’s public transit system is once again reliable for commuters and a model for the nation.”
Snyder listed numerous accomplishments of Corbett’s and Gutierrez-Scaccetti’s with some of the more prevalent being The U.S. Department of Transportation issued an improved rating for the Portal North Bridge, a $1.7 billion project; On schedule to meet the critical December 2020 Positive Train Control milestone; Hired 700 bus operators since 2018; Added, extended, or provided enhanced bus service on 12 bus routes over the past two years; Reduced train cancellations by 35 percent in 2019 compared to 2018; Ordered 113 new multilevel train cars to replace the oldest cars in our fleet; Hired more than 300 engineers and conductors since February of 2018; Welcomed 16 new police recruits to the New Jersey Transit Police Department; Ordered 772 new cruiser buses, with 182 delivered in 2019, and 193 more coming this year; $700+ million in new equipment purchases, $185 million in new construction work, and $80 million in professional technical services authorized by the board since January 2018; 25 percent reduction in customer wait time for Access Link pickup; Instituted every 10-minute service on Newark Light Rail between Newark Penn and Newark Broad during morning and evening rush hours.
New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers President Len Resto cited the State of New Jersey auditor’s report as a reason behind calling for their resignations.
“Take positive train control. The auditor issued a scathing report and is questioning whether positive train control will be met by Dec. 31, 2020,” Resto said. “Kevin Corbett said ‘it will be challenging but we will meet it. And then a week later he said we are going to meet it.’ We have our doubts especially when they announced in December 2018 that the positive train control deadline had been met. Riders came away from that announcement convinced that there was going to be regular train service in the first week of January . That did not happen because what was left unsaid was that the deadline that was met was a [Federal Railroad Administration] deadline. There was equipment that still needed to be PTC-equipped so all they got was an extension to go to Dec. 31, 2020. People were not intentionally misled but at least they were not told the whole truth.”
“The contractor is running five months late,” Resto said.
Resto said he requested a meeting with Corbett in 2018 but has not been given a meeting.
He believes Gutierrez-Scacetti should not be the chair of the Transit board and the commissioner of the Department of Transportation at the same time, calling it “an inherent conflict of interest.”