Amid a slowdown in service brought on by COVID-19 restrictions, New Jersey Transit is proceeding with construction projects including the testing of positive train control, a series of computers and sensors that will stop a train to prevent a crash or derailment.
Transit ridership has dropped by 88 percent to 90 percent in recent weeks due to passengers staying home because of COVID-19.
“We look to enhance and expedite PTC testing and training when circumstances allow by availing ourselves of the additional track time, equipment and crews created by the reduced schedule,” NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder told NJBIZ on Wednesday. “Most recently, we are doing more equipment and software verification tests during the daylight hours, and we plan to test additional equipment when feasible.”
This news comes five weeks after the Federal Railroad Administration gave NJ Transit approval on Feb. 18 to begin Revenue Service Demonstration of its positive train control system, moving Transit one step closer to meeting the federally mandated deadline of PTC certification by Dec. 31, 2020.
“Entering the RSD phase of PTC is a major milestone and a testament to the incredible work by our employees working around the clock with our contractors to ensure this important safety technology implementation remains on schedule,” NJ Transit President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Corbett said in February.
Health and governmental officials have ordered residents to stay inside. Likewise, Snyder said that NJ Transit employees are working from home, practicing social distancing, and taking proper precautions due to COVID-19.
Snyder told NJBIZ the agency is using its existing budget to provide personal protection equipment. The health and safety of its nearly 12,000 employees remain its highest priority, she said.
“We regularly provide personal protection equipment (PPE) to our frontline employees,” Snyder said. “We are expecting the imminent arrival of 50,000 masks whose vendor was identified by our union leadership, indicative of the cooperation which exists in our organization. This delivery supplements the 20,000 masks we already received and distributed on Monday. We have a sufficient number of gloves which are being distributed as needed as we await other deliveries. Transit is constantly ordering PPE for our employees.”
At his daily press conference on the outbreak on Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said he is going to determine how to meet obligations to provide personal protective equipment to New Jersey Transit employees.
The federal $2.2 trillion CARES Act includes $1 billion for NJ Transit. But Murphy said, we need every penny of that and a whole lot more.
“Our PPE procurement is entirely right now one funnel in and then coordinated one funnel out,” Murphy said. “There are obviously priorities with health care workers. We have heard the same reality out of NJ Transit folks. I have not spoken with the union leadership lately and that is something I need to do.”
As of March 27, Transit had 19 employees test positive for COVID-19 out of almost 12,000 employees, NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith told NJBIZ.
Editor’s Note: Article was updated on April 2, 2020, at 8:00 a.m. to include Nancy Snyder’s comments on providing 50,000 masks to Transit employees.