The Senate Transportation Committee approved a bill Monday that would address some of the known problems at New Jersey Transit, and complement Gov. Phil Murphy’s ongoing NJ Transit audit.
“As a result of our joint investigation, the Senate Legislative Oversight and Assembly Judiciary Committees were able to identify numerous structural and organizational problems at New Jersey Transit,” said state Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Fair Lawn), a sponsor of the bill.
“This bill enacts common sense reforms to correct those deficiencies, and provides for much-needed legislative oversight and transparency of an agency that receives a substantial annual subsidy from the state. We fully expect this bill to complement the results of Gov. Murphy’s ongoing audit of NJ Transit.”
The bill focused on forming committees to address various issues and geographies, and some of the latest changes indicate a sensitivity to creating language that reflects gender neutrality, such as changing chairman to chairperson.
The bill includes:
- Increasing the size and diversity of the NJ Transit board;
- Encouraging greater commuter engagement, requiring that half of scheduled meetings be held in the evening;
- Requiring all board members to have experience in transportation or related fields;
- Mandating that board members act as fiduciaries with the best interests of the corporation and the riding public in mind, and disclose certain political contributions made and gifts received, seeking to minimize external political influence.
The bill also creates separate committees for northern and southern regional transit issues.
“Our reform legislation responds directly to the concerns of NJ Transit bus, rail and light rail commuters who felt that the nation’s largest commuter agency had stopped listening to them and stopped caring about their needs,” said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), also a sponsor of the bill. “This legislation will make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
The bill will next be heard by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
“Our Senate and Assembly committees held 13 hearings in all on NJ Transit issues, including two public hearings in the evenings seeking input from advocates and commuters, and the comments and suggestions we received provided vital insights into what is wrong at the agency and what needs to be done to fix it,” Gordon said.
“The commuter advisory committees existed for years, but were entirely ignored by the previous administration. The new reform law empowers these committees to serve as an ongoing forum for commuters to be heard as we rebuild the nation’s largest statewide mass transit agency.”