After the tragic crash in Hoboken, NJ, the New Jersey Transit (NJT) commuter railroad has been under intense scrutiny from the general public, regulators and elected officials. A week ago, the New York Times published a long expose detailing the failures of Governor Christie’s administration in properly investing in the railroad:
…Under the Christie administration, the agency’s finances have been dealt a blow. The direct state subsidy to its operating budget plummeted to $33 million last year from $348 million in 2009, according to the agency’s financial reports.
That decline has been offset by temporary infusions from New Jersey’s toll roads and utilities. But each year the railroad’s executives are still left to figure out where they will get the money to keep the trains running. New Jersey Transit has also had to divert billions of dollars from its capital budget to pay for operating costs, siphoning money from future improvements…
TCU members witnessed this budgetary nonsense firsthand as it took over 5 years to get a contract with NJT. The Christie Administration brought the railroad to the brink of a strike in March, choosing to walk commuters and NJT workers right to the cliff’s edge before finally agreeing to a reasonable contract. Thankfully, in that instance, Governor Christie eventually saw the light. Unfortunately for the NJT system, he hasn’t seen the benefit of properly investing in a railroad that carries 105,000 people into New York City every weekday.
For many, the Hoboken accident highlights the failure of governments and rail carriers to make passenger rail as safe as possible. In the weeks since the crash, House Transportation & Infrastructure Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) was joined by Railroads Subcommittee Ranking Member Capuano (D-MA) and New Jersey Representative Albio Sires in demanding that DOT Secretary Fox take immediate action to ensure the safety of NJT. Most recently, New Jersey’s two Senators sent two separate letters to the NTSB and DOT, the first requesting investigators to speed up their investigations, while the latter requested the release of a federal safety inspection of the railroad that was purportedly done in June.