Invest in our Transit System. Be transparent and fair with your riders
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From SOMA Action May 27, 2017
After years of neglect and mismanagement of New Jersey’s assets, we believe that now is the time to speak up and DEMAND that Governor Chris Christie, our elected officials, and the executives at NJ Transit and Amtrak take action NOW, to prevent the transit system’s total collapse. The continued lack of state and federal infrastructure investment needed to maintain NJ Transit’s and Amtrak’s rail system has a disproportionate effect on the communities of South Orange and Maplewood, and the rest of the Morris and Essex line, which includes communities across the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic spectrum. This week, Gov. Christie and NJ Transit dropped a surprise announcement on our communities by informing the public that there would be a projected 6 – 8 week service disruption this summer in order to maintain the rail lines. This project is merely a patch to a larger systemic issue which will require a long term vision and resources dedicated to handle the growing needs of New Jersey residents. We demand your commitment to dedicating adequate resources to fix these systemic issues, not just stop gap emergency repairs.
The proposed Penn Station repair plan and service disruptions represents a massive failure by our federal and state governments to ensure the economic health and stability of our region and our community. In particular, our governor,must be held accountable to our residents, business owners, and families for his lack of leadership and resulting collapse of the transit system. Since Governor Christie was elected, NJ Transit has been starved of necessary operating funds and capital investment and seen near 90% reductions in state aid. Mass transportation is an issue that crosses party lines and affects many residents of New Jersey including those from different socioeconomic backgrounds - it should be an issue that our elected leaders are willing to work together to address. It’s time for leadership that will fund these priorities.
Mass Transit is Important
· Nearly 7000 commuters ride the Morris and Essex line daily from Maplewood and South Orange.
· Mass Transit, including NJ Transit, results in a reduction in greenhouse gases and other air pollution
· Our roads cannot support the additional congestion of drivers into the city.
· The cost of parking in Manhattan, plus tolls, is significantly more expensive than the train.
Local Economies are important!
· Summer is the time residents of our towns often take early trains home in the evening in order to spend quality time with their families and to enjoy local business offerings and recreation.
· NJ Transit’s proposed 6 to 8 week disruption will affect small business owners and other merchants on the Midtown Direct Line because more riders will now either be delayed and or choose to drive, thereby decreasing the amount of time that is spent shopping locally in our towns.
Hourly workers and those who can’t work from home are important!
· Working from home is not an option for many commuters and working from home all week is certainly not an option for a majority of workers.
· Hourly workers or non-exempt employees are forced to clock in and out under federal law. NJ Transit disruptions directly affect their bottom line and take home pay. · Mass Transit in general is one of the great equalizers and provides a vital resource to our community. It must be maintained.
Supporting working women and working families are important!
· Over 50% of the population of our two towns are women, many of whom are working and commuting.
· Women face a systemic disadvantage in advancement opportunities after having children because of the perception that child care needs will take away from work time. These transit delays will be an added burden for many women who will need flex hours to pick up their children and may result in workplace penalties and job insecurity.
· The average summer camp, daycare center, or aftercare program ends between 6pm and 6:30pm. Programs that stay open until even 7pm are rare and cost a premium. Every minute a center must remain open to care for a child due to a train delay costs the parents by the minute. Even a 15 minute delay for a 6pm pick up can cost a family anywhere from 15 dollars to 45 dollars depending on the provider. Our working families cannot afford this.
The Safety of our NJ Transit Workers is important!
· The continued dis-investment in necessary infrastructure maintenance and improvement has left the men and women who operate our rail system at a safety disadvantage, in addition to the riders.
· We stand with the workers in demanding an immediate and continuous resolution to the safety concerns of the railways.
Transparency is important!
Amtrak’s lack of transparent communication with NJ Transit regarding its summer repair plan is concerning and leaves NJ Transit workers and riders at a consistent disadvantage. Moreover, Gov. Christie and NJ Transit failed to communicate with local leaders about their proposed repair plan and its massive impact on South Orange and Maplewood and other communities until the day of the press release.
NJ Transit’s repair management plans do not meet their own the stated Title VI objective to: “Promote the full and fair participation of all affected populations in transportation decision making.”
The lack of riders represented on the NJ Transit board creates a lack of accountability and transparency in decision making that does not take into full account the interests of commuters.
1. A comprehensive plan of additional commuting options for those on the Morris and Essex line, including expansion of bussing options
2. A reassessment of potential alternatives that do not disproportionately affect riders on the Morris and Essex line, but more equitably share service disruption.
3. Confirmation that a midtown direct ferry will be running from Hoboken for the entirety of the work stoppage
4. Assurances that our local representatives will be consulted about changes in the future so local planning can go into place
5. New communications channels that are up to date to the minute.
6. NJ Transit staff on the ground in Hoboken and other transfer points that have up to the minute info on schedules and delays and are trained to help with crowd flow and control. This must include staff that is able to translate, as per NJ Transit’s Title VI objectives.
7. A full communications plan with all the relevant information including a fully staffed hotline phone number for customers to have questions answerer in real time.
8. Fair and equitable redistribution of maintenance disruptions - the Midtown Direct and Morris/Essex line should not bear the burden of our elected leaders’ and NJ Transit’s failures. If there must be repairs - the disruptions should be spread evenly across the board.
9. Promises from all officials running for governor and elected office that funding our infrastructure will be a top 100 day priority, as well as a comprehensive plan identifying dedicated transit funding streams.
10. NJ Transit and the State of NJ must conduct a study that quantifies the economic impact to local businesses along the train corridor and expected loss of income to individuals due to the disruptions to the midtown direct service.
1. Immediate reprioritization of the Gateway Tunnel project.
2. Continued long term investment in green mass transit options, like building a bus rapid transit system, to reduce the reliance on cars.
3. A dedicated funding stream for NJ Transit - and a legal mechanism to ensure this cannot be raided.
4. Restoring state operating funding to 2009 levels (back to 348 million from the 33 million it was cut to) and a comprehensive and fully funded capital plan. .
5. NJ Transit must honor its commitment to its objectives under Title VI – particularly with regards to the promotion of the full and fair participation of all affected populations in transportation decision making.
6. NJ congressional representatives must resist, object and refuse to support President Trump’s budget proposal that may gut funding for the Gateway Tunnel project.
7. Implementation of Positive Train Controls with full support from legislators.
8. Representation of riders on the NJ Transit Board as full board members.
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