Lawmakers call for change at New Jersey Transit

TRENTON, N.J. (WPVI) -- New Jersey's congressional delegation is calling on the federal government to hand over $10 million to make New Jersey Transit trains safer.

In the meantime, New Jersey's lawmakers are planning to take a hard look at the agency that runs the state's transit system.

After the New Jersey Transit train crash in Hoboken that killed one woman and injured more than 100 others, the New Jersey Senate has set October 21st to begin hearings into operations at the agency that was once a national model.

Sen. Steve Sweeney, D-NJ Senate President, says, "We want to find out what's wrong, what we need to fix, and how we get New Jersey Transit back to being one of the top transit systems in the nation."

The assembly is also planning hearings. Senator Sweeney hopes they can be combined so as not to duplicate work.

The cause of the Hoboken crash has not been determined, but critics say there's been "catastrophic disinvestment" in transportation infrastructure in New Jersey, including little if any progress on installing Positive Train Control -- that's the technology that automatically stops a train.

Jenna Chernetz, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, explains, "21-percent of New Jersey Transit operating budget comes from their capital budget. This means less dollars for the transportation capital projects that we need, which include the safety projects, especially the PTC."

NJ Transit riders pay the highest fares in the country, but constantly deal with delays, crowding and crashes.

Sen Bob Gordon, D-Legislative Oversight Committee, says, "It now reports more accidents and has a worse safety record than any other major system in the country, and we need to understand why."

Gordon says Amtrak and SEPTA have made great progress installing PTC technology.

Some riders Action News talked to are surprised New Jersey Transit is so far behind.

Sandy Murphy of Northeast Philadelphia tells us, "I would think that they would have the latest technology on the trains... It's very sad. The money they get from all the commuters?"

Chelsea Margiotta of Delanco, New Jersey says, "I think it's ridiculous that we don't have it already. It's 2016 -- it's about to be 2017. That should have been done."

Sen. Sweeney says funding for maintenance and improvements at New Jersey Transit has been cut from $300 million a year to $30 million a year, and he thinks that's obviously having an effect.

Action News reached out to New Jersey Transit for a comment, but we have not received a response.
Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.