Legislation Assembly Democrats Wayne P. DeAngelo, Raj Mukherji, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and John McKeon sponsored to ensure that mass transit riders are properly informed of proposed service cuts gained Assembly approval on Thursday.
The bill (A-227) would require New Jersey Transit to hold an evening public hearing and provide notice prior to a reduction in bus or rail services. Current law only requires a hearing and notice prior to a "substantial" service cut.
"Any time there's a proposal for bus or train service to be eliminated, people's ability to get to work so they can keep a roof over their family's head and put food on the table is at stake. That's always substantial," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "At the very least, NJ Transit passengers ought to be informed of how these changes may affect their lives and have the opportunity to voice an opinion."
Under the bill, NJ Transit would be required to provide notice of a hearing regarding a proposed service cut at least 15 days before the hearing's scheduled date. Should NJ Transit ultimately decide to discontinue bus or rail service, the corporation would be required to notify the clerk of each municipality in the counties whose residents would be affected, as well as the respective boards of freeholders, at least 45 days prior to the change in service.
"Many of our residents rely upon public transportation every day, whether they're commuting to and from work, visiting a doctor or running errands," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "They deserve to be informed of any proposed changes to bus and rail schedules well in advance."
"For many NJ Transit passengers, life revolves around the mass transit schedule, and any disruption to that schedule can have a domino effect," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Changes to mass transit schedules can have a major impact on people's lives, so there's an obligation to make sure that they have a say."
"People across the state who rely on NJ Transit should have an opportunity to let decision makers know what kind of effect service cuts would have," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "By clarifying the public hearing process, this bill would ensure that bus and rail passengers can share their input."
A public hearing would not be required for a change in service that does not 1) increase fares, 2) eliminate a bus route or any rail service or 3) change the time of a bus route or rail service by more than two hours, provided the bus or train still would run at least three times per day.
The bill, which the Assembly passed 70-2, now requires further consideration in the Senate.