Legislation Would Add Two Public Members to Transit System's Board of Directors
Legislation Assembly Democrats John Wisniewski, Elizabeth Muoio, Daniel R. Benson, Gordon M. Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Paul Moriarty sponsored to give the public more influence regarding decisions at New Jersey Transit was advanced Thursday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-1919) would add two public members to the NJ Transit board of directors, increasing board membership to 10 members from eight. The legislation follows a 9 percent NJ Transit fare increase in 2015 and a 22 percent increase in 2010.
"As one of the largest mass transit systems in the nation, NJ Transit is a vital part of our state's transportation network. Adding more passengers to the board of directors will allow New Jersey to get more direct feedback and innovative ideas at the decision-making table," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "Mere white papers about the effect of decreased subsidies, increased fares and cuts to service are no substitute for the value that two more public members can bring to this board."
"The actions NJ Transit has taken in recent years have made it harder for families to make ends meet in our state," said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "Having more people in the room who know first-hand how a fare increase cuts into money set aside for groceries or how a late train can cost someone a job opportunity can only improve public transportation for all passengers."
Under the legislation, the 10-member board shall consist of: the commissioner of the Department of Transportation, the state treasurer, a third executive branch member to be appointed by the governor and seven public members to be appointed by the governor. At least three public members must be regular public transportation riders.
Currently, the board has four public members, who were appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
"No one knows the impact of fare increases and service delays better than those who regularly travel using public transportation," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Adding more public members to the NJ Transit board will better equip the state to work toward making mass transit a more affordable, more reliable and safer option for all passengers."
"Adding everyday riders to the NJ Transit board will make sure the voice of people directly affected by fare and service changes are represented among the corporation's decision makers," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "In the nation's most densely populated state, making public transportation more attractive - and thus getting people off the roads - can have a positive impact on our infrastructure, our environment and our economy. Regular passengers can help New Jersey determine the best approach to doing that."
"Our state needs to think of NJ Transit passengers' unique perspectives as a resource that, if employed wisely, can produce more efficient service and less congestion on our roads," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "We should give riders more of a voice on the decisions that impact their lives, both for the potential benefit to individual passengers and the overall potential benefit to the state."
"People who ride NJ Transit buses and trains on a regular basis are in the best position to identify its shortcomings and recommend ways to improve mass transit in our state," said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). "Having two more public members on the board will be invaluable as New Jersey works to strengthen its transportation network."
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, of which Wisniewski is chair.