NJ Legislature bill would require 3 regular riders on NJ Transit’s board

From our good friend Janna Chernetz at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign:

There’s an important bill making its way through the New Jersey Legislature which could have a profound impact on transit service in the Garden State. A bill introduced in March by Senators Ray Lesniak and Nick Sacco, with an identical House bill sponsored by Assemblymembers John Wisniewski and and Elizabeth Muoio, would add two new members to the New Jersey Transit Board of Directors: one who regularly uses NJ Transit rail services, and one who regularly uses NJ Transit bus service.

Currently, the article explains, state law requires one of NJ Transit’s 8 board members to be a regular transit rider.  NJ Transit does not specify which one of its board members is this person.

While the intention is noble, It’s hard to see how changing the requirement from 1 transit-riding board member to 3 solves this problem.  Would they be clearly identified as such, and actually accountable to the traveling public?  Or would they be transit-riding in name only?

The bill has precedents in New York, wherethree members of the MTA board are representatives of Rider’s groups for the LIRR, Metro-North, and NYC Transit.  But these are non-voting members. Potential passenger representatives on the NJ Transit board would not be nearly as toothless.  The wording of the bill says nothing about non-voting status.

The bill also leaves out how “regular” transit rider is defined.  How often is regular?  Once a week?  This is a big question mark.  The regular transit rider would be appointed by the New Jersey TMA Council, an organization made up of regional transportation management associations, a type of government body that distributes transportation funds, and runs certain transportation services.

On the other hand, New Jersey could also do what San Francisco did, where voters enacted a nonbinding measure requiring that “city officials and full-time employees travel to and from work on public transit at least twice a week.”  After 22 years of being ignored, the SF Transit Riders’ Union took public officials to task, challenging them to ride buses or trains for 22 days in a row.  Six city supervisors are providing evidence of their compliance by tweeting transit selfies.

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