With Murphy budget, NJ Transit hiring 114 to ease staffing crunch
MADISON — NJ Transit will spend $19 million to hire 114 employees, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday, a move that will help ease a staffing crunch at the agency that's been building for years.
Murphy provided some new details about coming investments in NJ Transit, including the staff additions.
Last week, he unveiled a budget proposal that increases NJ Transit's share by $242 million in state funding over the prior year, though much of that amount compensates for revenues the agency stands to lose.
NJ Transit has been chronically short of locomotive engineers, leading to train delays and service breakdowns. In addition to engineers, the agency will use the increased funding to hire train conductors, bus drivers and police officers.
Murphy plans to invest $4 million to expand rail and bus service to the Meadowlands, anticipating the need for more service when the American Dream complex opens.
Another $4 million will be allotted to improve communications with customers.
The largest chunk of additional funding, $120 million, replaces non-recurring funding sources and "one-shots" former Gov. Chris Christie leaned on heavily to support the agency's operations.
"We're inheriting a house of gimmicks," Murphy said Tuesday at the NJ Transit station in Madison. "There will be no more gimmicks."
However, Murphy's budget summary shows that NJ Transit will continue to receive funds diverted from the NJ Turnpike Authority as well as the state Clean Energy Fund, carrying over a practice from the Christie administration.
Unlike Christie, though, Murphy is not planning to raise fares, at least not this year.
Murphy outlined the more specific plans for NJ Transit flanked by local lawmakers and members of his administration. Before taking office in January, Murphy called the agency a "national disgrace" and promised to rebuild it.
"It is only the beginning," said Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, the state's acting transportation commissioner. "It is the first of many corrective steps."
The agency has numerous challenges in front of it. NJ Transit must meet a December deadline to install positive train control, a collision avoidance system required by federal law. The agency has lagged its peer commuter rail agencies in making progress on the technology.
It also faces uncertainty about replacements for a critical bridge and tunnel on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor linking Newark with New York's Penn Station. The Trump administration opposes federal funding for the Gateway Project, which includes a new Portal Bridge and a new Hudson River tunnel.