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Short-Term Changes Enacted To Improve NJ TRANSIT Service

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Could some relief finally be on the way for NJ TRANSIT riders?

Citing years of internal management issues and state neglect, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said some short-term changes are being made right now.

As CBS2's Alice Gainer reported Thursday, the ideas come directly from NJ TRANSIT staffers who witness the problems firsthand.

NJ TRANSIT riders have plenty of gripes.

"Just delays all around, pretty much," one commuter said.

"I do have friends that post on Facebook and say how aggravated they are," another said.

"Delays are a big problem," a third said "They continue to be all the time."

To get things going, three issues are being addressed right now. The first is rail car shortages that cause overcrowding.

"What we learned coming in is we were about 37 cars short of being able to provide what would be full daily service," said Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Commissioner and Chairwoman of NJ TRANSIT's Board of Directors.

The solution for now, Gov. Murphy said, is, "Twenty cars that had been removed from service for upgrades will be returned to service as passenger cars."

More specifically, the cars are awaiting positive train control installation. But officials say in the meantime, they can be used as passenger cars. Twelve of them were put back into service Thursday morning

Meanwhile, 20 spare cars from Maryland will soon be added at what NJ TRANSIT says is no cost.

"Our arrangement with Maryland is an equipment swap, that we have a locomotive that we were going to salvage that they were interested in, so we will transfer that to them locomotive in return for 20 rail cars," Gutierrez-Scaccetti said.

The second issue is repair backlog and parts shortage.

NJ TRANSIT has set up a timeframe of March to get the repairs and inspections done. The agency is outsourcing some work and meeting with vendors to increase inventory.

The third mission is to accelerate the hiring process at NJ TRANSIT to deal with staff shortages. NJ TRANSIT will be holding more pre-employment testing more frequently and increasing candidate pool sizes.

"Engineers for driving the trains -- there's a whole training thing, and that's a longer term process," said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Kevin Corbett. "But the maintenance, which is very significant here, is getting the maintenance; the electrical; the signal people."

NJ TRANSIT said the plans will not address every concern, but it will help in getting somewhat back on track for the time being.

Janna Chernetz of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said she thinks the NJ TRANSIT changes are important not just practically, but symbolically.

"This is an indication from the administration that transportation is going to remain a top priority," she told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell.

Chernetz is anxious to see the commitment to NJ TRANSIT through the state budget.

Currently, NJ TRANSIT is under an audit and performance review. The transit agency cannot make any long-term changes until the review and audit are complete.

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