Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Monday mandating a “full-scale” audit of NJ Transit, the embattled agency plagued by safety and staffing problems.
“This is an agency that must be boiled down to its essentials and then put back together again,” Murphy said during a signing event at the Summit train station. “Today, we take that first step.”
The audit will examine the agency’s finances, leadership structure, hiring process and customer service, according to the executive order. The audit must also analyze the agency’s relationship with Amtrak, which operates Penn Station, and NJ Transit’s progress in implementing Positive Train Control, a system designed to prevent collisions and high-speed derailments.
NJ Transit has been deeply underfunded for years, with the agency diverting millions of dollars from capital funding projects to cover the cost of its operations, all while fares have increased 36 percent since 2009, according to Murphy’s office. Meanwhile, the agency has suffered from frequent delays and several accidents, including the fatal crash in Hoboken in 2016.
“The public deserves a true accounting of how this once-model agency fell so far, so fast,” Murphy said, according to an audio recording of the event.
He said his nominee for Department of Transportation commissioner, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, would oversee the audit, which he expects to take roughly three months.
Murphy did not say what would happen if the audit revealed that further fare hikes are needed, only saying that he’s “hard-pressed” to think that would be a conclusion.
“I think we have to believe that there are extraordinary inefficiencies in this organization, that we can be much smarter about taking advantage of,” he said, adding that the agency’s problems stem from its leadership;
Earlier this month, Murphy’s transition team asked senior staff members at NJ Transit to resign, according to reports