NJ Politics Digest: So How Much Is Murphy to Blame for Commuters’ New Summer of Hell?

When problems at NJ Transit had commuters fuming this summer, Gov. Phil Murphy immediately blamed the situation on his predecessor, former Gov. Chris Christie.

Gov. Phil Murphy
Gov. Phil Murphy. MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images

When problems at NJ Transit had commuters fuming this summer, Gov. Phil Murphy immediately blamed the situation on his predecessor, former Gov. Chris Christie. Seven months into the job, Murphy claimed he was just coming to understand how badly the transit agency needed help.

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But as a report by The Record points out: “If Murphy failed to deliver immediate relief to frustrated NJ Transit commuters, it wasn’t for a lack of information.”

The report points out that a joint state legislative committee held 10 hearings on the transit system between October 2016 and Murphy’s inauguration, providing plenty of evidence on the state of NJ Transit to anyone who cared to pay attention.

One result of the hearings was a draft report that hasn’t been released to the public, as well as legislation aimed at changing the agency’s governance and improving its transparency, the report said. One of the fixes included in the legislation was lifting the requirement that NJ Transit employees live in New Jersey—a measure that Murphy finally called for once commuter anger boiled over this summer while he was vacationing at his mansion in Italy. The report also noted that Murphy’s transition team prepared a report on NJ Transit’s problems in January, but no action was taken on its recommendations.

Murphy had made improving service at NJ Transit and helping the state’s struggling middle class two of his primary campaign pledges.

The Record report notes that rather than act on the recommendations included in either report, Murphy, who is closely allied with the state’s public employee unions, called for an audit of the agency before taking any action. The audit was supposed to be completed within 100 days. The report notes that more than seven months later it is still not done.

The report also notes that NJ Transit officials have not done a good job of communicating with riders, citing the case of the agency’s decision to suspend service on its Atlantic City line, a move that affected riders only found out about through media reports that uncovered the plan.

The Record report quotes a Murphy spokesman as saying the governor will closely review any proposals to improve the agency.

Quote of the Day: “I don’t know of anything in the reform bill that has to await the outcome of an audit.” — Sen. Loretta Weinberg, on the Murphy administration’s waiting for an audit of NJ Transit to be complete before taking action to overhaul the troubled agency.

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NJ Politics Digest: So How Much Is Murphy to Blame for Commuters’ New Summer of Hell?