NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – A day after unveiling a budget that includes $242 million to improve New Jersey Transit, Gov. Phil Murphy reassured commuters that fares will not be raised in the next year.
Murphy sat down with CBS2’s Meg Baker for a one-on-one interview following NJ TRANSIT’s monthly board meeting Wednesday.
“It won’t be a miracle overnight, but sooner than later, folks will say, ‘You know what, things have changed at NJ TRANSIT,’” the governor said.
Baker: “Can you make these changes without raising fares?”
Murphy: “We have just committed this morning. We’re not going to raise them. I committed through budget fiscal year 2019.”
Watch: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy Delivers First Budget Address
The governor said leadership is the biggest issue plaguing the agency.
“We immediately tried to correct that, and I think we’re off to a very good start,” he said. “We’ve got a terrific Department of Transportation commissioner, who’s the chair of the NJ TRANSIT board — Diane (Gutierrez)-Scaccetti, and new executive director from the private sector — Kevin Corbett.”
Baker: “You have also called for the resignation of Christie-appointees in NJ TRANSIT. I am told that they are the main source of dissent within the agency. Have you gotten any?”
Murphy: “Well, I wouldn’t necessarily (say) the main source of dissent. And by the way, just because you worked in Gov. Christie’s administration doesn’t disqualify or qualify you. In fact, several of our cabinet members have experience in that administration. But if you’re in there because you got parked there and you’ve got no expertise or no logic to being there, you don’t belong there and we’re going to deal with that. And we already are dealing with that.”
Watch: Governor-Elect Phil Murphy Tours NJ TRANSIT
Second on his list is funding.
“The last administration gutted funding… they cut it as much as 90 percent at one point,” he said. “We announced a budget that triples the support for NJ TRANSIT.”
The governor is currently conducting an audit of the agency to find other weak links.
Baker: “Let’s go back to personnel. Managers, back in the best days, had 30 years of experience. Many of those were cherry-picked by other agencies who are paying 50 percent more. Now we’re left with managers, I’m told, who have three to four years of experience — that’s a huge difference. Will you use some of that budgeted money to go after and cherry-pick those experienced workers to come back here to New Jersey?”
Murphy: “The short answer is yes. So a big chunk of this increase in funding is to target specific areas where we’re short on manpower… both folks who will be evident to commuters at the so-called point of attack, but also a lot of folks behind the scenes, including maintenance.”
Baker: “We’ve heard the cries of commuters — waiting on platforms, cancelled trains, or in overcrowded train cars, yet I’m told 300 train cars are just sitting, waiting for different maintenance work so they can get back on the tracks. How can you speed up that process?”
Murphy: “Well, we’ve already started that. That’s part of what Diane and Kevin have already done. In fact, they’ve got a lend, swapping arrangement with Maryland.”
The governor was asked whether he would consider putting a commuter on the NJ TRANSIT board to be a voice for riders.
“I want to talk to Diane, because she’s the chair and I have complete trust and faith in her and Kevin’s leadership. Conceptually, I’d be open to that,” he said.
Baker: “In regards to safety — positive train control. Only 10 percent of the trains currently have that. The deadline is nearing — December. Will that get done?”
Murphy: “I can’t guarantee that, because I don’t have a magic wand. But it’s another metric, another data point on what were we doing?”
The governor also said NJ TRANSIT will begin stock piling spare parts, so maintenance can be performed right away to get cars back on the tracks.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)