POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP)NJ Transit riders are not thrilled about the price of a ride, late trains and buses and service interruptions, and they give the sprawling statewide system mediocre marks in a new customer satisfaction survey.

1010 WINS’ John Montone reports: Riders Weigh In On NJ Transit Service

Yet these same riders realize that few better alternatives exist. About two-thirds of respondents say they use the public transit system even though they have a car, and would recommend the system to friends and relatives.

The agency released the first results Wednesday of Scorecard, an ongoing rider satisfaction survey where riders are asked to rate the system on a scale of 0 to 10. NJ Transit’s overall rating came in at 5.2, corresponding to “acceptable.”

“We want to be better than simply ‘acceptable’ and are committed to moving the needle to that end,” said James Weinstein, NJ Transit’s executive director. “Thanks to this invaluable input from our customers, the Scorecard will be a living, breathing document that puts the spotlight on the areas where NJ Transit most needs to improve.”

For riders at the Point Pleasant Beach train station waiting for a train to New York City, the biggest of those areas is price. Justin Hager, 23, of Point Pleasant, was bound for New York to see a concert Tuesday at Irving Plaza with a companion.

“The price to go to the city is not good,” he said after buying tickets from an automated kiosk. “That’s $60 we’ve spent without setting foot in New York City. And it’s not like anything’s cheap there.”

Yet Hager said once the tickets are purchased, the ride is a fairly pleasant experience. His overall rating of NJ Transit: 6 out of 10.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reports: What Grade Would You Give NJT?

That’s the same score Alexandra Smith of Brick gave the system. She, too, bemoaned the price of getting from here to there on public transit.

“I rode from New Brunswick to New York City three days a week when I was interning in the city,” she said. “The student discount helped, but it still wasn’t that great. You pay $400 a month to ride to the city where you make zero dollars.”

NJ Transit spokeswoman Courtney Carroll said the fiscal year 2012 budget to be unveiled Wednesday does not include a fare increase. Past fare increases were necessary to close budget gaps caused by increasing costs, she said.

Smith said the trains to the city from New Brunswick to Manhattan were routinely crowded.

“I’d be standing for an hour,” she said. “That was rough.”

Yet Smith also had some good things to say about the system.

“I like the quiet cars a lot,” she said, referring to designated rail cars in which cell phone use is strongly discouraged and headphone-wearing patrons are expected to keep music down to a level at which no one else can hear it.

NJ Transit is the nation’s largest statewide public transportation system, with 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 12 commuter rail lines. About 428,000 people use the system each weekday.

It is the third largest transit system in the country, with 165 rail stations, 60 light rail stations and more than 18,000 bus stops linking New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.

The survey was taken in April and May, both online and by customer service representatives at transit stations. About 19,000 people filled out responses.

Customers were asked to consider 32 attributes of the system related to facilities, service, vehicles, communications and the overall experience of using NJ Transit.

Bus passengers rated their overall satisfaction with service at a 5.5. They listed on-time performance, fares and the weekday evening schedule as the most important areas for NJ Transit to improve upon. Nearly 261,000 people use the system’s buses on a typical weekday, representing 61 percent of all NJ Transit customers.

Rail passengers gave NJ Transit an overall score of 4.5, ranking on-time performance, fares, mechanical reliability and the handling of service disruptions as areas most in need of improvement. About 132,000 customers ride NJ Transit trains on a typical weekday, composing about 31 percent of all customers.

Light rail customers, accounting for about 8 percent of all riders, gave NJ Transit an overall satisfaction rating of 6.5. They ranked fares, security and seating availability are the most important aspects of service to improve. About 33,000 customers use the three light rail lines on a typical weekday.

Access Link, NJ Transit’s service for customers with disabilities, was given an overall rating of 7.5, and serves about 3,000 customers on a typical weekday.

Surveys will be conducted quarterly, with the next one later this month.

Patricia Sroke of Hackensack was visiting a relative in Toms River on Tuesday while dropping a friend off at the Point Pleasant Beach train station. Sroke, 56, and her husband usually take the car to the shore because the train is too expensive, she said.

“I come by car all the time,” she said. “For us, $30 each way is a lot. I’ll just drive.”

What do you think of NJ Transit? Sound off in our comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (8)
  1. Ted says:

    The survey is designed to provide the response that those with cars would still take NJT service. Fact of the matter is most are going someplace where there is little parking availability and prohibitive expense to park. If this were not the case NJT would be running empty buses and trains because their customers are sick of poor customer service and poor mechanical reliability. Broken down trains have nothing to do with Amtrak having priority.

  2. Fran says:

    Sure – move on,but customers shouldn’t be take the blame or suffer.I speak mainly of buses and inability or care to accommodate people. If you’re moving enough people 5-10 miles in, out and around metro ny, it shouldn’t take HOURS of questionable service to do so, which for me it has. Carry a personal itrm with me? Please! How? There should more points connecting main cities and attractions. They would have more business for sure instead of one bus with just 4 people on it heading into Manhattan. Lastly, all the out of service buses passing by and clogging the tunnel is unnecessary.

  3. Fra says:

    Sure – move on,but customers shouldn’t take the blame or suffer.I speak mainly of buses and inability or care to accommodate their people. If you’re moving enough people 10 -20 miles in, out and around metro ny, it shouldn’t take HOURS of questionable service to do so, what a joke. No matter where you work or how much money you’re paid. There should more points connecting main cities and attractions. They would have more business for sure instead of one bus with just 4 people on it heading into Manhattan. All the out of service buses passing by and clogging the tunnel is unnecessary. Mta is a piece of cake and fast, once your in. These are reasonable changes, which should be made on the fare already being paid. Otherwise, I’d gladly walk the distance, or dare I say it, pay more for better, but less than the price of a cab or car.

  4. dave says:

    5.2 is acceptable ? Wow i guess the education really is falling apart if the news things thats a good grade. When i was in school 7.0 was passing. I guess a liberal would never give a union run organization bad press.

  5. C Thomas says:

    I have no problem with NJT. I like their service, and especially like the newer double decker trains. People forget they have to be subservient to Amtrak on many occassion, which of course they have no control over. As far as signal issues, those can be weather related and are symptomatic of America’s aging infrastructure, not a direct result of anything NJT has done or is doing. I would suggest to gain perspective, some of the dissatisfied take a nasty Septa train and note how long their journey takes when the train stoips every 1/2 mile at every little station. I suspect a change of heart and appreciation shall surely follow.

  6. Wig Wam Willie says:

    Didn’t you know? Public transportatin has NOTHING to do with transporting the public. The one and only purpose of public transportation is to keep professional complainers employed by giving them things to complain about (and make money on).

  7. Tired of you to. says:

    NJ transit is the worst. Delays, breakdowns, cusomer service? Whats that??

    Broken buses, no air conditioning and yes dirty. I dont know where the above person travels from. The amount of money we pay is almost half of both my paychecks they are a horror.

  8. Tired of stupid people says:

    The amount of times the trains are late or the busses run late because of traffic or weather. Nothing compared to the DAILY delays on the NYC subways. EVERYDAY delays due to one issue or another. Hey that is what I deal with living in NYC, I have done the NJT commute. Yes it can have delays and slow service, however they are maybe at best once a month on the line I rode. So i say to you that complain, your trains/busses may be late. Yet you do not have urine smells/panhandlers and smelly food or people. Suck it up and move on, 9 out of 10 times your on schedule.

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