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New York Post

 

NJ Transit's Super Bowl Disaster

February 03, 2014

By Steven Malanga

The Super Bowl was as much of a disaster for NJ Transit as for the Denver Broncos — and a window onto the dysfunction of New Jersey government.

The transit agency had three years to prepare for the Super Bowl crowds, yet on game day it let down thousands of fans from across the country, stranding them for hours in the Secaucus transit hub before the game and at MetLife Stadium until the wee hours of the morning afterward. The snafus prompted spontaneous chants of "New Jersey sucks" from the crowd.

This is merely the latest embarrassment for an agency that Gov. Christie himself labeled as a patronage mill when he took office — and apparently hasn’t changed much.

Mind you, the local host committee and NJ Transit had both advertised this event as the world’s "first mass-transit Super Bowl." Transporting fans by the tens of thousands was a necessity thanks to MetLife Stadium’s isolated site and the NFL’s security operations, which used up much of the facility’s parking on gameday. To compensate, NJ Transit prepared offsite parking with shuttle buses to supplement the existing rail link between the Secaucus transfer station and the stadium.

Yet the planners still somehow underestimated how many people would take the train. Tales from the evening tell of platforms packed beyond capacity, fainting fans attended by EMS personnel and spectators marooned at the Meadowlands for hours after the game (extra-cruel for Broncos fans).

In press accounts, NJ Transit officials sound surprised that so many people took mass transit to the first mass-transit Super Bowl, and lamely explained the long lines by noting that many more people opted for the rail link than during a typical Giants or Jets game.

NJ Transi’s mess in the Meadowlands is only the latest of the agency’s fiascos. During Hurricane Sandy, it infamously parked hundreds of its rail cars below sea level in Hoboken and Kearny, subjecting them to extensive flooding and $100 million in damages.

The agency blamed the debacle on a single lower-level employee, though later press reports noted that NJ Transit officials had been warned well before the storm of potential flooding at those sites. The agency’s disaster preparedness, the reports went on to note, was far less thorough than the MTA’s.

Although Gov. Christie defended the agency after Sandy, he entered office as the latest in a long line of its critics. In one of his first speeches four years ago, he said, "New Jersey Transit will have to improve the efficiency of its operations, revisit its rich union contracts, end the patronage hiring that has typified its past."

Several months later an independent analysis of the performance of rail systems in the greater New York area concluded that NJ Transi’s on-time record was worse than agency reports suggested, with a quarter of trains arriving late during the average rush hour — much worse than the LIRR or Metro-North.

Christie’s predecessor, Jon Corzine, had similarly singled out NJ Transit for criticism when he took office in 2006. But not much changed during Corzine’s term, and Christie risks a similar legacy.

In fact, the agency’s problems may well just be symptomatic of all New Jersey government. Over the years, independent national studies have consistently ranked New Jersey as one of the worst-managed states in the nation, and NJ Transi’s failings reflect that.

A 2008 study by the Pew Center for the States and Governing Magazine, for instance, gave Jersey a C for management, while awarding A’s to states like Utah, Virginia and Washington and a B+ to Texas. Among other things, it noted Jersey had poor worker training and inadequate systems and controls.

The Garden State suffers from a deep-seated culture of corruption and cronyism in its politics, which views public agencies as places to be exploited for gain. Over time, even well-intentioned bureaucrats seem to take their cue from the state’s dysfunctional political culture.

And New Jersey voters have apparently come to take this state of affairs for granted, perhaps because they’ve grown cynical about the possibilities of government.

But when people from around the country wind up in your state chanting, "New Jersey sucks," perhaps i’s time to pause and wonder if perhaps something better isn’t possible.

Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/02/03/nj-transits-super-bowl-disaster/

 

 
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