January 17, 2011
The classifieds in this issue include 1 notice, 12 bids & proposals, and 7 job opportunities!
Fiscal Efficiency Keeps NJ Transit Operating Well
BY JAMES WEINSTEIN, Executive Director, New Jersey Transit Corporation, Newark, NJ
As public transportation agencies enter the new year, the biggest issue we face across the nation remains largely unchanged: budget constraints due to a volatile economy.
Last year, New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) worked hard to balance its budget and create a sustainable, fiscally responsible plan that preserves New Jersey’s robust, multimodal transit network. In 2011, NJ Transit must continue to do its part to become the leanest, most efficient agency possible without compromising safety, so it can remain a strong, stable agency ready to respond to the transit needs of New Jersey citizens.
In these extraordinary financial times, we will continue to look for ways to do more with less—making the most efficient use of our resources and reducing operating expenses while maintaining a quality public transportation system.
As a statewide public transportation agency, NJ Transit provides service to nearly one million customers each workday. In the upcoming year, the agency will continue to position itself for rebounding ridership, particularly as more people turn to public transit in the face of rising gas prices. To that end, we will continue procurement of our popular multi-level rail cars, which provide 20 percent more seating capacity than the single-level cars they are replacing. We will also continue to take delivery of more than 1,400 new buses that will provide additional capacity and service flexibility.
Generating More Revenue
Already considered a pioneer in non-farebox revenue generation, NJ Transit will continue to pursue new and creative ways to generate even more revenue from its assets in 2011. Nearly 5 percent of the current operating budget comes from non-farebox revenue sources as the agency continually looks for ways to maximize revenue through advertising, real estate, strategic marketing partnerships, and other commercial revenue opportunities.
As part of our effort to make the most of our assets, we are currently pursuing a request for proposals from qualified firms to create a public-private partnership that will rationalize, improve, and unify parking for customers while addressing the growing cost of operating parking facilities and reducing taxpayer support for parking operations.
In recent years, NJ Transit has launched a number of initiatives as part of an ongoing effort to put technology to work for our customers to improve their overall commute—from the way they access travel information to their experience on board trains and at our facilities. Moving forward, the system will look to expand on these initiatives and introduce additional amenities where possible.
For example, in October 2010 NJ Transit launched its “My Bus” system, which enables any customer with text messaging capability to access schedule information for the more than 19,000 bus stops all over New Jersey, using unique bus stop ID numbers. In the coming year, the agency will introduce “My Light Rail” as another way for customers to access schedule information for the agency’s three light rail lines.
Also this past fall, NJ Transit launched a Quiet Commute pilot program on its busiest trains—select Northeast Corridor express trains—to test the feasibility of offering the amenity on our system. After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback, we significantly expanded the pilot starting Jan. 3, adding Quiet Commute cars to all peak period, peak direction trains that begin or end their trips at New York Penn Station or Newark Penn Station.
NJ Transit is now working toward the expansion of Quiet Commute to its remaining lines—including trains that begin or end their trips at Hoboken Terminal—but we must first address some logistical challenges in recognition of the shorter train sets that operate on those lines.
Last year, NJ Transit also participated in the Tap & Go pilot program (now called “Tap > Ride”), which allows customers to use contactless payments on select bus routes and at the Newark Airport Rail Station (AirTrain). We are looking to expand the program this year to include other routes.
In 2011, NJ Transit will continue to advance capital construction projects around the state that will keep the bus, rail, and light rail systems running and position the agency for the ridership growth that will return when the economy recovers. In addition, continued investment in state of good repair projects will reduce the need for greater taxpayer support in the future.
Overall, NJ Transit will remain focused on providing convenient, reliable service to its customers and looking for ways to improve the overall travel experience by introducing additional amenities and tapping into the latest technology, while making the most of its resources within a tight budget environment.
Weinstein is a member-at-large on the APTA Executive Committee.