NEW JERSEY — The latest signal that things are returning to “normal” in the Garden State despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic came Monday with NJ Transit announcing that buses will return to full weekday schedules and rail services will run on an enhanced holiday schedule.
Kevin Corbett, President and CEO of NJ Transit, outlined a “Ride to Recovery” campaign during tone of Governor Phil Murphy's recent daily briefings.
As they look to expand services, Corbett said he hopes employers will play their part in helping to lessen commuter traffic during peak morning and evening hours.
“When ridership hits the 50% mark, it will be difficult to take mass out of mass transit,” he said.
Companies should allow all employees who could work from home to continue to do so, he continued.
The plan will “ensure for the 90% of people not riding that the system is clean and ready for their return,” Corbett said. “For the 10 percent or so who have been riding, we’re continuing to work harder than ever.”
The work has included cleaning and disinfecting equipment and stations every 24 hours — as well as encouraging riders to wear face masks, follow social distancing and avoid commuting if they are feeling sick.
"Until there’s a vaccine or some medical breakthrough where people do not have to be as concerned, we really need to stretch that out as long as possible," Corbett said.
Officials first cut down on service March 19 with ridership seeing a dramatic downturn as working from home became more common to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
NJ Transit, which also operates lines to New York City and Philadelphia, has not escaped COVID-19 — having confirmed 542 coronavirus cases as of Friday and 13 deaths.
However, Corbett highlighted that more than 2,100 employees, who either tested positive for coronavirus or were required to self-quarantine, have been cleared to return to work.
State officials have not explained exactly how executive orders will be enforced as more commuters seek transit services.
"NJ Transit’s got to be vigilant on face coverings and social distancing because it is in fact, as I mentioned a minute ago, it’s indoors by definition, and we’ve got to be incredibly vigilant about face coverings, social distancing and hygiene," Murphy said.
Corbett also joined Gov. Phil Murphy in announcing two long-term plans for the agency - a $5.7 billion five-year capital plan and its first-ever 10-year strategic plan. The plans were a result of a $1.3 million audit Murphy ordered in 2018 of NJ Transit, which he once called a “national disgrace.”
The 10-year plan, “NJT2030”, includes 26 strategies with five goals comprising building a reliability and continued safety of its transit system, delivering a “high-quality experience” for customers with the “entire journey in mind,” empowering “a stronger and fairer economy for all communities in the region,” creating a more sustainable future, and having “an accountable, innovative and inclusive organization that delivers” for NJ.
The agency also vows to increase service on the most congested bus routes, and replace its fleets. NJ Transit said in a statement following the press conference that the 5-year plan will make way for over 100 projects, “touching every aspect of...service.”
You can read more about the initiatives here.
“These plans are coming at a crucial time as we prepare for stage 2 of our restart and recovery from COVID19 and let there be no doubt as critical as NJ transit has been to countless essential workers as the way to and from their jobs and our front lines,” Murphy said. “NJ transit is going to be even more part of our restart as New Jerseyans began to get back to work.”
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