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NJ TRANSIT UNVEILS “BACK TO BASICS’’ CUSTOMER SERVICE INITIATIVES

NEWARK, NJ, April 11, 2003 – NJ TRANSIT Executive Director George Warrington announced a number of initiatives at the Corporation’s Board of Directors meeting today, all designed to reduce customer frustration and put customer needs at the forefront of the Corporation’s day-to-day decision making.

The actions come as a result of recommendations made by the agency’s Customer Service Task Force, which was created last year as part of Warrington’s “Back to Basics” initiative. Task force recommendations are based on research with more than 15,000 transit customers, as well as with more than 100 frontline employees.

“The Governor’s goals for transit include not only more seats but better service, and this set of improvements is another installment toward realizing that promise,” said Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere, who is also Chairman of the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors. “But it goes beyond the immediate changes – it’s about transforming the culture to one that is centered on the customer,” he added.

Warrington said that the actions will affect virtually every aspect of customer interface with the transit system and will improve communications, increase parking, simplify ticketing, ease boarding, and deliver a superior onboard experience for customers.

“Complacency is the enemy of good customer service,” said Warrington. “I am absolutely committed to achieving a new level of vigilance about service delivery.”

Some examples of changes now being implemented are: relaxing ID requirements for senior citizens; expanding student bus ticketing; installing state-of-the-art signage at key locations; establishing a customer service office at the Port Authority Bus Terminal; commencing online monthly pass sales; and ongoing website improvements to make it more user friendly.

Some changes will benefit customers immediately while others require systems re-engineering. Examples of longer-term improvements include an overhaul of the Transit Information Center’s automated phone itinerary planner for rail riders and installing a new one for bus riders, and changing the current employee recruitment and hiring process.

Warrington declined to tag the initiatives with a catchy program name. “This is not a marketing program, nor is it an internal gimmick that will end in six months,” Warrington said. “This is about changes that have staying power and shifting institutional priorities so that every policy decision, every investment, and every operations change identifies the impact on the customer and consciously puts the customers’ needs ahead of what is convenient or expedient.”

Among the customer service initiatives are:

Communications

  • Enhancing the website to improve content and navigation.
  • Replacing the current automated telephone schedule information system which only includes rail and adding bus and light rail service information.
  • Implementing service information via dynamic signs at Newark Broad Street Station and the Secaucus Transfer Station.
  • Installing train information monitors at each gate at the future Secaucus Transfer Station.
  • Increasing customer interaction with more customer forums at stations – and introducing customer forums on-board trains and buses.
  • Consolidated the management of Penn Station New York to establish a more efficient operation.
  • Creating an emergency response area within Penn Station New York to house key operating employees including mechanics, transportation personnel, customer service representatives – and add a second station announcer – improving customer communications related to platform assignments and reducing reaction time when responding to emergency situations, particularly during service disruptions.
  • Distributing radios to key rail staff – including mechanics, transportation supervisors and customer service representatives – to improve response time to situations impacting service.
  • Establishing a customer service office at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Access

  • Access to transit is critical, and once a customer arrives at a station, parking is often scarce.
  • Over the last year, we have opened more than 2,000 new parking spaces at Hamilton, Delawanna and Lyndhurst train stations, the Grove Street stop on the Newark City Subway and at the Route 23 and Midland Park bus park & rides.
  • Nearly 10,000 parking spaces will be added in the next two years at multiple locations including Union Station (464), MSU Station at Little Falls (1,500), Route 17 Station at Ramsey (1,300), HBLR-MOS2 (1,000), and along the new South Jersey light rail alignment (3,121).
  • We have also expanded station hours at many of our outlying stations – including Rahway, Ho-Ho-Kus, Millburn, Watchung Avenue, Clifton and Red Bank – to provide shelter to customers during inclement weather months.

Ticketing

  • Speedier printing of tickets from bus and light rail Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) – 3 times faster. A ticket, which now takes 13 seconds to print, will take four seconds to print.
  • New TVMs have been installed at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
  • Relaxed rules and expanded hours of discount tickets for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Expanded hours of off-peak round trip tickets.
  • Extending the validity of 10-trip tickets to one year instead of the current two months.
  • Expanding the use of the bus student ticket around the clock, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
  • Printing all portions of tickets from TVMs instead of printing one ticket first, then receiving change before printing a second ticket – creating confusion and inconvenience for customers.
  • Selling monthly passes via NJ TRANSIT’s website beginning this summer through the soon-to-be launched Quik‑Tik program.

Boarding

  • Redeploying customer service ushers to manage customer flow on escalators within the 7th Avenue Concourse by time of day to improve egress and safety.
  • Added a second track announcer to improve boarding notifications.
  • Implemented a new standard of boarding trains 10 minutes ahead of their departure time for trains originating from Penn Station New York between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. each weekday. NJ TRANSIT passengers will enjoy up to 15 minutes of pre-boarding time in New York on weekends.
  • Establishing off-peak boarding locations at outlying stations, eliminating the need for customers to “guess” where a train will stop.
  • Reviewing signage at all of our facilities, to determine how riders can best navigate to and from our services and connections.
  • Expanding the accessibility of our rail stations through the opening of new high-level platforms at Union Station on the Raritan Valley Line and Hazlet Station on the North Jersey Coast Line.

Onboard Experience

  • Since last June, we’ve added 17,000 seats on our rail service to New York by adding 26 trains and by redeploying equipment on our existing service. On April 27th, with the timetable change, we will add 11 more trains each weekday, 3 more trains on Saturday and 11 more trains on Sundays in the first phase of our ramp up to the opening of the Secaucus Transfer Station. More seats are on the way.
  • For our bus passengers, we have added seats by using newer and longer cruiser buses with more seats on 14 routes, added trips to 24 bus routes and extended 5 existing bus routes in southern New Jersey to serve employment and shopping centers, as well as Rowan University.
  • Last weekend, we added more trips to 11 bus routes and made customer-requested changes to 8 additional bus routes throughout the state.
  • Addressing bathroom odor complaints by changing out rail car toilets every six months, rather than only during heavy maintenance cycles.
  • Light cleaning of trains at major terminals will be performed during the day, including picking up paper and cleaning up spills. This will supplement new “extraordinary” cleaning, where the interiors of railcars are scrubbed every 45 days versus every 90 days. On the bus side, buses receive “E-Cleaning” every 25 days versus every 30 days.
  • Additional trash receptacles were placed at Hoboken Terminal, Newark Penn Station, Penn Station New York and Trenton Station.
  • Ultimately, the onboard employees play a critical role in service delivery. We need to recruit and hire the best possible workforce, and then provide them with superior training and the tools they need to achieve service excellence. Over the next 12-18 months, we will overhaul our hiring and training processes, and implement an employee recognition program that rewards customer service excellence.

Last September, NJ TRANSIT launched an electronic customer research project that enables management to get quick feedback from commuters via a web-based survey. Senior management will continually monitor these reports to learn from and respond to customer satisfaction needs on topics ranging from station announcements to bathroom odor.

Customers will be regularly notified of the changes as they come on line. Periodic announcements to the news media, customer service notices in stations and on seats, and the Corporation’s customer newsletter – “FYI” – will advise riders of changes as the initiative progresses.

NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 752,600 daily trips on 240 bus routes, two light rail lines and 11 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 160 rail stations, 28 light rail stations and more than 17,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.

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