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NJ TRANSIT ANNOUNCES CHANGES IN INCIDENT RESPONSE PROTOCOLS

Larger Focus on Customer Care, Comfort and Communications

NEWARK, NJ – Following a month plagued with a number of incidents causing extensive delays and inconvenience to thousands of customers, including severe thunderstorms, power outages, trespasser fatalities, downed wires, and a derailment, a task force was created to review NJ TRANSIT’s response to major incidents.

The 22-member task force, which included representatives from the United Transportation Union (UTU) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), has issued a host of recommendations to improve the Corporation’s customer care, comfort and communications including:

  • Stopping the first available train to the incident to rescue passengers.
  • Equipping trains and stations with bullhorns.
  • Establishing new crew size standards for eight, 10 and 12-car trains.
  • Creating regional six to eight-member “Go Teams” consisting of NJ TRANSIT managers who will be immediately deployed to incidents to provide care to customers involved in a major incident.
  • Providing more immediate communication by equipping all train crews with radios to keep passengers better informed.
  • Displaying emergency procedures on all trains, with accompanying panel cards available at major terminals and stations.

“It was clear that NJ TRANSIT’s response to the July 14th derailment was inadequate,” said NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman and State Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere. “NJ TRANSIT customers deserve better and these recommendations do just that by greatly strengthening the Corporation’s abilities to respond to incidents and the needs of the customers.”

“Our customers and crews have spoken, and we have listened,“ said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director George D. Warrington. “These recommendations are between the eyes and from the bottom up. It’s important that our nearly 800,000 daily riders hear loud and clear that good customer service is paramount to our business,” Warrington added.

Recommendations during major incidents:

Communications:

  • Activate six to eight-member “Go Teams” to report to the incident to assist customers.
  • Activate Emergency Response Teams to report to major terminals to assist Customers – Hoboken Terminal, Newark Penn Station, Penn Station New York and Secaucus.
  • Assign non-operations staff to the Rail Operations Center to coordinate the dissemination of train status and delay information during a disruption.
  • Broadcast emergency alerts to train crews when an incident occurs.
  • Equip trains and stations with bullhorns to serve as back up to onboard and station announcements.

Operations:

  • Send the first available train to an incident to rescue passengers, including Amtrak trains.

Recommendations to improve day-to-day operations:

Staffing

  • Established new crew size standards, which includes one train crewmember for every three rail cars on 8, 10, and 12-car trains.
  • Redeploy non-operational manager to Rail Operations Center during peak periods (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) Monday through Friday to ensure information to customers is quickly and accurately disseminated onboard trains and at stations.

Communications:

  • Distribute handheld radios to all train crews within 90 days to better receive information and disseminate information to customers on board trains.
  • Within 30 days, install pagers in station ticket offices to help agents disseminate customer information during disruptions. This will augment public address announcements.
  • Install new emergency procedures posters on trains within 60 days, with panel cards available at stations and major terminals.
  • Compile a system-wide inventory of all defective public address (PA) systems and assess the need for more speakers within 45 days.
  • Institute a preventive maintenance program for the PA system.

Training/Drills:

  • Train all 100 rail operations managers on incident command and control within 90 days.
  • Conduct full-scale field emergency tabletop drill before the end of the calendar year with appropriate departments, including rail operations, police and Go-Team members.
  • Conduct hands-on field emergency drill before the end of the calendar year.
  • Provide train crews and ticket agents with advance customer service training beginning in 90 days and continuing over the next year.
  • Change the inspection protocols to include redundant wheel inspections procedures.

The task force also included long-term recommendations including, reviewing wireless communication systems for on-board announcements; improving and or replacing the public address systems at major terminals and outlying stations; and expanding the variable message sign capability at Newark Penn Station, Hoboken Terminal and Penn Station New York for use during service disruption and/or emergencies.

Interviews were conducted with more than 100 customers and more than 100 e-mails were reviewed to assist the task force in developing its recommendations. Subgroups were also formed to focus on operations during emergencies, employee communications, passenger care and overall communications.

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 161 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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