NJ TRANSIT: Your Ride To Recovery
Ride to Recovery: NJ TRANSIT’s COVID-19 Response & Path Forward describes both the actions taken by NJ TRANSIT to manage the challenges faced during the pandemic, and our path forward as we continue to plan for the future. These actions enabled us to provide safe and effective service to support travel by essential workers during the height of the pandemic and for all riders continuing into the future. They also helped us implement safety measures, keep our riders informed, and continue our commitment to deliver on our strategic goals and our capital program.
NJ TRANSIT’s mission is to move New Jersey and the region by providing safe, reliable, and affordable public transportation that connects people to their everyday lives, one trip at a time. Our preparedness, collaboration, and staff commitment allowed us to uphold this mission during the pandemic. We were able to respond so strongly to this crisis because of the sustained progress made in fortifying the agency as a whole, leading the industry in technological advancement and best-in-class innovation. During this unprecedented time, we kept our customers moving while simultaneously continuing to advance forward-thinking strategies to keep them safe and plan for an improved, customer-focused system.
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- Executive Summary
This Executive Summary provides an overview of the actions NJ TRANSIT took to address the COVID-19 pandemic and our path forward as we emerge from the pandemic. These actions, many of which are still in place today, proved vital towards managing and responding to the challenges we faced — including efforts to support essential workers, to pivot our services to meet the rapidly changing needs of our customers, to integrate new technologies and processes to improve our customers’ experience, and to continue advancement of our strategic and capital plans.
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- Chapter 1: Summary of the Pandemic Impact and Need for a Strategic Recovery and Restoration Plan
Although the pandemic’s effects, and NJ TRANSIT’s responses to them, continue to unfold, this COVID-19 Response and Path Forward document describes actions taken by the agency to manage the challenges it faced during the first year of the pandemic. This chapter summarizes the impact of the pandemic on the agency, how NJ TRANSIT responded, the strategies and tools it utilized to be a leader in pandemic response, how it continues to communicate effectively with its customers, and how NJ TRANSIT is emerging as an agency built even stronger to serve the region.
- Chapter 2: Purpose and Need for a Strategic Recovery Plan
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, NJ TRANSIT was experiencing robust demand, accommodating 263 million systemwide trips in Fiscal Year 2019. When stay-at home restrictions began in March 2020, demand for transit service dropped significantly; yet essential workers continued to rely on NJ TRANSIT service to get to work. This chapter highlights the impacts of the pandemic on NJ TRANSIT and provides information about the agency’s real-time response to provide service and keep passengers and employees safe in a rapidly changing environment.
- Chapter 3: Structuring NJ TRANSIT’s Response to the Pandemic
NJ TRANSIT deployed a rapid response plan and established an Incident Command to respond to the impacts of the pandemic quickly and efficiently. The goals were simple, but extraordinarily consequential: keep staff and riders safe, enhance systemwide coordination, carefully monitor changing guidelines, and keep employees and customers informed. This chapter provides insight to NJ TRANSIT’s organization, focus and response during the pandemic.
- Chapter 4: Scenario Planning and Framework Development to Guide Recovery Planning
In the face of uncertainty, NJ TRANSIT began planning for restoration and recovery as soon as the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic had subsided in late-Spring 2020. Through Scenario Planning, the agency prepared optimistic and pessimistic recovery scenarios to develop a forecasted range and timeline for ridership to return to the system. This information helped NJ TRANSIT plan for service recovery, anticipate revenue and develop methods to prepare for riders to return. This chapter documents the inputs, process, and outcome of the scenario planning efforts
- Chapter 5: Financial Planning and Funding
With the decline in transit demand, NJ TRANSIT’s farebox revenue was significantly impacted. At the same time the agency was experiencing increased costs due to enhanced cleaning procedures, the procurement of new safety equipment, and other pandemic related expenses. Fortunately, efforts by NJ TRANSIT and other agencies resulted in the federal CARES Act and other federal and state fiscal support, which infused the agency with stabilizing funding. This chapter describes the fiscal impacts, funding sources, and NJ TRANSIT’s commitment to continue to improve the NJ TRANSIT system even during the pandemic.
- Chapter 6: Health and Safety of Workforce and Customers
Enhanced safety and cleaning during and after the pandemic were essential to enabling customers to feel comfortable riding NJ TRANSIT. The focus of the pandemic’s response has been on maintaining and continuing essential agency operations, while ensuring the combined health, safety, and privacy of both NJ TRANSIT’s workforce and their customers. This chapter describes the actions taken by the agency to bring state-of-the-art disinfection and sanitization methods to the NJ TRANSIT system, methods to ensure that the agency could continue to function and provide service, the impact of illness on NJ TRANSIT’s workforce, the use of technology to limit person-to-person interactions, and additional health and safety measures that were employed.
- Chapter 7: Customer Data Analysis
Access to real-time data during the pandemic has been critical to supporting the agency’s response. To supplement existing data sources, NJ established key data-driven workstreams, informed by regional, national, and international coordination. Data collected and assessed included customer preference and market research, travel demand by all modes, business needs, community and innovative mobility, and geospatial analysis. Technological enhancements throughout the agency contributed to the collection and use of data to inform service planning and scenario planning. This chapter describes NJ TRANSIT’s pandemic-related data challenges and the methods that were employed to overcome them and the plan to use new data to improve NJ TRANSIT in the future.
- Chapter 8: Service Planning
NJ TRANSIT’s focus during the pandemic has been to keep its transit fleet moving in the most effective, safest, and reliable ways. Since March 2020, the agency has grappled with service delivery significantly impacted by crew availability, having enough fleet to maintain social distancing, and increasing service to meet specific rider demand in certain regions. This chapter details the pandemic’s impacts on NJ TRANSIT’s service and provides a forward-thinking plan on how to best serve the agency’s customers past recovery and beyond.
- Chapter 9: Agency Communication
This chapter provides insight to how NJ TRANSIT provided clear and frequent communications during the pandemic to help employees and customers understand changes in operations needed to respond to the pandemic. These included campaigns to help customers understand how to safely ride the systems and for employees to stay safe at work. Improvements to both the agency’s transit app and website further supported customer communications. NJ TRANSIT also participated in numerous industry forums to collect information, benchmark response actions, and to better coordinate service.
- Chapter 10: Our Path Forward
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people are traveling and will travel in the future. This requires adjusting previous notions of how New Jersey’s transit system best serves its customers. The pandemic has highlighted numerous lessons learned that NJ TRANSIT will use to continue to make the agency stronger and more resilient. The five goals laid out in the agency’s 10-Year Strategic Plan, will continue to drive the path forward, while applying lessons learned throughout the pandemic to ongoing and planned strategies, investments, and decisions. This chapter details how the pandemic has given NJ TRANSIT additional tools and improved strategies to deliver on its strategic goals.
- Chapter 11: Conclusion
2020 was a year like no other, and as the nation and region move towards a post-pandemic future, NJ TRANSIT is indebted to its essential staff that have allowed the agency to provide service to the region’s essential workers and keep New Jersey stronger than ever. NJ TRANSIT’s five core values of teamwork, stewardship, transparency and accountability, inclusion, and innovation, drove decision-making and actions taken by the agency during the pandemic. These core values will continue to be instrumental towards how the agency continues to evolve, innovate, and serve the people of New Jersey and its surroundings.