The third time’s a charm, but not for NJ Transit.
Customer satisfaction was down slightly in the system’s third quarterly Scorecard survey.
On a 1-10 scale, overall customer satisfaction was down from 5.3 to 5.1, an outcome that NJ Transit classifies as “satisfactory.”
Some 17,000 respondents identified “on-time performance,” “handling of service disruptions,” and “fares” as the areas that needed the most improvement on NJ Transit, which moves approximately 440,000 people every weekday. Concerns about these issues have surfaced in each of the system’s customer surveys.
In response, NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein promised that there would be no fare increases in fiscal year 2012 (which ends on June 30, 2012). Weinstein also announced a social media strategy that aims to communicate service disruptions more effectively.
Among NJ Transit’s different services, rail had the lowest overall rating. Its score of 4.1 is a decrease from last quarter’s 4.2. The Northeast Corridor Line, with an average weekday ridership of 56,283, received the lowest score of 3.6. Riders on this line found issues with the “handling of service disruptions,” “fares,” “mechanical reliability,” and “on-time performance.”
NJ Transit’s bus operations, whose rating dropped from 5.6 to 5.4, saw the biggest reduction in overall customer satisfaction. The 94,159 daily customers that take NJ Transit’s New York interstate service were the most dissatisfied bus riders, giving an average score of 4.6. They cited issues with scheduling, the “handling of service disruptions,” and “on-time performance.”
Without adequate state funding, NJ Transit will be hard-pressed to fix the problems raised by the customer survey. New Jersey’s commitment to mass transit funding has steadily declined over the past 8 years. In 2004, half of the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Capital Program went to mass transit, but in 2012, barely a third of it did. The state’s failure to identify new dedicated revenue sources to fund transportation has only added to the problem. Instead, Governor Christie’s 5-year transportation funding plan relies on hefty general fund transfers and money from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, along with new debt. This is an unsustainable and unreliable way to fund transportation.
NJ Transit’s performance also depends on continued federal funding, which has been put in jeopardy by the House transportation bill that recently passed through committee. The House bill (HR7) would end dedicated funding for public transportation and create an “Alternative Transportation Account” funded with speculative revenue sources like royalties from oil drilling. Its contents could be raided during the annual budget process or at any other time.