Contingency planning: Activity undertaken to ensure that proper and immediate follow-up steps will be taken by a management and employees in an emergency. Its major objectives are to ensure (1) containment of damage or injury to, or loss of, personnel and property and (2) continuity of the key operations of the organization.
Last week, New Jersey Transit released its contingency plan for moving commuters in the event of a pending rail worker strike on March 13. The plan, however, falls short of accommodating daily ridership: only 40 percent of the usual 105,000 commuters would have a way into Manhattan, stranding 65,000 rail riders.
“A rail stoppage would have a severe impact on travel in the entire region, as capacity constraints on both our public transportation system and our road network limit our ability to accommodate every displaced rail customer,” said NJ Transit Interim Executive Director Dennis Martin. “NJ Transit will operate a plan that the overall system and region can safely handle to accommodate as many customers as possible who absolutely must travel into and out of New York, bearing in mind that bus service cannot replicate the railroad.”
No single mode of transportation can comfortably absorb another, and that’s especially true in New Jersey, where the shortchanging the state’s transportation network has become the norm. According to an analysis prepared by Tri-State and released as part of New Jersey for Transit Coalition, years of diminishing state subsidies to NJ Transit’s operating budget–90 percent decrease over the last 11 years–has forced the agency to transfer substantial amounts of money from its capital budget to its operating budget just to keep the wheels turning. As a result of these cannibalistic funding practices, transit expansion projects remain on the shelf while riders are forced to fork over more cash for inferior service. The source of state capital dollars, the Transportation Trust Fund, will run dry on June 30, and there is no solution in place. On July 1, the state won’t even be able to make repairs to its roughly 300 structurally-deficient bridges or the 66 percent of roads in poor or mediocre condition, never mind investing in transit needs essential to alleviating congestion.
Governor Christie’s (almost completed) 5-year capital program works much like NJ Transit’s contingency plan: getting the state through each year, but unable to meet the actual demands of the system. Patchwork funding schemes, one-shot gimmicks and debt may keep New Jersey’s head above water, but they all fall significantly short in the long term. It’s time for Trenton to stop with the contingency funding plans and agree on a real solution.