A month in the life of NJ Transit commuters


NJ TRANSIT riders are not shy about sharing their commuting stories online.  Many turn to Twitter to express their frustrations. A few of the more printable examples from this week:

I could write a book about how much I hate NJ Transit

One train canceled, so @NJTransit crams us all into one local train. People getting cranky and it’s just Monday.

Other customers use the Contact Us page on the agency’s website to offer complaints and compliments.  Bloomberg analyzed 7,000 comments, obtained through a public-records request, to “provide a ground-level glimpse of a cash-strapped agency struggling to repair and upgrade its equipment and fill staff vacancies.”

It wasn’t pretty.  The comments were submitted between April 14 and May 17, a four-week period that included a Hudson River tunnel power failure and multiple delays.  NJ TRANSIT classified 17% of the comments as suggestions, commendations, or requests for information.  The remaining 83% were complaints.

On the positive side, some riders took the time to compliment NJT employees for finding lost items, providing directions, and staying calm under difficult circunstances.

“A conductor’s treatment of a passenger can make the difference between a good day and a bad one, and she consistently does her utmost to make sure that we all have the best day,” one rail commuter wrote. “NJ Transit is so fortunate to have her and so many other fine folk working for them in different capacities.”

But mostly the feedback was negative, and a text analysis showed that the words “rude,” “unacceptable,” “joke,” and “ridiculous” appeared hundreds of times.

Service reliability was a common theme.  “When the end of the month comes and I’ve been late every day, I have no patience,” on commuter wrote. “You have my $280 and I have no reliable transportation to work.”  Another wrote, “I purchased my monthly pass for May and at this point, driving every day seems like a better option.  I want to be refunded.”

Some comments called out employees for all manner of actions — from operators who are struggling to stay awake to those who drive past waiting riders (sometime flipping the bird as they pass by). The agency told Bloomberg that all complaints against operators are investigated, and missed-stop reports are forwarded to bus operations for review.

“Any report of a negative interaction with the front-line employee is immediately documented and sent to the appropriate management personnel for a thorough investigation,” said spokeswoman Nancy Snyder. “If a violation of policy is determined, corrective action is swiftly taken.” She also said that complaints represent a small fraction of overall ridership. The agency reports almost 1 million trips on an average weekday.  Link to full story in Bloomberg.

Photo credit: Susan Mara Bregman