New Jersey Transit announced Dec. 5 that Positive Train Control is “95% complete” toward meeting compliance with the Dec. 3, 2018 interim deadline. Concurrently, the agency launched “a new comprehensive communications initiative aimed at improving the customer experience” and announced a procurement for new multi-level railcars.
NJT has been identified by the Federal Railroad Administration as one of several passenger railroads “at risk” of not meeting the statutory interim deadline for PTC implementation and qualifying for an Alternative Schedule with a Dec. 31, 2020 absolute deadline.* NJT said it has made “remarkable progress” on PTC installation and expects it to be completed on time. In January, PTC on NJT was at just 12% completion.
The customer communications program, entitled Engage. Inform. Improve., is targeted toward “addressing customer needs, providing more timely information, and improving all customer touchpoints including announcements, station and facility conditions, and the onboard experience.” Executive Director Kevin Corbett describes Engage. Inform. Improve. as “three ideals [that] will be the foundation upon which we continue to transform and improve NJ Transit … The guiding principles to ensure that everything we do moving forward supports the customer at the forefront.”
The initiative will roll out in three phases:
Engage: “NJT will actively engage customers for their input and listen to customer needs to identify areas in need of improvement. This includes proactive survey engagement and greater social media engagement.”
Inform: “Customers will receive more proactive and effective communications from NJT in real time during service disruptions. NJT will provide easier access to critical information, and inform customers of efforts to improve operations.”
Improve: “NJT will continue to implement new ideas to improve the customer experience as part of a continuous feedback loop and develop and deploy new technology to strengthen operations and improve service.
NJT said it “has actively and aggressively been taking action to improve service and communications since Governor [Phil] Murphy signed an executive order examining operations in January.” Among the efforts:
- New rolling stock; 113 new Multilevel III commuter railcars from Bombardier. The order consists of 58 self-powered electric railcars that can each haul two Multilevel trailers, 33 non-powered Cab Cars and 22 Trailer Cars, 6 of which will be equipped with restrooms.
- An upgraded mobile app, which features customized transit alerts sent to customers via push notifications. Additionally, customers can access Apple Pay and Google Pay to make purchases through the app.
- Upcoming creation of a “Customer Experience” unit responsible for monitoring and assessing all facets of the customer experience from the time a customer enters a station until they leave their destination point, including PA announcements, and conditions onboard and at facilities.
- Pilot installation of touch-screen interactive information kiosks at Newark Penn Station, Hoboken Terminal, and at the Harborside and Pavonia stations along Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.
- Recruiting efforts for locomotive engineers. Since Jan. 1, more than 5,000 applications for locomotive engineers have been received. Four new engineer training classes are under way, with 13 engineers anticipated to graduate in May 2019, and three additional classes graduating before the end of 2019.
- Average procurement cycle time on has been reduced by 30%, compared to 2017 and by 40% when compared to 2016.
- Upgrading smartphone devices for train crews, which will provide real-time service information to share onboard with customers.
* The federal PTC statute says that passenger railroads (except Amtrak), by Dec. 31, 2018, must have all PTC hardware installed; all radio spectrum acquired; all required employee training completed; and at least one territory fully operational.