N.J. Senate committee advances Mukherji bill for rider commission, NJ Transit advocate


The New Jersey Senate Transportation Committee advanced a bill from state Senator Raj Mukherji (D-32) that would establish a Rider Advocacy Commission, as well as an NJ Transit Customer Advocate, a role that has been vacant since October 2020.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“On any given weekday, NJ Transit connects 350,000 riders to work, school, and family. As one of the largest transit systems in the country, it’s inexcusable that there is no independent official or body to look out for our riders,” Mukherji said in a statement.

“An autonomous rider advocate and commission, whose accountability is to the Legislature and not NJ Transit, would more fairly serve our commuters’ interests. The just-announced fare hikes, for example, would have been subject to analysis and a need determination by the Rider Advocate under the bill.”

The Rider Advocacy Commission would have three members: one appointed by the governor, one appointed by the senate president, and one appointed by the assembly speaker.

The commission would then appoint a rider advocate, who in turn would head a newly established New Jersey Transit Office of Customer Advocate.

The bill would repeal the provision of law for the NJ Transit Board to employ a customer advocate internally. The commission is modeled in part after the NYC Transit Riders Council.

The rider advocate would have the authority to consult temporary expert assistants during NJT changes such as planned or actual fare increases and substantial reductions or expansions in service.

NJ Transit’s customer advocate position has been vacant since Stewart Mader left the post in October 2020, as The Record first reported.

Furthermore, the bill would also authorize the office to engage in investigations, conduct research, and present comments and testimony to NJT’s board of directors and legislative committees.

In an effort to hear from riders about their experience directly, the Office would also be required to conduct meetings with NJT’s customers on at least a monthly basis.

Additionally, an official website and voicemail to allow for public input on NJT operations would be created.

Funds for the commission and the office’s expenses would be appropriated by the legislature and will be independent from any funds appropriated for the NJ Transit.

The state legislation began to see movement shortly after NJ Transit revealed that their budget this year would come with a 15 percent fare hike for riders, the first since 2015, and to the chagrin of Jersey City and Hoboken electeds – the two cities in Mukherji’s district.

The bill advanced in a (5-0) vote.

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