Assembly approves giving Judiciary Committee subpoena power to investigate NJ Transit

TRENTON, NJ — The N.J. Assembly on Oct. 20 voted 71-0 to launch an investigation into the safety and financial practices of NJ Transit, giving the Assembly Judiciary Committee subpoena power to conduct an inquiry, according to a press release.

The Judiciary panel is working on the inquiry with the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee; this work began with a 10 a.m. hearing on Oct. 21.

The bill, AR-185, sponsored by Judiciary Chairman John McKeon, who represents parts of Essex and Morris counties, authorizes the Assembly Judiciary Committee to enter upon an investigation or inquiry into the financial and operating practices of the NJ Transit Corp. The resolution grants the committee the power to issue subpoenas to compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of documents.

“The public and the state’s economic vitality depend on NJ Transit to fulfill its mission, but the public has lost confidence in the agency’s ability to operate safely and efficiently,” Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who represents parts of Hudson and Bergen counties, said in the press release. “Public safety must always be the priority at NJ Transit, but recent events call into question whether the agency and the administration have been committed to that all-important principle. The public deserves a thorough and professional investigation that answers all its questions, but most of all it deserves this: a safe NJ Transit.”

According to the release, McKeon has repeatedly raised questions about NJ Transit safety — especially after the recent Hoboken crash — and has been tasked by the speaker with being the Assembly’s lead on the issue.

“This review will greatly assist the Legislature’s efforts to enact meaningful reform to ensure that NJ Transit fulfills its purpose — safe transportation service in the public interest,” McKeon said in the release. “We’ve seen fare hikes on working families combined with service cuts. We’ve seen NJ Transit used as a place for patronage for unqualified appointees. We’ve seen concerns about public safety rise. And we’ve seen a dearth of leadership at this vital agency. The public deserves better than what it’s been getting.”

Prieto and McKeon had been considering asking the Office of the State Auditor to look into the agency, according to the release, but concerns arose about how long it would take to complete such a review.

“The status quo at NJ Transit is not acceptable,” Prieto said in the release. “New Jersey needs a reliable and safe mass transit system, and that’s not happening right now.”

“The public deserves a full accounting of what’s going on at NJ Transit,” McKeon said.