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Amid Growing Budget Shortfall NJ Transit Focuses on “Kindness and Respect”

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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, in December of 2022 a NJ Transit bus driver was arrested after allegedly shooting and critically injuring a teenager after an altercation in Jersey City . Now as NJ Transit debates how to avert its budget shortfall,  and a majority of New Jerseyans oppose cutting transit services or raising fares to stabilize funding and close the fiscal gap, NJ TRANSIT continues to focus on its top priority of safety and security with the unveiling of an informational campaign called “RIDE KIND” designed to remind and encourage customers to treat all their fellow customers and NJ TRANSIT employees with kindness and respect.

NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett was joined at Newark Penn Station today by representatives of NJ TRANSIT’s unions representing frontline bus operators and rail crews to launch the initiative. During the campaign, customers will see messaging including posters and signs on board buses and trains, inside stations and on social media to encourage customers and employees to model ideal transit behaviors. NJ TRANSIT staff will also hold occasional pop-up events to promote, recognize and reward acts of kindness across the system. Let’s all “RIDE KIND” when we ride NJ TRANSIT!

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“RIDE KIND is an excellent way to remind all of our customers to treat everyone on the transit system with respect, both fellow customers and our employees,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “If everyone does their part, we can ensure a safe and pleasant experience.”

“It is critical for everyone to show kindness and respect when riding the transit system,” said NJ TRANSIT Board member Rashonda Brown.  “A little kindness can go a long way in keeping the system safe and inviting for all.”

“RIDE KIND isn’t just a slogan – it’s a call to action for everyone who rides NJ TRANSIT,” said NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “We want it to serve as a reminder that kindness and respect are basic fundamentals for a safe and comfortable mass transit experience.”

“We’ve seen in the news assaults of transportation workers are on the rise,” said General Chairman & President of SMART-TD Local 60 Jerome Johnson. “We hope this initiative serves as a good reminder to the public and helps further protect the safety and well-being of the hard-working men and women who are essential in our daily lives.”

“Safety for transportation workers must be important to the riding public,” said Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Chairman Orlando Riley. “In 2020, we all realized how crucial frontline workers were to the state of New Jersey. They serve our state every day, and we need to continue campaigns like ‘RIDE KIND’ to ensure their safety on the job.”

NJ TRANSIT has made several advancements to enhance customer and employee safety throughout its system and recently received national recognition for its work. For the second time in three years, NJ TRANSIT was presented the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Bus Safety and Security Excellence Gold Award in April 2023. NJ TRANSIT was awarded the 2023 Gold Award for its De-Escalation/Operator Assault training program for front-line bus employees that helps them manage difficult situations and minimize the potential for employee assaults. Similar training is also being provided to NJ TRANSIT’s Rail Operations employees.

NJ TRANSIT has also taken steps to strengthen protection for transit workers. In January 2022, Governor Murphy signed the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act (S4701) to create new tools for protecting transit workers throughout the state. In addition to upgrading the penalty for all assaults on a motorbus operator or a member of a rail crew, the law also authorizes NJ TRANSIT and other public transit carriers to suspend or prohibit from ridership individuals who commit assaults against employees or otherwise jeopardize the safety and well-being of the riding public.

In 2023, a Superior Court Judge granted NJ TRANSIT’s request to suspend for a period of one year the riding privileges of an individual who had been charged with at least seven separate lewd acts aboard NJ TRANSIT buses in the past two years.

The NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors has also approved a plan to begin the rule-making process to administratively suspend ridership privileges for individuals who assault transit employees. Those rules are currently being finalized and will be presented to the Board of Directors for final adoption.

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file photo by Boyd Loving

NJ TRANSIT operators are protected employees under the laws of the State of New Jersey. An assault on NJ TRANSIT bus operators and train crews carries the possibility of a prison term of up to 5 years and fines up to $15,000.

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