NJ Transit Seen Down $2.4 Million in Fares on Staff Shortage

(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Transit failed to collect $2.4 million in commuter-rail revenue over nine months because of short-staffing and passenger crowding, according to a union representing train conductors.

United Transportation Union Local 60 based the calculation on forms submitted by employees. The missed revenue could be higher, the union said, because there was a shortage of forms this year, and in many cases, submitted information was incomplete or illegible.

From January to September, workers missed at least 146,625 passengers, the union said, as collectors were overwhelmed by riders standing in aisles or ran out of time to reach all cars. By year-end, the union expects the missed revenue to surpass $3.2 million.

“I have eight, nine, 10-car trains running with a ticket collector in front and a ticket collector in back and missing the three who should be in the middle,” union chairman Steve Burkert said in an interview. “It’s not just revenue. It’s not safe for my passengers or any of my crews.”

Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokeswoman, said the analysis by the union local, also known as SMART-TD, was flawed.

“The estimate cited by SMART-TD is purely speculative, is based on sloppy math and focuses on a fraction of 1 percent of NJ Transit revenue,” Snyder said in an email. “Eighty percent of the rail riders during the peak period for peak-direction trips are monthly pass holders and revenue is not lost.”

The nation’s second-largest commuter railroad, a key link to New York City jobs, is beset by fiscal and safety troubles. Federal data show it has the most accidents and fines among its peers, and last year it had the second-highest number of breakdowns, behind the Boston-area Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

In almost eight years under Governor Chris Christie, riders have endured two fare increases while crowding and delays worsened. For the past year, it’s been under investigation by a state panel examining its finances and operations.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.