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NJ Transit must notify riders of service cuts under new law

TRENTON - NJ Transit now has to let its riders know if train or bus service is about to be cut.

Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday signed a bill into law that requires NJ Transit to hold public hearings and provide notice prior to any reduction in bus or rail service.

The bill was introduced last year after the transportation authority eliminated the last New Jersey-bound trains of the night on the North Jersey Coast and Morris & Essex Lines.

The reductions were included as part of NJ Transit's biannual schedule updates.

Under current law, hearings and notice are only required for a "substantial" service cut. Falling just under that margin was a decision in September to stop providing late-night service to stations south of Long Branch on the North Jersey Coast Line.

Now, Shore residents in towns like Bay Head, Point Pleasant Beach and Manasquan must catch an 11:18 p.m. train home from New York, a 90-minute change.

On the Morris & Essex line, which includes stops in the Oranges, Millburn, Morristown and Hackettstown, the last train of the night was completely eliminated, causing riders to get on a train 20 minutes earlier.

The earlier trains leave very little wiggle room for passengers heading home from sporting events or concerts. But most importantly, it eliminates service for those who may work night shifts or alternate hours, one bill sponsor said.

“Any time there’s a proposal for bus or train service to be eliminated, people’s ability to get to work so they can keep a roof over their family’s head and put food on the table is at stake. That’s always substantial,” said Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, D-Mercer. “At the very least, NJ Transit passengers ought to be informed of how these changes may affect their lives and have the opportunity to voice an opinion.

Under the new law, NJ Transit must hold a public hearing on most service changes. Only changes that don't involve a fare increase, service elimination or schedule changes under two hours are exempt.

"For many NJ Transit passengers, life revolves around the mass transit schedule, and any disruption to that schedule can have a domino effect,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen. “Changes to mass transit schedules can have a major impact on people’s lives, so there’s an obligation to make sure that they have a say.”

An NJ Transit spokeswoman declined to comment.

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