Apr
03

NJ Transit: We moved trains to vulnerable areas

By

New Jersey Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein keeps digging his own grave over the agency’s response to Sandy, but no one seems willing to fire him. After spending months defending his and his employees’ actions leading up the storm — the same actions that resulted in $450 million worth of damage to vital rolling stock — Weinstein was at it again on Wednesday. This time, he sat in front of a New Jersey State Senate committee and discussed how New Jersey Transit moved trains into low-lying areas ahead of the storm.

Karen Rouse of The Record was on hand to report on Weinstein’s testimony. She summed it up:

NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein acknowledged publicly on Wednesday that the agency actually moved rail cars and locomotives into its flood-prone Meadowlands rail yard for storage just before the yard was inundated by superstorm Sandy’s floodwaters in October. The move resulted in millions in flood damage to the rail equipment.

“We brought some additional equipment in there to store during the storm,” Weinstein told members of the Senate Budget Committee during a hearing on the Christie Administration’s transportation budget Wednesday morning. At the time, he said, “there was no reason to believe it would flood.”

Weinstein did not say how many rail cars were moved into the vulnerable spot, but that it won’t happen again. More than a quarter of the agency’s rail fleet was damaged during the storm, most at the maintenance facility. “We are informed by the experience,” he said. “We won’t be bringing equipment there in the future in the event we are faced with a similar situation as we were with Sandy.”

It won’t happen again! Well, what a relief.

Now, the first question that pops to mind concerns Weinstein’s truthiness. Could he actually believe that “there was no reason to believe it would flood”? Hard to say. Four months before Sandy hit, New Jersey Transit received a report warning of flood-prone infrastructure, and the Meadowlands yard was clearly highlighted in this summary. In late 2012, Weinstein admitted that he hadn’t bothered to read the report despite the fact that New Jersey Transit had specifically commissioned it after Hurricane Irene.

To make matters worse, when handed their own storm-modeled software, New Jersey Transit officials couldn’t figure out how to use it properly. Thus, they were lead to believe that it would be perfectly fine to move trains from high-elevation areas to low-lying spots near rivers that could flood. It was, in effect, the perfect storm of ineptitude and bad planning.

During his testimony on Wednesday, Weinstein further elaborated on the decision. According to The Record, the agency had moved trains to higher ground during Irene, but “after that hurricane, NJ Transit rail crews could not access the equipment because it was surrounded by flood waters in lower-lying areas in Trenton.” So their solution involved moving the equipment into these lower-lying areas and then acting surprised when those lower lying areas flooded. How do all of these people still have their jobs anyway?



Categories : New Jersey Transit

18 Responses to “NJ Transit: We moved trains to vulnerable areas”

  1. Peter says:

    The Meadowlands is essentially a giant swamp before you factor in a hurricane.

    Pro tip: Next time, move the trains to somewhere that has the word Heights in its name.

  2. Ant6n says:

    I feel that “truthfulness” may be a better word here than Colbert’s “thruthiness”.

  3. Bolwerk says:

    “Hurr, nobody knows how to handle these train thingies or how they’re impacted by the weather. We’re learning as we go along!”

  4. Ryan says:

    Pure truthiness:

    “Ha, maybe next time we’ll move the trains to somewhere less flood-prone. We didn’t know beforehand that the trains would be flooded there! Actually, we don’t know much about trains at all…”

  5. SEAN says:

    Are the trains ensured? This is NJ after all the land of Tony Saprano & it wouldn’t be beyond the rhelm of possibility for the state to pull a stunt to recieve a fat cash payout. Is there any real reason why Jim Winestein & crew are still employed?

  6. Eric F says:

    You make two contradictory statements:

    1. Could he actually believe that “there was no reason to believe it would flood”? Hard to say.

    2. “Thus, they were lead to believe that it would be perfectly fine to move trains from high-elevation areas to low-lying spots near rivers that could flood.”

    As for “truthiness”: there is a unsettling tick on the left of making every policy disagreement into a morality play between truth and lies. Just because someone did something you purportedly wouldn’t do, doesn’t mean that the person is lying.

    • VLM says:

      Why have you been so willing to defend NJ Transit for months? I think Ben’s distilled the various reports and news items that have made it abundantly clear that NJT execs had information that told them they were making a terrible mistake and basically ignored it. How is that at all OK?

      • Eric F says:

        This has been hashed out repeatedly, and all I can do is agree to disagree. They had a flood plan in place that worked well for roughly a century using a facility built by Penn Central. The plan didn’t work and now they are modifying the plan, which requires the actual construction of new facilities. If you want to chalk up the Sandy damage as some sort of conspiracy by a transit agency against transit or due to incompetence, ok, we just disgaree. I’m just pointing out that today’s latest ax grind has internal contradictions.

        Not that one has anything to do with the other, but right below is an item on how the MTA lost a half billion dollar brand new station in the hurricane, resulting in a massive money drain and years of inconvenience for riders. Should anyone be fired over that?

        • VLM says:

          Where you see internal contradictions, I see quite a bit of snark. After a hurricane in 2011 that had a serious impact on their system, NJ Transit specifically asked for recommendations on how to avoid further damage in the event of a worse storm. They received those recommendations, ignored them and suffered a tremendous amount of damage to movable rolling stock and other unprotected infrastructure. Someone should be fired. Multiple someones!

          As to the debacle at South Ferry, someone should be fired for that too, but most — if not all — of the people who were a part of MTACC when that project was designed have long moved on. You can’t fire people who aren’t there any longer. The New Jersey Transit executives in charge today are the same ones in charge in October.

        • Bolwerk says:

          They had a flood plan in place that worked well for roughly a century using a facility built by Penn Central.

          You say they were being sensible following their gut feeling or instinct that what worked in the past will continue to work. This is where the “truthiness,” this primordial gut feeling that our instincts can’t be stupid, comes in.

          To tie this into your comment above, it’s not about morality at all. It’s about simply using your higher-level brain functions to make decisions sensibly, processing new information as it comes in rather than simply reacting to a gut feeling that could be wrong. Granted, this is a slow, plodding process that is easily overridden by more primitive parts of our brain that make us biased toward things we are familiar with and understand. (The same parts of the brain also make us shit our pants in a last-ditch attempt to make ourselves less appealing to a predator, or hurricane.)

          The only way politics MIGHT enter into the equation is, yes, self-identified “conservatives” have been evidently shown to be less intelligent than self-identified “liberals,” so speaking generally the former presumably don’t make long-term decisions as well.

          • Eric F says:

            “You say they were being sensible following their gut feeling or instinct that what worked in the past will continue to work.”

            This is the premise on which 99% of life operates.

            • Spendmore Wastemore says:

              “This is the premise on which 99% of life operates”

              I sure hope Eric F is not an airline mechanic.

            • Nathanael says:

              Look up “Thinking Fast and Slow”.

              Yes, this sort of instictive, habitual behavior is how 99% of life operates. It’s also a good way to BE EXTREMELY WRONG. So if there’s something IMPORTANT and TRICKY which you are being PAID to get right, use your actual intellect.

              Using your “gut feeling” is something a pet dog could do, and I don’t think we should employ pet dogs to do disaster preparation.

          • Ryan says:

            Could you show a link that doesn’t involve subscription to the site to view the content?

  7. Theorem Ox says:

    Looks like NJT just might be reaching the “Acceptance” section of the Five Stages of Grief.

    Wonder when they’ll have to repeat those five stages again? Seems like nobody in America can retain lessons learned for more than 3 (I’m making up this number, but you get the gist) years.

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