Home Asides NJ Transit riders offer up low marks for train service

NJ Transit riders offer up low marks for train service

by Benjamin Kabak

In an effort to provide transparency and improve service, New Jersey Transit released this week the results of its second annual rider survey. Unfortunately for the commuter authority, its riders aren’t very happy. As the survey shows, train customers gave NJ Transit a 4.2 out of 10 in overall satisfaction with announcement during service interruptions ranking just a 3.6. Fares, which have increased a bit lately, earned just a 3.3, and few people said NJ Transit was a good value for the money. Overall, just 57 percent of respondents said they would recommend New Jersey Transit’s rail service to a friend or relative.

While satisfaction with the rail offerings declined, customers ranked buses higher this year than last, and the light rail has been particularly well received with 85 percent saying they would recommend it. For their part, NJ Transit officials said they would use these results to improve. “The customer satisfaction survey results are driving NJ Transit’s understanding of what really matters to customers, enabling us to better respond to their needs and demands,” Executive Director James Weinstein said. “While these results show that overall we’re moving in the right direction, we need to continue to work to make meaningful changes and improvements that increase customer satisfaction.”

It’s notable that the commuter rail network suffered the most with regards to service disruptions. Without an alternate route into Manhattan, NJ Transit will always be at the whim of trains entering through the lone rail access point. Until a second tunnel is constructed — and who knows when that will be — customers will have to wait out those delays.

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Chris October 14, 2011 - 4:42 pm

It’s hard to put too much stock in surveys like this when we can see from consumer behavior that they are obviously fairly satisfied with the service. After all, a business practically by definition can’t have problems with customer satisfaction and capacity at the same time.

Benjamin Kabak October 14, 2011 - 4:44 pm

If it’s a monopoly, it can. I hate having Time Warner as my ISP/cable TV provider, but I’m still a customer because I have no choice.

Chris October 14, 2011 - 5:09 pm

You don’t need to consume these things, though – there are obviously alternatives. Driving is an option for the vast majority of NJT customers, for instance. Not to say that a more competitive environment would not result in better satisfaction or that NJT can’t itself improve; but better customer satisfaction will presumably result in more customers, which if there’s actually too little capacity will exacerbate that problem.

BBnet3000 October 15, 2011 - 12:17 pm

For going into Manhattan, driving is technically but not practically an option.

As far as the internet, a choice of 2 companies pretty much gives them both the option to be shitty. Seeing as Benjamin runs this blog, he doesnt even have the option to opt out! (and really, neither do the rest of us)

Anon October 14, 2011 - 6:37 pm

Transportation Writer nailed for Plagiarism

peter October 15, 2011 - 4:09 pm

It will be interesting to see whether a Democratic challenger to Chris Christie in 2013 is able to turn the cancellation of ARC into an effective attack strategy. Assuming that cross-Hudson service disruptions continue at their current pace – which seems like a safe bet – there ought to be a fairly potent reserve of commuter dissatisfaction to tap into. And a Democrat has a pretty simple case to make: “Your commute sucks. A project was well underway to improve it. And Governor Christie canceled it.”

The effectiveness of that message probably depends partly on the state of NJ finances in two years. If things are going well, it will make Christie’s defense that he did the “fiscally responsible” thing more persuasive.

Elections don’t tend to turn on transportation issues, but I think that ARC, if wielded effectively by a Democrat, could do Christie some damage.

Alon Levy October 16, 2011 - 2:26 pm

Last I heard, Jersey voters were about evenly split on the ARC cancellation.

I’d guess that a better strategy would be to use his bully persona against him. On the one hand, I doubt a union strategy will be as effective in Jersey as it was in Wisconsin, where Walker’s approval rate is low not because of the train cancellation but because of the anti-union, pro-Koch handout bill. On the other hand, Christie has an even more offputting personality, and tends to make enemies more than friends. He’s like Giuliani but without the ability to take credit for economic growth or a drop in crime.

Bolwerk October 17, 2011 - 12:04 am

Though, Giuliani deserves about as much credit for that stuff as Kim Jong-Il. Or Reagan, if you’re a lefty! :-O

More seriously, how do those polls break? Are upper middle class commuters fairly evenly split, or do they decidedly back the tunnel? The obvious downside to what Christie did, for Christie, is New Jersey’s upper income households probably disproportionately work in Manhattan. These are probably the people who are most likely to vote, and might even turn on the issue since it affects their livelihoods.

The anti-union strategy can only pay off over time. I’d be rather surprised if even the battier Republikans don’t know that, and aren’t expecting a backlash of sorts in the short term.

NJ Transit riders still dissatisfied with rail service :: Second Ave. Sagas February 16, 2012 - 12:45 pm

[…] the end of last year, New Jersey Transit released its first quarterly customer assessment report, and the results were not good. Overall, the agency drew in a 5.3 on the customer satisfaction […]


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