Sen. Jennifer Beck proposes 'Rail Passenger Bill of Rights' for NJ Transit and Amtrak trains | Commentary | NewJerseyNewsroom.com -- Your State. Your News.

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Sen. Jennifer Beck proposes 'Rail Passenger Bill of Rights' for NJ Transit and Amtrak trains

pizzurosal073111_optBY SALVATORE PIZZURO
COMMENTARY

State Senator Jenifer Beck has engaged in a legislative effort to proivde traveling rights to train passengers in New Jersey. Her “Rail Passenger Bill of Rights” will, if passed, provide these rights to train passengers in New Jersey, whether riding on NJ Transit or Amtrak trains.

According to a statement that accompanies the bill: “This bill would establish a Rail Passenger Bill of Rights. Under the bill, a person on a passenger train operating on a regularly scheduled route in this State, or between points in this State and points in other states, would have the right to: reliable and on-time transportation; accurate and timely information about train arrival times and service delays; helpful, courteous service from the operator’s employees; and safe, comfortable, and clean trains and train stations.”

Train travel in New Jersey has elicited some controversy in recent months, especially among passengers who rely on rail service to travel to and from their jobs. Well reported delays in service, often caused by derailments or other accidents, have raised the ire of many who rely on NJ Transit service to reach their job site.

Interestingly, New Jersey has the greatest population density in the United States. One would expect that as the most urban state we would have the most available rail service. However, it is only within recent years that an attempt has been made to create an effective commuter model with programs such as the Light Rail service. Nevertheless, access to mass transit service has become a priority. According to the statement that accompanies the bill:

“Under the bill’s provisions, the passenger train operator would be required to provide its customers with: (1) trains operated according to a published schedule; (2) a sufficient number of trains to accommodate every customer who purchases a ticket;...clear audio or visual announcements about train arrival and departure times, service delays, and weather-related service implications at train stations, on its website, and using other electronic forms of communication.”

The bill also declares that rail passengers are entitled to:

  • “alternate transportation and information about alternate routes when service is significantly disrupted;
  • trains which: are heated or cooled, as appropriate; have functional lighting and public address systems; and have clean restrooms;
  • train stations which are safe, clean, well-lit, accessible to customers with disabilities, and not overcrowded”
Legislators have responded to commuters who rely on rail service for their very livelihood. An interesting issue regarding this bill is that the economy’s expected and badly needed recovery is dependent on people being able to get to their job sites. Hopefully this bill will help to make that possible.

Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a Disability Policy Specialist, holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law School.

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