Attacks on NJ Transit workers have tripled. New NJ Law Will Crack Down
NJ Transit officials and employees hope a new law that took effect last month will help end the spate of physical assaults on train conductors and bus drivers.
The Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act increases the penalties for attacks on NJ Transit workers to at least third-degree aggravated assault. It allows the agency to ban violators from transit services for up to a year for a regular assault, and they could be banned for life if the attack involved a deadly weapon.
According to NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett, it’s not uncommon to have disruptions when moving nearly a million people a day on public transit, but the level of violence since the start of the pandemic is nothing short of shocking.
“We have seen a significant increase. In 2020 we had 158 assaults and in 2021 we had 183,” he said.
This is more than triple the normal number of reported annual assaults.
Corbett said he hopes the new law will deter passengers from attacking NJ Transit workers.
“You know, it’s one thing if someone has an anger problem verbally, but when it comes to physical attacks or spitting, we wanted to have more bite in that, so there would be consequences. more serious,” he said.
He said whether anyone agrees with the federal mandate requiring passengers to wear a mask on public transit or not, there is no excuse for assaulting transit workers.
“They’re there everyday and doing their best, they’ve done a great job during COVID, providing this essential service that so many people needed,” he said.
“If people think they can get away with it someone will hit a ticket collector who is just doing their job, we want to make sure the most serious consequences are taken for people who think they can get away with it,” he said.
Get back on track
He said during the omicron surge, from mid-December to mid-January, NJ Transit ridership, which was between 50% and 55% of pre-COVID capacity on weekdays and up to to 80% on weekends, fell to 30% range.
Corbett noted that the agency had many employees testing positive for the virus and calling in sick during this time. But with the rapid disappearance of omicron, fewer employees are sick and the number of users has started to climb.
“We hope he comes back as fast as he went down, I think a lot of it has to do with New York and also Philly,” he said.
You can contact journalist David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.