Guest Post by Ann Barlow
Last week I had the opportunity to take NJ Transit for the first time in quite awhile. I used to take it five days a week when I lived in NJ and commuted to the city. Although four years have passed, it would be difficult to forget all the delays, cancellations and complete absence of explanation on what was happening and why. Ah yes, and the recollection that if you should be naïve enough to ask for an explanation, you could look forward to at the least a surly response, at the most a swift removal of your personage from the train for your temerity. The experience spawned a new tagline recommendation from Steve Cody – New Jersey Transit: We Just Don’t Care.
Contrast this to the BART system in Bay Area, where I now live. I confess that it took me awhile to adapt to the whole BART culture. First of all, people line up to get on the train. They don’t try to edge each other out of position or discreetly push anyone who isn’t moving at the appropriate speed. But as I quickly learned, they’re just reflecting the courtesy and organization that the BART personnel show passengers. There are ongoing announcements at every stop on which trains are coming and when. Once on the train, the conductor announces any delays, providing possibly more detail than necessary along with a profuse apology, as if he were personally at fault for the delay.
Of course, BART riders still find plenty to complain about. They should only know.
Back to NJT. My colleague Deb Brown and I boarded the 7:53 train. At least, it was supposed to be a 7:53 train. Deb and I were talking through the presentation we were to give at 9, so we didn’t immediately notice when 7:53 came and went. But then it became a little more difficult to hear one another as the conductors yelled at each other over the PA. I glanced out at the clock on the platform and realized that it was now after 8. We listened in the argument and ascertained that the problem was a brake light that hadn’t gone off, suggesting the one of the cars still had its brake on. After another 10 minutes of bickering, the personnel decided to ignore the red light, since a search revealed that all the brakes were indeed off. And the communication and apology to riders for the 20-minute delay? We’d see pigs flying outside the train car windows first.
I think it’s outrageous that the people who run NJT allow the service to be so lousy, so incredibly indifferent. So what if it’s the only train system available? People can drive or take the bus or telecommute. And isn’t there a certain amount of pride that comes from treating people as customers, with courtesy and respect?
Not at NJT. At NJT, we just don’t care.