Your listening tour is experiencing an indefinite delay

NJTddddI had to chuckle when I read New Jersey Transit’s most recent passenger newsletter, titled, ‘FYI.’

The chuckle was prompted by the lead story. It was written by Ronnie Hakim, NJT’s brand new executive director, and titled, ‘It’s an honor to serve you.’

In the text, Hakim reports that she’s spent every day since March 1st riding the system, introducing herself and listening to what we commuters have to say. I guess it’s Hakim’s version of Hillary Clinton’s legendary, if ill-fated, listening tours of 2008.

NJT’s new top kick says that, when our paths ultimately cross, she’d like me to tell her what’s on my mind and how ‘we’ can build a first-class transportation experience together. I think that line in particular elicited a laugh out loud chortle.

Hakim noted that, in her 23 years of service at the New York MTA and nearly four years at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, her focus had centered on three critical tasks:

- Identifying priorities
- Motivating people
- Achieving results

She plans to do the same at NJT.

I honestly wish Hakim well in her new assignment. But, I’d also counsel her to begin by managing rider expectations with authentic language and realistic goals.

For example, we will NEVER, EVER make NJT a first-class transportation experience. I’d settle, instead, for achieving a third-class, third world experience. That would be an upgrade.

And, I think it’s easy to identify realistic priorities:

- Reduce the endless number of indefinite delays.
- Encourage conductors to treat passengers with some semblance of respect instead of contempt.
- Provide rest rooms that don’t make the black hole of Calcutta seem inviting in comparison.

I’d also suggest Hakim resurrect NJT’s tagline from a few years back. But, I’d add one key word to the brand promise:

‘Getting you there (eventually).’

Consumers respect brands that own up to the reality of the experience they provide. So, if it’s less-than-stellar, admit it.

Hakim should apologize for the role her transportation system has played in spoiling so many commuters’ days for so many years.

And, she shouldn’t enumerate vague, feel good goals. Instead. She should tell me the specific, concrete steps you’ll put in place to at least make the NJT commuting experience palatable.

Be honest with me, and I’ll lighten up on the various Tweets and Facebook postings I’ve written over the years. Until then, I suspect the only time our paths will cross will be on @NJTransitSucks.

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