NJ Transit newsletter is costly

May 27, 2007 Full story: CourierPostOnline

“It's been quite a ride. Our new commissioner and board chairman remains humble”

New Jersey Transit, the state's bus and rail system, which is raising fares almost 10 percent on Friday, spends almost $400,000 in salaries alone on publishing, including a gushy in-house newsletter that ... via CourierPostOnline

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Paul Stangas

Mclean, VA

#1 Jun 1, 2007
The inclusion of individual names along with salaries is hitting below the belt. It is a tasteless, personal attack, wholly inappropriate, unprofessional, and unnecessary. The point could have been illustrated by simply providing the department budget and headcount. Instead you chose the low road and sought to blame individuals for merely doing their jobs. What purpose does that serve?
The article is critical of the newsletter, so perhaps some facts would be helpful. NJT is an agency that employs over 11,000 with in excess of 3800 retirees. Most of these employees are in the field, operating or maintaining buses and trains, or maintaining the systems and facilities that serve customers and rail and bus equipment. It is an around the clock operation. Most of these jobs do not permit the luxury of news writers who sit at desks, typing away, staring at monitors. It is often dirty, dangerous and hard. Even the staff that prepares “En Route”, other publications, and customer information notices gets their hands dirty in the field as part of their work and research. Exclusive dependence on “On-line” information would do many of these employees a disservice. Not everyone has access to or uses a computer or the internet. It is rather elitist to suggest that people are only entitled to get their information via a computer. And isn’t your newspaper available in a printed version too?
If he had done a bit of analysis of the departmental budget cited (approximately $400,000),he would know NJT currently (FY06) has a $1,484,300,000 annual operating budget and over 241 million annual passenger trips. The $400,000 you cite is 0.0027% of that amount, so how much difference do you think it will make in train or bus fares, over the course of year?
The article also mentions fare increases. Fuel prices have gone up, electrical utility costs have gone up, and does he think that NJT is insulated from these increases? Airlines and other businesses pass on their increased costs to customers far more frequently.
If the fares are not raised, then the state has to fund these increases from taxes, so the alternative is to pass these costs to all NJ taxpayers. It seems fairer for the users to accept some of those added costs. Perhaps you would rather wait 5 to 8 years for the next increase and then have it go up at 25% to cover the years there were no increases? As monthly train pass purchaser and regular commuter on NJT, I would rather have smaller more frequent increases rather than an occasional whopping increase. Fares will inevitably go up, which would you prefer?
If he wishes to practice “gotcha” reporting, then at least focus on something worth getting, instead of picking on dedicated staff. Surely there are more significant targets in this state, and you might be benefiting the public. Taxes in this state are far more fertile ground for investigative reporting. You could focus on other real issues of significance, e.g. the cost of education and the role of mandatory arbitration, property taxes, the necessity and value of all the agencies and bureaus that our state funds. Such issues involve hundreds millions of dollars sustained by political interests and you focus on $400,000 and a few blameless individuals. This ambitious “Geraldo” needs to take a few more courses in journalism and try to be more objective and analytical about his chosen topics.

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