New Jersey Transit (NJT) announced it will resume full weekday service beginning July 6 for both rail and light rail lines. The schedule will add capacity to improve social distancing onboard vehicles, and aligns with New Jersey’s “The Road Back” roadmap.
Under Executive Order 125, which became effective in early April, NJT was required to limit occupancy to 50% of maximum vehicle capacity on all buses, trains, and light rail vehicles, in addition to mandating face coverings for passengers and employees. Bus service resumed normal operations June 8.
“We’re pleased to announce the full restoration of our rail and light service. We’re doing it proactively while ridership is still only at approximately twenty percent of pre-COVID-19 levels,” said NJT president and CEO Kevin Corbett.
“It’s critical that we stay ahead of the demand to maximize the opportunity for social distancing while we ensure that we continue providing the cleanest and safest travel environment for our customers and employees.”
A Path Forward via Partnership
To ensure public health on its vehicles, NJT issued a plan dubbed “Your Ride to Recovery” with a focus on six areas: service; cleanliness; distancing; communication; protective equipment and public safety; and screening and testing. The program was a partnership in that the public was expected to uphold various parts of the plan, with a full listing of guidelines posted on the web.
NJT expected to maintain capacity in accordance with the executive order through the additional capacity. Riders were expected to maintain social distancing throughout their trip, use the NJT app for tickets, and restrict phone conversations until after a trip.
Personal protective equipment would be maintained for employees, and testing would be available, as well.
Ensuring Public Health
NJT will take steps to ensure decontamination efforts slow the progress of the virus.
Vehicles would be disinfected every 24 hours, and an enhanced cleaning and disinfection regimen would work to keep stations and high-touch surfaces like ticket vending machines, handrails, and door handles clean.
Additionally, NJT commissioned a study from Rutgers University’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) on the use of ultraviolet-c light to disinfect rail cars.
Ultraviolet light (UVC) in the germicidal range has proven to be effective at disinfecting water and surfaces, with officials studying to see if it can help reduce the risk of infection due to COVID-19 virus. UVC disinfection would not be used when customers are on board.
The study will examine the effectiveness of the UVC wavelength in killing viruses as well as electronically mapping the interior of different bus models to determine the best placement for the UVC source. The findings would be used to determine the best way to scale and implement the technology on the NJT bus fleet.
Communication with the Public
NJT launched “SAFE NJ” signage at its facilities, and will launch a corresponding messaging campaign. The campaign will give riders easy-to-read and understand instructions to model ideal transit behaviors.
A host of individual twitter accounts would provide updates on each rail, light rail, and bus route, while the My Transit alert system on the NJT website would provide travel advisories.
Future updates to rail lines, capacity, and expanded or reduced service would be announced vial all available channels, including Twitter, Facebook, the NJT Mobile App, and http://www.njtransit.com.