☣️ It was a male passenger standing up by her seat and he vomited on her clothes. Customer is requesting for NJT to refund or compensate her fare, because obviously she couldn’t go to work like that. April 15, 2017
👏 Stuck on train two hours!!! Still stuck!!!! April 15, 2017
🌋 Sir My husband has a weird desire to have a handjob in a public bus after he did it with me quietly in a bus in Hungary. Is it allowed in your buses? Do you have CCTV cameras installed? He is impotent but deserves pity. April 19, 2017
🔧 Why does NJ Transit keep canceling the local train before the express??? This is not a rare incident but happens much too often. Fix the damn train and stop inconveniencing the express passengers. If NJ Transit was a for profit corporation Most of your employees would be fired. Lastly the lame announcement “we apologize for the inconvenience” is BS. FIX THE DAMN PROBLEMS OR START GIVING YOUR PASSENGERS REFUNDS. April 25, 2017
💩 NJ Transit needs to realize that time is measurable, the trains are late every day if they come at all and STOP telling people—“Sorry for the inconvenience.” An inconvenience may be twice a month. When it’s every day it’s bad service. April 25, 2017
💰 This month has been HELL commuting. Your service is the worst in the country. I’m worried my home value will drop when the tunnel fails. Penn Station is a disgrace to civilization. Refund my April monthly $210. Thanks. April 25, 2017
👃 I usually do not complain about bus drivers, but are they allowed to burn incense on the bus? April 26, 2017
😠 We had to run almost the length of the train to find a spot to get on the train with our luggage. All the cars before were filled to the brink, and people spilling out the doors!!! April 26, 2017
🏃 Some people like being on time for work. April 26, 2017
👏 Why is the rail road incapable of keeping to any kind of published schedule? April 26, 2017
🍑 Please send me confirmation when this employee has been informed that being an ass is against NJ Transit policy. April 26, 2017
☂️ There is a leak in the canopy roof of the platform serving tracks 1 and 2 and location 1-B at the Trenton Transit Center. This has been going on for years. Winter, spring, summer. April 30, 2017
🚗 You are the bane of my existence. I think you might as well shut down service since you are of ZERO use and we are all better off commuting via hitch hiking. I would rather risk my life walking along the highway than waste a minute of my life waiting for one of your trains. April 30, 2017
😨 He stated his fiance’s son boarded the bus at Clifton Avenue and Park Avenue in Newark with a small lizard on his shoulder, paid his fare. He stated the bus driver nastily started asking him for some id to carry the lizard and the next thing the bus driver is kicking him off the bus. May 2, 2017
🚶 I was waving my arm and looked right at the driver. He slowed and then kept going. I started walking home. Waited at Sunnyside Road stop #24687 for the 12:55 a.m., which had the 139 sign on. Stood in shoulder and waved my arm. Bus kept going. Took me nearly two hours to walk home. May 2, 2017
🚑 For weeks two stairs leading from the lot to the platform have been crumbling. While there is tape & cones marking the area, no repair has been made. This concerning & unsafe as these are the first two steps leading up to the platform & the second step is on the verge of collapsing. May 3, 2017
🚏 NJTRANSIT Can you remind your bus drivers that they need 2 STOP @ a bus stop. That’s why it’s not called a “Bus Drive By U Fast Spot.” May 3, 2017
😠 The driver didn’t stop to pick me up and showed me his middle finger while passing as I was standing at a marked bus stop. May 4, 2017
😷 Ms. ■■■■ states that a male passenger boarded the Bus, and he had a very bad odor. The male Driver allegedly was making loud rude comments, saying “Ooh, Aah etc.”, and he got off the Bus. The Driver stayed off the Bus about 30 seconds to one minute, and he was talking and laughing with a couple of men. She said that she was sure it was about the passenger and the Driver put a surgical mask over his face. May 6, 2017
😇 I was behind a NJ Transit bus. It was taking a little bit longer than usual. I then saw the bus driver holding the hand of an elderly woman and helping her to cross the street, making sure that she made it to the pathway to the nursing home safely. May 9, 2017
😢 No one expects on time trains anymore so the least you could do is accurately let us know when and where are trains are going to be so that we can get on with our lives. May 10, 2017
😢 Do you know how hard it is to stand on a bus going at least 65 to 70 miles an hour. I paid $27.50 for my son and I to ride a NJ Transit bus and we had to stand for 50 minutes. We both had cramps in our legs. May 16, 2017
📍 The customer states that on Saturday the bus was lost for about 30 minutes near the Lincoln Tunnel. This bus operator circled the area near the Lincoln tunnel while using the passengers navigation to find the Lincoln tunnel. May 17, 2017
💡 I asked: “Were there any reasons why the reading lights could not be turned on.” Staring straight ahead and not acknowledging me, she replied "Yes." I asked "Could you tell me why?" and in the same mode she said, “Good night.” May 18, 2017

Thousands of Tales of Torment From the Nation’s Worst Transit System

By Elise YoungElise Young

One Friday morning in May, passengers on a Manhattan-bound bus spotted their driver nodding off and drifting across lanes of the New Jersey Turnpike. To keep him alert, they plied him with mints and gum.

On another weekday, a pedestrian asked New Jersey Transit whether a bus driver was “flirting or just being funny” when he almost struck her in a Newark intersection. And then there were 11 drivers who reportedly flipped the bird while at the wheel, some as they drove by commuters without stopping.

Every day, hundreds of fed-up, frightened and frazzled bus and rail riders file reports about their commutes via the agency’s “Contact Us” website function. During just four weeks in April and May, 7,000 stories—mostly complaints—were shared. The tales, captured in 666 pages obtained through a public-records request, provide a ground-level glimpse of a cash-strapped agency struggling to repair and upgrade its equipment and fill staff vacancies.

“This is the New York City metropolitan area, the biggest in the country, and it is a FAILURE!” a train customer wrote on April 14, amid a service meltdown. “Look at London.” A week later, another wrote: “Just back from Japan. NJ Transit is so backwards.”

Commuter Angst 😠

NJ Transit, with almost 1 million passenger trips on an average weekday, was once a national model. Its railroad now leads its U.S. peers for the most accidents, fines and breakdowns, federal data show, and state lawmakers are investigating its finances and safety.

Breakdowns Leader

New Jersey Transit in 2015 led U.S. commuter rail peers for total mechanical failures: major, when a train was disabled, and other, when a train was canceled due to a safety or other issue.

NJ Transit

540

MBTA Commuter Rail

356

New Haven and Shore Line East

158

SEPTA

117

Metro-North

98

Long Island Rail Road

97

Metrolink

94

FrontRunner

90

Caltrain

69

Chicago-area Metra

68

Tri-Rail

66

Coaster

31

MARC

25

Rail Runner Express

24

PennDOT

15

Sounder

14

South Shore Line

9

DART

6

Downeaster

4

ACE

3

SunRail

2

VRE

1

NJ Transit

540

MBTA Commuter Rail

356

158

New Haven and Shore Line East

117

SEPTA

98

Metro-North

97

Long Island Rail Road

94

Metrolink

90

FrontRunner

69

Caltrain

68

Chicago-area Metra

66

Tri-Rail

31

Coaster

25

MARC

24

Rail Runner Express

15

PennDOT

14

Sounder

9

South Shore Line

6

DART

4

Downeaster

3

ACE

2

SunRail

1

VRE

540

NJ Transit

356

MBTA Commuter Rail

158

New Haven and Shore Line East

117

SEPTA

98

Metro-North

97

Long Island Rail Road

94

Metrolink

90

FrontRunner

69

Caltrain

68

Chicago-area Metra

66

Tri-Rail

31

Coaster

25

MARC

24

Rail Runner Express

15

PennDOT

14

Sounder

9

South Shore Line

6

DART

4

Downeaster

3

ACE

2

SunRail

1

VRE

Source: National Transit Database, Federal Transit Administration

It’s the rider complaints that illustrate the day-to-day dysfunction at the nation’s largest statewide mass-transit operator. All personal identifying information was redacted in the submissions obtained by Bloomberg News, though the agency answered questions about the most troubling allegations. The driver reported to be dozing on the turnpike was taken off duty and referred to the medical department, said Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokeswoman. Unspecified action was taken against the driver who may have been flirting or joking.

Complaints represent a small fraction of ridership, Snyder said in an email. Employees “are rigorously trained in customer service,” she said.

“Any report of a negative interaction with the front-line employee is immediately documented and sent to the appropriate management personnel for a thorough investigation,” Snyder said. “If a violation of policy is determined, corrective action is swiftly taken.”

Mostly Bad 👎

Of the comments submitted April 14 to May 17—a period including a Hudson River tunnel power failure and multiple rush-hour delays—one in five demanded a refund. Just 17 percent were classified by NJ Transit as suggestions, commendations and information requests.

The rest, 83 percent, were complaints.

Hundreds groused about unexplained service delays, with one writing: “Please stop treating us like idiots and give us the information we need so we can get home rather than spending hours in the world’s worst train station.”

Commuters disembark from New Jersey Transit trains in Hoboken, New Jersey. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

“No one gives a damn about who is to blame,” wrote a train passenger angry about NJ Transit’s attributing lateness to Amtrak, which owns the tracks and New York’s Pennsylvania Station. “People want a solution.”

Among the bright spots, riders praised employees for reuniting them with lost belongings, explaining tricky connections and keeping calm with irate passengers. One driver stopped a street mugging. An 11-year-old girl who boarded the wrong bus got home safely with help from the driver’s wife. Two passengers were grateful to a conductor “apologizing for a nightmare week.”

“A conductor’s treatment of a passenger can make the difference between a good day and a bad one, and she consistently does her utmost to make sure that we all have the best day,” a rider on the Montclair-Boonton line wrote about one employee. “NJ Transit is so fortunate to have her and so many other fine folk working for them in different capacities.”

In some instances, the submissions are of the wise-cracking or eyebrow-raising variety.

One half of an amorous couple, reminiscing about trysts on Hungarian mass transit, inquired—twice—about whether they could romp on NJ Transit vehicles, saying the location was, uhm, conducive.

A train rider who crossed the tracks on foot complained that a crew member used curse words to scold him.

“When someone does something they don’t think is stupid but we know otherwise, yeah, we’ll get testy,” said Steve Burkert, general chairman of the United Transportation Union Local 60, which represents NJ Transit conductors. Last year, 80 people were struck by on-track NJ Transit equipment, federal data show. Crew who tend to the gruesome aftermath sometimes require months of psychological counseling, Burkert said.

Odorous Bus 👃

Though reported problems with NJ Transit employees can make for unusual narrative—“I usually do not complain about bus drivers, but are they allowed to burn incense on the bus?”—far more complaints involve unreliability. Riders taking mass transit for a special occasion—a wedding, a flight to Spain, a Yankee game—complained of arriving late or not at all.

Regular riders described the soul-sapping toll of being absent for family meals and children’s bedtimes. One expectant father wrote that sonogram appointments came and went without him.

“When the end of the month comes and I’ve been late every day, I have no patience,” a train commuter wrote. “You have my $280 and I have no reliable transportation to work. ”

New Jersey Transit’s fiscal woes have forced commuters to pay higher fares—two increases under Governor Chris Christie—while suffering more delays and crowding. To patch budget holes, Christie, a term-limited Republican who leaves office in January, has diverted $3.44 billion in capital funding to operations.

Bird Flippers 🐦

Among customers’ filed complaints about New Jersey Transit, the words “rude,” “unacceptable,” “joke” and “ridiculous” appear more than 560 times. The reports contain 300 allegations of buses blowing by stops. A driver who reportedly didn’t yield in a crosswalk “actually stuck his tongue at me,” a pedestrian wrote.

A New Jersey Transit worker helps commuters disembark from trains. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

“I’m outside the door nearly in tears BEGGING to be let on,” a rider complained. “She just rolled off, nearly taking my feet with her.”

In that case, “appropriate corrective action was taken,” NJ Transit said. All missed-stop reports are forwarded to bus operations, the agency said, and the usual cause is found to be no available seats. Other times it’s visibility, and sometimes it’s a policy violation.

Ray Greaves, an NJ Transit board member and state chairman of the Amalgamated Transit Union, representing bus workers, didn’t respond to an email and text message asking for comment, and his voice mailbox was full.

For some aboard the buses and trains, the trip is worsened by thoughts of vulnerability.

“I carry a dust mask in my bag, wear shoes I can run in,” one commuter wrote. “This isn’t even being paranoid; it is reality. I seriously fear that something will happen to me” at Penn Station, where false reports of a gunman set off a stampede on April 14. Some riders that day, stuck without power for three hours in Amtrak’s tunnel under the Hudson River, were rattled when they heard employees saying a train had “blown up.”

An NJ Transit tunnel to Manhattan, scheduled to be in service as soon as next year, was eliminated in 2010 by Christie, who cited design flaws and cost overruns. Another proposal, Amtrak’s $30 billion Gateway project, lacks federal funding even as the only train link, a century-old tunnel damaged by Hurricane Sandy floodwaters, has less than 20 years left of service.

One commuter recounted moving to South Orange from Manhattan because of express service to the city, but complained of “consistently dealing with derailments and delayed trains.”

“I purchased my monthly pass for May and at this point, driving every day seems like a better option,” the rider wrote. “I want to be refunded.”