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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis December 16, 2011
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NJ TRANSIT: Year of the Scorecard, Technology
BY FLORA M. CASTILLO, CHIE, Board Member, New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ TRANSIT), and Vice Chair, APTA

For NJ TRANSIT, 2011 marked the year of the Scorecard, a new, innovative management and reporting tool that represents one of the agency’s most significant initiatives to date and places a priority focus on five strategic areas: customer experience, safety and security, financial performance, employee excellence, and corporate accountability. By making key statistics and performance data readily accessible to the public for the first time, Scorecard provides an ongoing measurement of NJ TRANSIT’s performance, enabling the agency to make informed strategic decisions that will maximize resources and optimize the overall customer experience.

As part of Scorecard, NJ TRANSIT conducts quarterly customer surveys to target specific improvements, all with an eye toward increasing customer satisfaction. The Scorecard initiative, together with the ongoing customer surveys, has made it very clear that every area of NJ TRANSIT—from the rail, bus, and light rail operating divisions, to customer communications, to fare collection, to capital construction—has a direct tie-in to the customer experience. To that end, NJ TRANSIT this year introduced a number of improvements intended to reflect Scorecard’s strategic areas of focus and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.

NJ TRANSIT kicked off 2011 by opening the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail 8th Street Station in Bayonne, bringing light rail to a new neighborhood via a one-mile extension and new station. Other completed construction projects this year included major improvements to make Somerville, Ridgewood, and Plauderville stations accessible to customers with disabilities; as well as restoration of the historic Hoboken Ferry Terminal, which returned ferry service to the original ferry slips for the first time in more than four decades.

The agency continues to find ways to put technology to work for its customers, particularly for how they access travel information. This year, NJ TRANSIT expanded the reach of its My Transit alert system by integrating it with Twitter, launching 13 automatic My Transit alert “feeds” for rail, light rail, and bus service. And, following the successful launch last year of “My Bus,” which enables bus customers to receive schedule information for a specific stop via text message, NJ TRANSIT this year launched “My Light Rail” to provide a similar service for Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, Newark Light Rail, and River Line customers. And, for rail customers, NJ TRANSIT partnered with a third-party text engine called “CooCoo” to offer an additional trip-planning tool.

NJ TRANSIT also tapped into technology to enhance security on the system. This summer, the agency introduced a new and convenient way for customers to report suspicious activity or unattended packages: text messaging. Through this initiative, called “Text Tips” or “Text Against Terror,” customers may report suspicious activity, packages, or vehicles around NJ TRANSIT facilities or onboard the system by sending a text message to NJTPD (65873), transmitting information directly to the NJ TRANSIT Police Department. The accompanying public awareness campaign, funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant and created by NJ TRANSIT’s in-house Creative Services division, garnered a Gold MarCom Award from the Association of Marketing & Communications Professionals this fall.

Also in the area of technology and security, NJ TRANSIT is purchasing additional bus on-board camera equipment to equip the agency’s entire bus fleet with Drive Cam technology to enhance customer and employee security.

In 2011 and beyond, NJ TRANSIT continues to explore new, cutting-edge technologies for the benefit of its customers. This fall, NJ TRANSIT became the first public transportation agency to partner with Google Wallet, Google’s recently released contactless payment system. With Google Wallet, NJ TRANSIT rail and bus customers have the option to use their smart phones to tap and pay for transportation tickets at select locations, including New York Penn Station ticket vending machines and ticket windows, Newark Liberty International Airport Rail Station (AirTrain), and on some bus routes.

This year also marked the expansion of NJ TRANSIT’s Quiet Commute program to rail lines that serve Hoboken Terminal, completing a systemwide rollout to peak-period trains. Quiet Commute cars are intended to provide a subdued environment for customers who wish to refrain from using cell phones and are willing to disable the sound feature on pagers, games, computers, and other electronic devices. We piloted the program last year on our busiest trains to test its feasibility. After receiving overwhelmingly positive customer and employee feedback, NJ TRANSIT expanded the program to additional trains that begin or end their trips at New York or Newark Penn Station at the beginning of this year, and introduced the amenity to Hoboken lines this summer.

Moving forward, NJ TRANSIT remains focused on making New Jersey’s public transit system an even more attractive and convenient travel option, tapping into new technology where possible and introducing new customer amenities across the system. Using Scorecard as the standard by which we get measured by the people who use our system every day, NJ TRANSIT has empowered itself to make strategic decisions to maximize our resources, best serve our customers, and provide the greatest return to our taxpayers.

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