New Jersey Transit and Premature Retirement of Rail Cars


Dear Editor:

It is disappointing that the Federal Transit Administration waived the useful life requirements for the federally funded COMET III rail cars damaged by Super Storm Sandy “NJ Transit preps to sell junked rail cars destroyed by Sandy. But it may still owe the feds for them.” Commuters and taxpayers are the losers as they did not obtain the full benefit from these rail cars.

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Waiving this requirement and only asking for the federal share of scrap value over $5,000 is a bad deal for both taxpayers and commuters. The federal share for scrap value is clearly far less than the remaining value of the rail cars not seen by both riders and taxpayers.

My old friends at NJ Transit were fully aware of Super Storm Sandy in advance of its arrival. They could have stored this equipment in a more secure location protecting it from damages.

I’m not aware of the MTA New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Maryland Transit Administration, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) or Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) asking for forgiveness. All of these operators were impacted by Super Storm Sandy.

This sets a very bad precedent for the future when other equipment is damaged by storms. Why didn’t NJ Transit repay the FTA for the remaining useful life by using insurance proceeds? Did FTA run this forgiveness by their own federal DOT Inspector General before agreeing to this?

Based upon my previous experience working at FTA, the DOT IG might not have agreed with this action. Shame on my old colleagues at FTA are not doing the best job in defending the interests of commuters and taxpayer.

Larry Penner

(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office.)