Progress Through Unity

General Chairman Burkert’s Speech to NJT Board of Directors 10/11/17

Good Morning Chairman Hammer, Board Members, Executive Director Santoro and  NJT Staff.


I am Stephen J. Burkert , General Chairman of SMART TD Local 60 which represents the Conductors, Rear Brakes and Ticket Collectors that work here on our trains.


I would like to discuss 2 items that merit attention from this board.


The first has to do with New Jersey Transit’s “OPEN DOOR POLICY”.  It states that ALL DOORS must be open on ALL COACHES at ALL TIMES.This statement looks good on paper but is not practical even during rush hour. The platforms in NY Penn Station are not all straight lines, some are curved not only on the ends but, on the higher tracks, closer to the middle of the train set. These curves leave gaps between the train and platform. I have witnessed passengers leaping over 24 inch gaps after doors were ordered to be open. We also have trains that are longer than the length of the platform. Some doors that are in the middle of the train but within feet of stairs actually cause more of a bottleneck on the platform. Passengers will stand in the doorway looking for a seat thus totally blocking the door and the platform itself plus the stairs leading to the platform level.


The door next to the engine should always remain closed when boarding due to the open space between the engine and the coach doorway creates a large space to fall into when it is crowded.


When it is NOT RUSH HOUR, the policy creates a different type of condition. Crews are still ordered to open all cars, but the passenger counts don’t warrant all cars to be open. When you have a 8-9 or 10 car multi-level train with 200 passengers or less spread out it is not the safest option. First, the trains in OFF PEAK times do not have the train crews the way rush hour trains are staffed. There are less crew members dealing with passengers that are sleeping, new to our system like tourist, possibly impaired due to alcohol at dinners or sporting events. Don’t even get me started on the use of headphones. We also deal with certain passengers that are looking to take advantage of any opportunity to do illegal activities.

By painting the entire system with one broad stroke you are actually doing a disservice to our passengers and crews. Due to the policy passengers have already missed connecting trains, missed station stops because the entire train didn’t fit on platform, couldn’t get off because doors didn’t open or have had  to run through coaches just to find a crew member for an emergency.


The train crews are thoroughly trained in safety and compliance issues. They know how to safely operate these trains at all times of day or night, in any type of weather. You must be able to trust your front line employees that work these trains when they are telling you it is an accident waiting to happen.Please revisit the policy at this time to make revisions where necessary. I always strive for the safest course and believe this issue needs to be addressed.


Secondly, I am asking that the SENIOR/DISABLED tickets please be removed from all NJT TVMs immediately. My crews are reporting that at least 25-33% of all tickets collected are reduced fare tickets.

This issue is not aimed at discouraging Seniors from travelling, in fact I would welcome them to buy their ticket onboard from a crew member. The onboard purchase would give my crews the interaction of answering any questions they may have about trains or schedules. The train crews and ticket agents should be allowed once again to ask for proper ID when these tickets are being purchased. We are not allowed at this time to ask for an ID card for disabled nor proof of age for seniors but yet NJT list those requirements in the public timetable.

I have people in their 30s give train crews SENIOR tickets and the disabled ticket is even more abused by passengers.

Dover to NY- $15.25 verse $7.10. Trenton to NY $16.75 verse $7.65. This is a lot of money that is being scammed or outright stolen from NJT by passengers who know how to play the system simply by using a TVM.


I have stood at this podium before with the same core message. The employees that work here, both Union and Non Union, are family. Please give these 2 items some thought, when your family is trying to improve the safety of  passengers travel and close a loophole concerning cash fares, it is worth investigating the options.


If you have any questions I would be more than happy to help answer them. Thank you.