This week’s COVID-19 update focused on the NJ public transit system which puts hundreds of thousands of commuters and thousands of transportation workers at risk for sustained, exposure to the coronavirus and other pathogens, and what is needed to reduce risk.
We had the opportunity to hear from Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign and he spoke about what riders need to feel safe in order to continue to use public transportation and how to help make public transportation as safe and effective as possible during the pandemic.
Our second panelist, Orlando Riley, Chairman, Amalgamated Transit Union, NJ State Council gave insight into issues surrounding workers on their over 2000 buses and some of the steps that have been taken to increase protections. These steps have included rear door boarding, digital ticketing, enhanced cleaning, reduced capacity, and masking.
We also heard from Jerome Johnson, General Chairman of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transport (SMART) Local 60 (United Transportation Union [UTU]) who spoke to the need for a public campaign to support health and safety on public transportation. More needs to be done to ensure that riders wear masks, as mandated by the Governor’s Executive Order. Mr. Johnson called on NJ Transit, community leaders and the Governor’s office to promote and enforce the use of masks while using public transportation. Our transportation workers need support and protection in order to remain safe and healthy, too many lives have already been lost. In order to address the health and safety of NJ Transit, more must be done to secure funding, an issue which existed long before COVID-19. More than 95 people attended this webinar.