NJ Transit's board picks Ray Kenny to fix the trains
Gov. Phil Murphy signs new legislation to reform NJ Transit's governance and management on Thursday, December 20, 2018 at the Summit Train Station. NorthJersey.com
NJ Transit has a new head of rail operations.
The agency's board voted Friday to appoint industry veteran Raymond Kenny to the position. Kenny, who will be paid $225,000 a year, will inherit an operation plagued by a shortage of personnel and persistent service problems.
Kenny began his career on the Long Island Rail Road as a ticket clerk in 1970 and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming head of the railroad's transportation department and its acting president.
"Ray has a long and accomplished railroad career, and we look forward to tapping his wealth of industry knowledge as we continue to transform NJ Transit into a national leader," said Executive Director Kevin Corbett in a statement.
"Ray is a national expert in the railroad industry, and his knowledge of the complexities of the rail system in our region is unmatched," said NJ Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. "We will expect great things."
NJ Transit has lacked a permanent head of rail operations since Robert Lavell left the agency a year ago.
In 2016, Lavell wrote to the Federal Railroad Administration that the agency's rail division had lost a quarter of its senior management ranks in the prior two years.
The 93 managers had either retired or pursued other job opportunities from the Connecticut Department of Transportation to Florida's BrightLine.
The agency also did little to hire and train new locomotive engineers for several years. As the ranks thinned, regular riders saw more trains canceled. In the past year, NJ Transit has begun aggressively recruiting new locomotive engineers and bus drivers.
On top of personnel issues, NJ Transit scrambled to meet a year-end deadline to install positive train control, a safety system intended to prevent collisions and derailments. The agency discontinued numerous train schedules to complete the work.
PATIENCE REQUIRED: Sorry, angry NJ Transit riders: Broken agency could take years to fix