Weinberg Urges All NJ Transit Riders to Heed Directive to Wear Face Coverings to Slow Coronavirus Spread
Senate Majority Leader expresses concern about bus overcrowding, particularly on intra-city bus routes, and urges NJ Transit to intensify efforts to fix problem
Trenton – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg today urged all New Jersey Transit riders to heed the agency’s directive issued late last night to wear face coverings to protect against unnecessarily spreading the coronavirus to their fellow riders and to NJ Transit employees.
“With NJ Transit running at 50% capacity on a Saturday schedule, we have widespread reports of overcrowding, particularly on intra-city buses,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “It is important that we continue to get essential workers to their jobs and get those who have to rely on NJ Transit to grocery stores and pharmacies, and that we do everything we can to protect them and our dedicated NJ Transit employees from infection.
“It is clear that overcrowding, especially in the tight confines of a bus, is a hazard that runs directly counter to the six-feet-away social distancing we are relying upon to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” she said. “I am pleased that NJ Transit has issued a directive following the advice of the Centers for Disease Control in urging riders to wear face coverings to prevent those who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic – and do not know that they have the disease – from spreading it to others.”
Senator Weinberg said it is clear from discussions with NJ Transit officials, union leaders and transit advocates that the overcrowding issue is most severe on intra-city bus lines in North Jersey cities, where workers rely on buses to get to jobs in distribution centers and supermarkets, and where residents need to use the bus to get to food stores and pharmacies. The coronavirus caseload is rising rapidly in these cities, with Newark topping 1,300 confirmed cases, Jersey City over 1,100, and Elizabeth, North Bergen and East Orange all recording about 500 cases as of yesterday.
Weinberg urged NJ Transit yesterday to follow the lead of New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and its bus union, which last week urged bus riders, in particular, “to cover their mouths and noses with bandannas or scarves” if they do not have masks to protect bus drivers and their fellow passengers against inadvertently spreading coronavirus germs.
Kevin Garcia, the New Jersey Bus Campaign Manager for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, cited the new CDC directive on wearing facial coverings and last week’s action by the MTA in thanking NJ Transit for adopting similar guidelines.
“As transit schedules are being adjusted and vehicle capacity is being decreased, many essential workers and residents continue to rely on NJT for their commutes and are finding it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to adhere to the social distancing recommendations on public transit. NJT should continue to monitor service and provide an appropriate schedule to prevent crowding on vehicles in order to mitigate the continued spread of COVID-19,” Garcia said.
“Furthermore, consistent with the CDC, we are pleased that NJT is strongly recommending that its riders wear face coverings to further protect themselves. This is essential as the region works together in enacting consistent mitigation actions to ‘flatten the curve’ of the COVID-19 spread,” he said.