Hearing Held in Hoboken after Tragic Death of West New York Infant
(HOBOKEN) – The Assembly Transportation Committee held a special hearing in Hoboken on Monday to take testimony on the operation, regulation and safety of jitney service in light of the tragic death of an infant in West New York two months ago. Following the hearing, Democratic members of the committee weighed in on the issue:
Vice Chairwoman Linda Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union):
“Clearly more stringent oversight of this industry is needed. Among the many requirements for limo drivers are background checks, drug testing and commercial driver’s licensing. The jitney industry, however, largely escapes these requirements. As a result a little girl has lost her life.
“Not only was the driver in this tragic incident on his cell phone, but he also had numerous traffic violations on his record. As we move forward, all of these factors, along with routine training, need to be taken into account in order to create a well-defined structure of oversight and accountability in which operators and drivers can provide a service to passengers safely.”
Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos, Jr.:
“Being from Hoboken, I know how important quick, reliable transportation service is, especially for the countless Manhattan commuters who live here. But we need to find a way to balance these needs while protecting safety. The two should not be mutually exclusive.
“We heard a lot of valuable input today about what oversight we’re lacking, what works in other parts of our state, and how we can come together to close some of these gaps to prevent future tragedies. I want to thank everyone who traveled to Hoboken today to offer their insight. Now it’s time for us, as legislators, to take this input back to Trenton to turn it into legislative solutions that will protect the public’s safety.”
During the hearing, the committee also discussed proposed legislation (A-3993), which would increase insurance requirements for drivers of autobuses and require drivers to possess a commercial driver’s license. Three of the bill’s six sponsors sit on the Assembly Transportation Committee and weighed in on the matter:
Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-Hudson):
“I’ve taken rides on jitneys both prior to and after this tragic incident in West New York. I think part of the underlying problem we’re having is that many municipalities aren’t aware of what standards jitneys fall under. The main difference right now between the more stringent laws that exist for limo drivers and the current laws that exist for jitney drivers is the type of license needed and the insurance requirements. The bill I’ve introduced is designed to get everyone on the same page in order to boost accountability and safety.”
Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-Hudson/Bergen):
“We learned a lot today about how jitneys have operated safely in other parts of our state like Atlantic City where, for example, the vehicles carry special jitney license plates and are typically owner-operated. In North Jersey, however, these license plate requirements do not exist and many times jitneys are owned by someone, but leased out to an operator. Whether intentional or not, this enables certain laws to be skirted. Essentially, it’s a free-for-all up here and that needs to change for the safety of everyone.”
Assemblyman Marlene Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic):
“After hearing valuable testimony from federal authorities today, it’s clear that we all share a responsibility to ensure the safety of commuters. Municipalities are already stretched thin, and resources are tight at every level, but if we work together we can create a smarter, safer, more efficient transportation network. Ultimately, we must all own this responsibility.”