Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
New Jersey Transit commissioned a study on climate change. But the report didn't raise alarms, and when Sandy roared in, the nation's largest statewide transit agency was overwhelmed, leaving trains in low-lying areas and suffering $120 million in damage to a flooded fleet.
In the second part of our radio story on how NJ Transit Failed Sandy's Test, we dive into a comparison of how the New York's MTA prepared for climate change, and how NJ Transit prepared. After a 2007 storm which shut down a woefully unprepared MTA, New York's transit authority commissioned several studies, and developed a plan to move trains out of harms way during serious storms, which it concluded would become more frequent and more severe as a result of climate change. During Sandy, 19 of 8,000 MTA rail cars suffered water damage.
But while NJ Transit performed its own study, it was essentially a planning document, not an operations manual for how to respond to severe storms. And it specifically didn't look at where to put the trains during hurricane storm surges. The agency's executive director, James Weinstein, told a state assembly hearing "I confess I haven't studied" the climate change report.
All this was happening while the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, was putting the brakes on the state's participation in efforts to combat climate change, including shutting down that state's office of climate change and withdrawing from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
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