NJ Transit's Hurricane Plan, Revealed, is Sparse

Friday, May 17, 2013 - 04:00 AM

The Hudson River outside NJ Transit's Hoboken Terminal (accarino/flickr)

New Jersey Transit has released its hurricane plan. Even so, portions of the, slim, three-and-a-half page plan remain blacked out, including -- significantly -- information on where trains would be stored during hurricanes. Some $120 million of NJ Transit trains stored in low-lying areas during storm Sandy were flooded.  Since then, the agency has been fiercely secretive, going so far as to black out the date that the hurricane plan was drawn up, citing security reasons.

But now, following litigation, portions of the plan have been released to The Record newspaper. 

The plan became an issue during a months long investigation by WNYC/New Jersey Public Radio and The Record into how New Jersey came to make the disastrous decision to store its trains in the Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny and in yards in Hoboken. Both those areas are had been identified, prior to the storm, as storm surge areas during Category 1 hurricanes. During the investigation both news organizations requested documents under New Jersey's Open Public Records Act.  Many documents were withheld, or, in the case of the hurricane plan, blacked out.

Compared to the New York MTA's hurricane plan -- filling five binders, each 3 inches thick -- the New Jersey plan is slim.  And its not clear why the plan would have been blacked out under security exemptions.  Among the blacked out prose: boilerplate warnings to keep customers, employees and "the citizens of New Jersey safe;" directions on stocking break rooms during storms, and instruction to workers to "remain within their assigned facility until the storm abates."  The plan also advises transit personnel to move trains from "flood" prone areas to higher ground, though it is not clear how such areas were identified.

New Jersey transit's lawyers had claimed the document was redacted because disclosure "would jeopardize buildings, facilities, or persons therein."

New Jersey Transit isn't commenting. 

NJ Transit Rail Hurricane Plan


Comments [2]

Rob Durchola

NJ Transit apparently didn't lose any buses during the storm; despite many of the bus garages being in flood prone areas. The bus system was up and running in most areas almost as soon as the roads were cleared.

So, what did NJ Transit's bus division do right that its rail division did wrong?

(That NJ Transit told its rail passengers to take the bus when many of its bus routes normally are at capacity during peak periods was a separate problem and a real blunder; but that is a separate issue.)

May. 17 2013 09:58 PM

This version still redacts information which should not be redacted.

"Hoboken Division MU fleet stored XXXXXXXX"?

Did NJT actually follow their plan? Did the PLAN tell them to store the fleet in a flood-prone location? Or did the PLAN say to get the fleet to high ground, while someone failed to follow the plan?

This is critical information which must be published.

There can be no excuse for redacting this information, as (a) it will be noticed as soon as the trains are moved, and (b) this plan is clearly obsolete and will have to be replaced in its entirety anyway.

However, this information is critical for figuring out who failed to do their job: the people writing the plan, or the people carrying it out.

It is illegal to use redactions for the purpose of covering up bad behavior by the government.

May. 17 2013 05:02 PM

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