Under the leadership of executive director George Warrington, New Jersey Transit (NJT) has transformed itself from an unreliable, underserved utility to a prominent and increasingly popular alternative to the state’s notoriously congested roadways. This made Warrington’s January 11 announcement that he would step down in April all the more surprising. Warrington, who would not comment for this article, stated in a letter to employees that he has decided “to pursue other opportunities,” but it is not known at this time what he will do. Governor Jon Corzine has appointed a seven-member search committee led by former governor James Florio to hire his replacement. John Dee, a spokesperson for NJT, said that they hope to have a new director in place when Warrington leaves.
Ingrid Reed, director of the New Jersey Project at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics, said there are two opinions of the transit czar. “Many think is that Warrington is indispensable and that he is one of the most gifted transit administrators in the state and the nation.”Others, she said, think Warrington did not expand the system so much as maintain and improve it, though he has championed expansion plans such as the $7 billion Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel. For Warrington supporters, it is this focus on creating better service on the existing
infrastructure that made him so successful. “He is good at working on projects that move the most people, the ones that would get the most bang for the buck,” said Damien Newton, New Jersey coordinator for the Tri-StateTransportation Campaign. “He put focus where it needs to be.”
That focus has meant 100,000 new train seats, extended bus service, and new light rail routes, all of which have led to increased ridership during Warrington’s tenure. He also capped the amount of money that could be siphoned from infrastructure budgets to cover operating costs. Above all, he has given NJT statewide prominence.
Reed said Warrington accomplished this by transforming his agency from an engine for transportation into one for economic development. By promoting projects like high-density, mixed-use transit villages, Warrington garnered a high profile for the agency and the funds to support its work.
In the past, the executive director position was held by politicians, not transportation professionals, but there is hope that Warrington, who worked for Amtrak before arriving at NJT a decade ago, may have established a new precedent.
“The good news is, Governor Corzine is committed to following through on [Warrington’s] initiatives, which is good because we want to see the state stick to the ones it has implemented thus far,” Newton said.