Harry 1,088 Posted May 7, 2007 Share #1 Posted May 7, 2007 By John Holl - New York Times Published: May 6, 2007 WHEN Richard R. Sarles was growing up in Nutley in the 1950s, his family did not own a car, so they used the bus. Public transportation took them everywhere, from movie theaters and grocery stores to department stores in Newark. “The buses were a great way to travel,” Mr. Sarles said. He now owns a car, but the buses, trains and light rails of the state are on Mr. Sarles’s mind much of the time as he settles into his new job as executive director of New Jersey Transit, the largest statewide public transportation agency in the country. Mr. Sarles, 62, has spent three decades working on transportation issues. He has spent the past five years at New Jersey Transit, working as the assistant executive director for capital programs and planning before being tapped in early April to replace George D. Warrington as the head of the agency. During an interview in a conference room overlooking Pennsylvania Station here, Mr. Sarles said he understands that with such a high-profile job come new pressures and criticisms. Although he said he had been greeted only with smiles from passengers and conductors so far — he now commutes by train from Philadelphia — Mr. Sarles said he would most likely hear some gripes when fare increases of nearly 10 percent, introduced by his predecessor, take effect in June. Because complaints are part of the business, Mr. Sarles said, the agency will continue to focus on customer service. “We want to strive to get better at every aspect,” he said. “With responsibility comes accountability.” Before joining New Jersey Transit, Mr. Sarles spent 20 years at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in various roles, including construction, project planning and project management. From 1996 until 2002, he served as a vice president at Amtrak, heading the Northeast Corridor High-Speed Rail Program, between New York and Boston, and managing capital projects across the country. With New Jersey Transit he oversaw creation and expansion of light-rail service in South Jersey, Newark and Hudson County. Former Gov. Jim Florio, who headed the selection committee, said it unanimously chose Mr. Sarles over 40 other candidates because “he is very mature, with a good background, particularly in operations.” “I think everyone is satisfied with the way New Jersey Transit is running,” Mr. Florio said. “Having someone continuing the high performance is something we were all looking for. Sarles was a standout.” Though Mr. Sarles has been on the job for only about a month, he said he had a good idea what the top priorities would be on his watch. First is the construction of another passenger-rail tunnel under the Hudson River, which has the support of officials in New Jersey and New York City. The tunnel, which carries a price tag of up to $7.5 billion, could be completed by 2016 if construction begins on time in 2009. “The project is vital to the region,” Mr. Sarles said. “It will help to grow the economy.” He said he also wants New Jersey Transit to do a complete audit of its bus routes — something that has not been done in nearly 30 years — in hopes of finding ways to lure new customers to buses and to accommodate existing customers better. Also on Mr. Sarles’s to-do list are creating an express bus line along Route 1 and expansion into Bergen County and the southern part of the state. He said he also wants to increase awareness of the agency’s park-and-ride locations, to “highlight transit as an attractive alternative to congested roadways.” In the end, Mr. Sarles said his office would continue to seek out commuters’ opinions and ideas about service, equipment and what the agency can do better. “We want public transit to be the preferred choice for the commuters,” he said. “We don’t want to force them out of their automobiles; we want to attract them out of their automobiles.” Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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