New Jersey lawmakers on Friday rejected calls to privatize Penn Station as Amtrak fends off complaints about its mismanagement of the transit hub.
The group of lawmakers, fresh off a train ride with a top Amtrak official to check out the state of Penn Station’s infrastructure, dismissed an idea from Gov. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to hand over the transit hub to a private company.
New Jersey State Sen. Bob Gordon dismissed a request for a private operator, “as if that were going to be the solution to these problems.”
Gordon said that it sounded like a plan from two lawyers, rather than officials with MBAs.
“The problems here deal with organization, design, the structure of incentives, the sharing of information, financial management,” the Democrat said. “What I believe we need here, more importantly than a change in ownership, is a change in organization.”
The idea of bringing in outside help to manage Penn Station has gained momentum.
Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman testified Thursday at a New York Assembly hearing that he wants to contract a private company to run a new entity uniting the concourses that are split between Amtrak, NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road.
Later, Cuomo and Christie in a joint letter called for a greater role for a private operator.
“A professional, qualified, private station operator must be brought in to take over the repairs and manage this entire process going forward,” the letter read.
Amtrak took over Penn Station in 1976 when a private company, Penn Central, went bankrupt.
Cuomo spokesman Jon Weinstein said that this was a different era and that public-private partnerships can work, citing LaGuardia Airport.
“The intolerable status quo may be fine for these lawmakers — but it is unacceptable to hundreds of thousands of riders and to us,” Weinstein said.