- Associated Press - Monday, February 20, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Want to sit down in NJ Transit’s main waiting area at Penn Station in Newark? You’re going to have to show your train ticket to a cop at a checkpoint first.

Passengers now have to show a valid train ticket to sit in part of the main waiting room. But civil libertarians are questioning the constitutionality of limiting access in a public place, and others have questioned whether the move is specifically designed to rid the waiting area of homeless people.

NJ Transit officials said the change enforces the agency’s two-hour time limit for sitting in station waiting rooms, which has been in effect since 2015.

“The purpose is to make sure we have seating for our ticketed customers. We are not cordoning off the entire area,” Stephen Santoro, NJ Transit executive director, told NJ.com (https://bit.ly/2lojjTV). “We have seating for ticketed customers and for the public.”

NJ Transit officials said the checkpoint is a change in procedure, not in policy.

“The two-hour seating policy has been in effect for some time,” said Lisa Torbic, an NJ Transit spokeswoman. “The stanchions allow for New Jersey Transit Police officers to efficiently verify ticketed customers and enforce the seating policy.”

The new checkpoint at Newark Penn Station is not designed to exclude homeless people, but to ensure that there is enough seating for ticketed passengers, Torbic said. NJ Transit runs a homeless outreach program at Newark Penn Station.

Customers are required to show their tickets, including electronic tickets on smartphones, to an officer, Torbic said.

But the new requirement may not be Constitutional because the station is a public place with restaurants and shops inside, said Ed Barocas, New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union legal director.

“It is a station that invites in the public. The manner that they cut off seating to the public is in appropriate,” he said. “NJ Transit can’t show that there is no seating available for ticket holders.”

Santoro said there are benches in the station for use by the public. They’re located in the back of the waiting room behind Amtrak’s seating. But because that seating is hard to find, Barocus said the plan gives the appearance that NJ Transit is trying to keep the public out.

Previously, NJ Transit and the ACLU reached an agreement that the agency could prohibit people without tickets from being on station platforms, but areas of the station that “invite the public in” could not be regulated, Barocas said.

The two-hour policy covers major stations in Atlantic City, Secaucus, Newark Penn Station and Broad Street, Hoboken Terminal, Trenton and smaller stations such as Metropark, Somerville, Morristown, South Orange and Summit. Bus terminals include the Atlantic City, the Walter Rand Transportation Center and Hackensack.


Information from: NJ.com, https://www.nj.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide