April 3, 2020
from the Chairman and Executive Director
We have made it through another a
week as team. While much of the news about the global COVID-19
pandemic has been hard to hear, there are several things we, at the
Port Authority, can feel good about this Friday.
Keeping the Supply Chain Strong
The vital goods – food, medicine, health-care
supplies, fuel – that ensure that this region continues to function
are arriving at our ports, our airports and in trucks using our
crossings. Our facilities are a key part of the supply chain, and it
remains strong in part strong because our operations continue and
because our employees are on the job.
PATH Modified Service
At the start of this week, we implemented modified
PATH service with two core priorities in mind: 1) to provide
reliable service for essential workers amid the significant
reduction in overall ridership; and 2) to enable adequate social
distancing for these riders, many of whom are on the front lines in
fighting this crisis. As we reach the end of the week, we are proud
to report that we have delivered on both. Teams have analyzed every
single train on the schedule and will continue to do as we strive to
meet these important goals
Creating Efficiencies by Tailoring Footprints to
At the same time we are keeping our facilities –
including PATH – up and running, we also are looking at how to do so
in smarter, more efficient ways that reflect current demand and,
very importantly, continue to reduce the risks to our front-line
For example on PATH, we are closing entrances and
turnstiles that are not needed at the moment. The same approach has
been applied at our airports and bus facilities – restrooms and
other areas of facilities that are not being used because of low
volumes have been closed. By reducing these footprints, we reduce
the burden on maintenance and cleaning crews, making our facilities
safer, easier to clean, and easier to keep secure. And by making it
easier for both employees and the public to maintain proper social
distancing, we can ensure that our operations remain reliable for
those that need them most as we move essential workers across the
region to their jobs.
Adjusting How and Where We Work – with Measurable
We mentioned the “the new normal” in our message
earlier this week. But as new as all of this is – the extensive
changes that have been required as we’ve adapted to the emergency
orders and continued to refine our plans to maximize employee safety
– we are functioning at an incredibly high level. Our facilities and
departments across the agency are finding their respective grooves.
Staggered work hours, encouraging “A” and “B” teams, and expanding
remote work to Port Authority employees to the maximum extent
possible – these measures have been embraced with sheer
professionalism and poise.
This is producing very important results. We are
seeing relatively low numbers of positive tests – and while those
numbers could never be too small, we are encouraged that they
reflect the approach we’ve taken. And an even more reassuring
achievement is the fact that this week we saw more employees return
from self-quarantine than go into it due to potential exposure. All
told, more than 200 employees returned to work healthy. This is
partially due to our proactive changes in scheduling, and we must
stay focused and vigilant in continuing to drive down new positive
cases and enable others to return.
As workers return, the stress on our entire team is
lessened. Now, more than ever, we need all hands on deck.
Social distancing works.
Staggered work hours and creative shift arrangements
Working remotely is effective.
We are seeing the results.
Employees Rising to the Occasion
thank everyone in the agency who is making sacrifices. On Fridays,
we give a shout-out to an employee who displays the ingenuity, focus
or grit that defines the Port Authority. Today we salute Norberto
Franqui, better known as “Frankie.”
Frankie started at the Port Authority on June 14, 1984, as a Toll
Collector. He now works as a Bus Terminal Agent (BTA).
As we stated earlier, the agency is reducing the
footprint inside terminals. BTAs are closing portions of the Midtown
Bus Terminal and making wayfinding signage that is helping direct
passengers as the layout in the terminal temporarily changes. This
week, bus carriers, including NJ Transit, have reduced their
schedules; others have cancelled service. Frankie and other BTAs
were very busy, but that did not deter Frankie from helping a vital
Bus Terminal tenant in need.
He saw the blood bank located in the south wing of
the terminal needed immediate assistance in helping people waiting
to donate blood adhere to social distancing. Frankie jumped into
action, found traffic cones and then set them up in front of the
blood bank so donors could wait spaced apart.
There is regional shortage of blood donations. There
can be little as precious in the supply chain as blood. We thank
Frankie for doing what Port Authority employees do – they see a
problem; they find a solution.
The weeks ahead will continue to challenge us. We
will rise to the challenge, as always, together.
Kevin J. O’Toole