Nearly two years ago, Faisal Jameel left the world of pharmaceuticals to take the mantle of CTO for NJ Transit, the third-largest public transit system in the US. Reporting to CIO Lookman Fazal, Jameel’s mission was to transform NJ Transit’s data operations to overhaul processes throughout the organization.
Jameel’s mandate began as improving the data architecture group within NJ Transit’s IT department. Within the next two to three years, his goal is to transform NJ Transit into what he calls a “datavore,” an organization that makes heavy use of data analysis to make decisions.
Proving the value of data
NJ Transit is a statewide transit agency, responsible for a fleet of about 1,200 rail cars, 2,200 buses, and 93 light-rail vehicles that serves the state of New Jersey, along with connections to New York City and Philadelphia. In past years, it served about 270 million passengers a year, though that number has fallen during the pandemic. As CTO, Jameel manages a portfolio of about 150 applications that support the business. His first order of business in guiding the organization’s transformation was to start collecting and delivering data the agency could use.
When Jameel came aboard, NJ Transit’s ticket collection process was paper-based and manual. Conductors would walk through cars, collect paper tickets, punch them, and put them in a pocket. That manual process made it difficult to correlate ridership data with revenue data.