Commuters pan projected fare increase and cutbacks for NJ Transit
At the New Jersey Transit station in Hamilton, commuters were not happy to hear that Gov. Chris Christie's proposed state budget is pointing toward an increase in fares - the first in five years.
“I do think there should be an investigation probably, as to what the salaries and the pensions are before they start raising fees and cutting back service, because that’s typical New Jersey,” said Carol, a Hamilton resident, said Thursday.
Monroe resident Cathy agreed, saying, "Everybody is getting laid off and stuff like that, so obviously it’s not good. My train is always late."
Bob from Trenton said he was more alarmed by the news that service cutbacks may also be necessary to close an $80 million gap in NJ Transit's share of the state budget.
“I never want to pay more for less," he said. "That’s obvious. I think the fares are fair but they shouldn't go up. And a decrease in service - that would be a shame."
Christie's proposed state budget, introduced Tuesday, included an 8.4 percent decrease in transportation spending, stating: "To meet its operating needs in fiscal 2016 and beyond, including escalating employee health premiums and other costs, New Jersey Transit is currently evaluating a range of savings and revenue-generating options that may include the first fare adjustment since May of 2010."
"We are developing options for the governor's consideration to help us close a budget gap and will be putting everything on the table, including fare and service adjustments," NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder tells NJ.com. "Right now, we are working with the state budget numbers as we develop and finalize our own operating plan for the fiscal year."
Snyder said "New Jersey Transit has maintained a high level of service and we’ve implemented and advanced new technologies."
She said we need to keep in mind that there hasn’t been any fare increase in five years and the agency has been developing all kinds of new technologies "like My Tix, departure vision, My Bus Now, and we also made improvements at the Port Authority Bus terminal."
In its last budget about $470 million of a $1.2 billion capital program was funded from the state Transportation Trust Fund, With funding for the Fund yet to be determined for beyond June 30, that money appears to be off the table.
NJ Transit riders have also taken to Twitter to express their displeasure with the possible increase. "If @NJTRANSIT is going to raise the fares, can we get some capable people operating their terrible service?" tweeted sports producer @TheKevinStewart. Another rider expressed the option that would likely be considered by many riders: taking to their cars or other commuting options. "If @NJTRANSIT wants us to pay more money it's going to @SeaStreakFerry or another service."
Jeff Tittel, New Jersey director for the Sierra Club believes that more drivers taking to the roads in the event of a fare increase will create more pollution, according to the Asbury Park Press.
NJ Transit says 46 percent of its operating revenue comes from fares and 45 percent from "other reimbursements." Fifty-eight percent of the budget goes towards salary and wages.
At the Hamilton station Thursday, one man rushing to buy a ticket said, “The prices in general are just extremely high; $30 dollars a day just to go back and forth to New York is a little much. If you raise it some more it’s going to cause a lot more issues and people are financially unstable as it is, so its making it way worse."
He said the condition of the commuter line is no bargain either. "The actual maintenance of it and the stench of it is pretty horrible," he said.
Dan Alexander contributed to this report.
- Commuters could pay more, get less as NJ Transit warns on fare hikes, service cuts / NJ Transit
- NJ Transit considering fare hike, service cuts / Asbury Park Press