No fare hike for NJ Transit — as long as Murphy gets his budget
One day after delivering his budget address, Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday visited an NJ Transit maintenance facility in Wood-Ridge to underscore his commitment to the embattled agency and reiterate that there would not be a fare increase as long as his spending plan was approved.
When he was asked if that meant commuters needed to be concerned about a possible fare hike should budget negotiations stall, Murphy said: “If we can get this increase of investment in NJ Transit, and we’ll know that in the next couple of months, there will be no fare increase for another fiscal year. That’s a big deal.”
His proposed spending plan calls for a $100 million increase for NJ Transit in the coming fiscal year that begins in July.
“Last year, commuters didn’t shoulder a fare hike and if this proposed investment is passed by the Legislature, they won’t see one this year, either," he said.
NJ Transit met its deadline to install emergency brakes known as positive train control and six new training classes are expected to produce 100 more engineers in the coming years.
“None of us are here claiming mission accomplished. We have just started on our mission of restoring NJ Transit as a model for safe, efficient, affordable and customer driven mass transit," Murphy said.
Murphy added his proposed budget is needed to continue the progress that NJ Transit has made.
He noted that during the Christie administration, NJ Transit fares were increased 36 percent.
Murphy also said if the Legislature wants to give NJ Transit more funding, he’d certainly be open to that.
“We have to make sure though that we have revenues that are sustainable that support that kind of investment.”
When New Jersey Transit executive director Kevin Corbett was asked about a possible fare increase, he stressed this is something he has no control over, but “you can’t go asking people for an increase when you’re not providing service, so we have a first obligation.”
Corbett stressed many concrete steps are being taken and great progress is being made to improve NJ Transit, but he is still expecting a rough summer, and improvements may not become evident until after the first new engineering class graduates in October.
When asked if a fare hike announcement could come in May or June because of a budget fight between the Governor and Lawmakers Corbett said “I don’t see a scenario for that, for raising the fare, I think if you look at the bigger numbers I don’t see that as something we couldn’t work around, if for some reason this didn’t go through.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com