NYC’s congestion pricing plan could boost NJ Transit rail, bus ridership
More than 28 months after the pandemic began, NJ Transit is still seeing a lag in ridership, especially going into New York City, but the head of the agency says the numbers are continuing to get better.
The biggest bright spot is the weekend. According to Kevin Corbett, president and CEO of NJ Transit, bus and train travel on weekends is almost back to pre-pandemic numbers.
"People clearly don’t have a problem traveling, enjoying life in the summer on the weekends. We still see it slow though, relatively slow going into New York City and Philadelphia, for the traditional white collar commuter market,” he said.
As for rail ridership on the weekends, Corbett said some trains are at 80 to 100% capacity. "Remember, 100% for us pre-COVID was standing room.”
A weekday issue
For now, ridership continues to lag on Mondays and Fridays, but picks up on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This could be due to the number of companies that have switched to a hybrid schedule allowing their workers to spend some of their days working remotely.
Corbett said rail ridership is at about 60% of pre-COVID levels during the mid-week period, while bus ridership is up around 70 to 75% during the week.
On Mondays and Fridays, Corbett said rail ridership is around 50%.
An issue of productivity?
When asked if NJ Transit ridership will ever regain its ridership numbers, Corbett said he doesn’t have a crystal ball but he believes it will.
“The one thing I think is really going to drive it, frankly, is do corporations in the big cities feel that they are getting the same productivity. We hear some companies say we need people back in the office, you hear that from Mayor Adams certainly in New York.”
A possible silver lining
One factor that could drive more people out of their cars and into buses and trains is New York City's congestion pricing plan.
Corbett said NJ Transit ridership could get a significant boost when New York starts charging New Jersey drivers an additional $23 a day to take their cars into midtown.
“You look at parking already and gas and tolls, the economic value of New Jersey Transit is, as long as we’re providing good, reliable service, already I think is pretty compelling.”
He noted traffic on New Jersey roads has already returned to pre-pandemic levels and the population of the Garden State is growing.
“I see a number of factors are going to be driving people to transit, and we're certainly – we’re ready for them.”
He added billions of dollars in new projects are underway to improve NJ Transit.
"We hope our riders are seeing it and keep coming back.”
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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