TRENTON – South Jersey’s public transit needs might be better served if NJ Transit splits into two separate regional agencies, according to a recent report assessing the state’s transportation issues.

For years, transportation policy in New Jersey has moved in the opposite direction, toward consolidation. The New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway are now run by a single toll-road agency, and though the South Jersey Transportation Authority remains independent, the operations of Atlantic City International Airport were shifted to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

But a report written for the Garden State Initiative, a conservative think tank, suggests the state – particularly South Jersey – might benefit from having two transit agencies.

Report author Jonathan Peters says the typical approach would be a regional one, meaning separate transit systems for North and South Jersey.

“The reality is it’s pretty unique. I don’t think there’s any other state in the United States that has a statewide mass transit system,” report author Jonathan Peters said. “We have this statewide entity. Well, the question is: Does this statewide entity serve everyone in the state? And the answer is no.”

Peters, a professor at City University of New York’s College of Staten Island, said the system doesn’t serve everyone in the state, with many ‘transit deserts’ that could benefit from things like better bus services for older residents in places such as Ocean County and southern Monmouth County.

Even NJ Transit’s headquarters in Newark suggests that’s where it’s focused, in particular on traditional commuter rail at the expense of buses, he said.

“By splitting the agency, you might get a better sense of plans to develop the South Jersey/Philadelphia relationship, to make that more productive, to make it better for access to jobs and such,” Peters said.

Peters said North Jersey has a dense mass transit system but South Jersey’s is more limited, with many counties poorly served.

“And it looks pretty clear. If you look at the connection between the north and the south transit systems in New Jersey, there’s very little connection. There’s very little interaction between the two,” he said.

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Peters said the system could function better with one agency focused on infrastructure, investments, taxes and fees reflective of South Jersey’s needs and another serving the New York metro area commuting shed.

“The idea that you can do everything with one agency is a great and laudable idea, but the challenge is getting it done, and does one area’s needs get pushed behind the others?” Peters said. “And I think it’s always a challenge to have one entity serving everyone.”

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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