- Dwindling funding leads leads agency to raise fares five times
- Commuters are frustrated paying more for less-reliable service
New Jersey’s capital investment in public transit has fallen 19 percent since 2002, even as ridership has grown by 20 percent, according to a coalition pushing for more spending.
Funding for New Jersey Transit in the annual state budget fallen even more, to about $33 million from $350 million in 2005 when adjusted for inflation, according to a report released Thursday by New Jersey for Transit. The drop has led the nation’s third-largest commuter system to raise fares five times since 2002, and divert money for capital improvements to cover operating costs, the group said.
New Jersey Transit rail commuters are paying more even as they endure crowding, an aging power system, and limited capacity in Hudson River tunnels that are the link to Manhattan. On June 30, the state will have exhausted its five-year, $8 billion fund for highway and rail projects. Democrats who control New Jersey’s legislature say a gasoline-tax increase is the only way to replenish the account; Governor Chris Christie, a second-term Republican, has said he won’t approve the higher fees unless tax cuts are made elsewhere.
“Despite transit’s clear benefit to New Jersey, the state has systematically shirked its responsibility to invest the dollars necessary to create a world-class public-transit system that is reliable and affordable,” Ryan Hall, a staff analyst with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, one of the 19 coalition members, said in the report.
New Jersey Transit’s fiscal crunch may soon bring its rail system to a halt. The agency has said it can’t afford a $183 million labor contract offer recommended by an emergency negotiating board, and unions may strike later this month if talks scheduled on Friday fail to find a solution.