Port Authority Should Let N.J. Run PATH, Report Says

New Jersey Transit should take over PATH, the trans-Hudson River commuter rail that’s projected to lose $389 million this year under the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a study recommends.

Such an arrangement would free the Port Authority, the operator of some of the world’s busiest airports, bridges and tunnels in and around Manhattan, to spend more on infrastructure, according to the Citizens Budget Commission, a business-funded watchdog group.

New Jersey Transit “would be responsible for fully 86 percent of the commuters from New Jersey to Manhattan’s central business district, making planning and coordination among the services less complex,” according to the report. “By transferring the rail line, the authority may focus its resources on its core mission of promoting commerce in the port district.”

William Smith, a spokesman for the New Jersey mass-transit agency, said by phone that officials hadn’t reviewed the report, and he declined to comment on it. The Port Authority will review the recommendations, Ron Marsico, a spokesman, said by e-mail.

It was the second independent report in a month that recommends fundamental changes at the 93-year-old agency and comes as its operations are under scrutiny as a result of politically motivated traffic jams at its George Washington Bridge in September.

Not Sustainable

A study released April 1 by New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management concluded that the agency’s 30-year-old business model is no longer sustainable. Operating deficits in 2012 at the George Washington Bridge, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and its marine properties were $212 million, that study found.

Once a vital force in the regional economy, the agency has been sapped by growing deficits at PATH, cost overruns at the World Trade Center and spending on pet projects for the governors of New York and New Jersey, according to the Rudin study.

Today’s report focuses on the Port Authority Trans-Hudson rail lines, which has stations including Newark, Harrison, Jersey City and Hoboken in New Jersey, and the World Trade Center and elsewhere in lower and midtown Manhattan. The New York Times reported the findings earlier.

World Trade

The system’s losses, extending to at least 2004, peaked at $488 million in 2010. The study projected a loss of $487 million in 2018. To cover just 50 percent of expenses, PATH would have to increase single-ride fares to about $4.50 from $2.75.

The PATH’s World Trade Center operations were destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Hurricane Sandy, in October 2012, caused about $800 million in damage to PATH systemwide, and full service didn’t resume until February 2013.

The Port Authority’s nine commissioners yesterday postponed until May a vote on a $1.2 billion loan guarantee for developer Larry Silverstein to construct a third skyscraper at the 16-acre (6.5-hectare) site it owns in Lower Manhattan.

Vice Chairman Scott Rechler says the authority stands to reap hundreds of millions of dollars that could bolster transportation. Commissioner Kenneth Lipper says the project diverts the agency further from its primary mission.

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