Friday, March 05, 2010

New Jersey Transit projection: Raise fares 25%, cut 32 trains

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Facing the requirement to cover a $300 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2011, New Jersey Transit Friday released its plan to increase rail, light rail, and bus fares 25% and to “trim service proportionate to recent ridership declines.” Left unstated was the impact of several recent service cutbacks, applied unilaterally by NJT, that some observers may have contributed to such rider declines in tandem with recession.

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“We recognize that any increase is a burden for our customers, particularly during a recession,” said Executive Director Jim Weinstein.  “However, we have worked to keep local bus fares below the regional average and preserved some important discounts for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as for students and others who are among the most transit dependent.”

Following public hearings on the plan—hearings that were not held during recent, more modest service “adjustments” during the administration of Gov. Jon Corzine—NJ Transit would enact its fare and service changes May 1. NJT says it expects to generate more than $140 million in revenue. It noted that with the proposed increase, fares will be 3% lower than they were in Fiscal Year 1991, based on inflation-adjusted dollars.

Service reductions seek a goal of “reducing service proportionateto ridership, which has declined systemwide by about 4% as a result of the economy and low fuel prices,” NJT said. “In all, the agency proposes to eliminate 32 of 725 commuter trains, with at least two trains scheduled for elimination on each of the system’s 11 lines. 

“Our service plan is designed to size our service to match ridership demand,” said Weinstein.  “We also looked at where we could squeeze out the most costs while impacting as few customers as possible.”