Proposed NJ Transit Fare Hikes Cause ‘Stress’ for Commuters
After a series of obligatory public hearings, the New Jersey Transit Board of Directors is expected to formally approve a 9 percent fare increase today, coupled with service cuts on some bus and train lines.
Agency officials insist the hike is necessary to close a $60 million budget shortfall, but commuter groups are very unhappy.
According to Michael Phelan, the co-founder of the New Jersey Commuters Action Network, the increased cost will present a major financial hardship for hundreds of thousands of bus and rail riders, because they're still trying to catch up from the last major increase that went into effect five years ago.
"Plus the fact we've got such poor service especially in the evening on the trains, there are multiple levels of concern," he said. "The fare hike adds another layer of stress financially, the people who - many are already at risk at their work because they're late to work so often."
Phelan said this is a sad day for all New Jerseyans.
"The more you dig, the more layers of stress and anxiety connected to the fare hike, connected to the poor service that's in place now before there are even any service cuts," Phelan said.
He added that this kind of fare hike sends the wrong message and reminds everyone we're 20 years behind on planning and supporting New Jersey businesses and citizens.
"Mass transit is the life blood to hundreds of thousands of people's jobs," he said. "This is the big leagues, we are a major workforce that supports New York City and the busiest region in the country, and to not invest, not go in the opposite direction when it comes to funding is just really mind-boggling at a time when the infrastructure is crumbling, and the trains are decades old."
He also said millennials are looking for jobs and lifestyles that don't involve driving and they want to move to areas with solid transportation and walkable downtown areas. While many regions around the country have been preparing for this, here in New Jersey that hasn't happened.
"Nobody is happy about the fare hikes, people are extremely upset, the riders take it as a personal insult," Phelan said. "For the third time in a row the riders bear all of the weight of the budget gap that the agency has, the riders have had enough, they're fed up."
NJ Transit insists only 3,500 to 4,000 customers will stop riding buses and trains because of the fare hike, which is less than 1 percent of ridership.
The fare hikes are scheduled to take effect in the beginning of October.