NEWARK – NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein announced today that the statewide transit agency is aggressively confronting current and future budget shortfalls that have arisen due to the severe national recession and the state’s $2.2 billion current-year budget gap, and $11 billion FY11 budget gap.
Published reports suggest that fare hikes of up to 30 percent and service reductions could begin as soon as May 1. Transit officials have not finalized the details of fare increases or service cuts and did not confirm those numbers.
Weinstein called for riders and the public to provide input to NJ Transit while the agency develops the proper mix of solutions to balance the budgets while maintaining safe, reliable bus and train service.
Last week Governor Christie announced an 11-percent subsidy reduction, about $33 million, to NJ Transit’s FY10 state operating subsidy as part of a number of steps the governor is taking to close the state’s current budget shortfall.
“This reduction is painful but we understand the challenge the state is facing,” Weinstein said. “We know the Governor appreciates the importance of the transit system to New Jersey’s mobility, but we recognize that difficult measures are required to keep the state budget balanced.”
The budget outlook is even grimmer for FY11, which starts July 1 for both the state and for NJ Transit. Weinstein said the state faces an $11 billion deficit next year and is not likely to be able to continue to provide its historic level of NJ Transit operating assistance. NJ Transit also is unable to depend on another round of federal stimulus and other one-time federal transportation funding, which was utilized to help bolster the operating budget by $150 million.
In addition, NJ Transit is facing inflationary cost increases for things such as fuel and equipment parts, even as ridership declined systemwide by about four percent year to date, reducing fare revenue.
“In the transition report that I helped prepare as head of the transportation committee, we indicated that NJ Transit would face a budget deficit next year (FY11) of about $200 million,” said Weinstein. “After reviewing more recent data, the projected operating deficit in FY11 is approaching $300 million.”
“NJ Transit has an obligation to balance its budget and we cannot ask the state for help it cannot afford to give. We also cannot pretend otherwise or we risk making a bad situation much worse,” he said. “Balancing the NJ Transit budget will take a combination of actions and innovative thinking about doing things differently. But we will not compromise on safety and service reliability, and we will not ask our customers to pay more at the fare box until we have identified every possible efficiency, and sacrificed internally,” the executive director emphasized.
Weinstein said NJ Transit will be as inclusive as possible as it studies options to meet the financial shortfalls and will seek input from customers and stakeholders on any fare and service proposals. The agency will be reaching out to customers and the public over the coming days to solicit comments and suggestions.
To that end, we are announcing today a series of public hearings on the fare and service change proposals. The hearings will take place mostly at our facilities and will be held in Newark, Atlantic City, Trenton, Secaucus, Camden, Paterson, Hackensack, Manalapan and New York. An extended period of public comment will be available online on njtransit.com beginning in early March.
More detailed information on the proposals and the hearings will be made available in the next week or two on our website and through formal public notices statewide.
“Clearly, some of the adjustments we will have to make will be painful,” Weinstein said. “But we can emerge from this challenging time as a stronger agency, with a more stable financial picture, and continued pride in our service.”
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