NEWARK — Citing a looming $300 million budget deficit for the coming fiscal year, NJ TRANSIT today released a proposal to increase fares by 25 percent systemwide and trim service proportionate to recent ridership declines.
Under the proposal, a one-zone local bus trip or one-way ticket on Newark or River Line light rail lines would increase from $1.35 to $1.70 per ride, remaining lower than base fares on transit systems in New York ($2.25) and Philadelphia ($2.00).
One-way commuter rail tickets would increase about 25 percent, subject to rounding. Rail ticket prices vary based on distance, but one-way fares would rise from a range of $1.25-$13.25 to a range $1.50-$16.50. (For example, a trip from Metropark in Iselin, NJ to New York Penn Station today is $8 and under the plan would rise to $10.)
Hudson-Bergen Light Rail tickets would increase from $1.90 to $2.40 per trip.
The agency also plans to eliminate the off-peak round trip train ticket discount and cap the discount on 10-trip bus tickets at 15 percent off the full fare price.
The plan calls for most of the changes to take effect May 1, 2010, and NJ TRANSIT expects to generate more than $140 million in revenue. The agency pointed out that with the proposed increase, fares will be three percent lower than they were in Fiscal Year 1991, based on inflation-adjusted dollars.
“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.”
Commuters will be able to continue to take advantage of discounted travel by purchasing monthly passes, which in many cases provide a discount of 25 percent or more off full fares. The plan also continues interchangeable features that allow customers to connect between trains and buses without paying additional costs.
On the service side, NJ TRANSIT set a goal of reducing service proportionate to ridership, which has declined systemwide by about four percent as a result of the economy and low fuel prices. 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.
A few lines will see a handful of trains cut, mostly those that today have the greatest service frequency, such as the Northeast Corridor, which is slated for a reduction of five weekday trains. Morris and Essex line service would be reduced by seven trains on weekdays (four are off-peak), as ridership to Hoboken has declined faster than ridership to New York. Since Fiscal Year 2009, rail ridership to New York has declined about three percent, while ridership to Hoboken declined 13 percent.
“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.”
Under the plan, bus customers would experience reduced service frequency on about 50 routes systemwide. In most instances, the interval between bus arrival times will grow by a range of five to 20 minutes. NJ TRANSIT’s proposal also calls for service to be discontinued on three NJ TRANSIT bus routes (nos. 68, 134 and 138) and several local routes operated by private carriers.
In addition, WHEELS minibus service would be discontinued in all counties. WHEELS is a legacy program that has exhausted its original federal funding to connect people to transit rail stations, and is underutilized in most areas, particularly in rural parts of the state.
Likewise, light rail customers will see frequency decrease under the plan. Hudson-Bergen Light Rail intervals between late night trains would extend from 20 to 30 minutes on weekdays, and redundant weekend service on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Tonnelle Avenue to Hoboken branch would be eliminated.
Frequency of Newark Light Rail service between Broad Street and Newark Penn stations would decrease during weekday midday hours from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes; Sunday service would operate every 25 minutes, rather than every 20 minutes. On the River Line, select double car trains will be operated with a single car and late-night trips between Entertainment Center and Pennsauken Route 73 stations would operate for concerts and special events only, rather than nightly, according to the proposal.
“I look forward to hearing the feedback personally from our customers at the public hearings because we need to understand the on-the-ground impacts for folks, not just how this works on paper,” said Weinstein.
The public hearings are scheduled in 11 locations across the system from March 25-27. The hearings and information sessions will be held in the evenings and on Saturday to encourage participation.
For more information: www.njtransit.com/budget
PUBLIC HEARINGS & INFORMATION SESSIONS
Thursday, March 25, 2010 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Passaic County Community College – Theater
Ellison Street & Memorial Drive, Paterson, NJ
NJ TRANSIT Headquarters – Board Room
One Penn Plaza East, Newark, NJ
Trenton Transit Center
72 South Clinton Avenue, Trenton, NJ
Monmouth County Library – Meeting Rooms 2 & 3
125 Symmes Drive, Manalapan, NJ
Friday, March 26, 2010 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station
County Road & County Avenue, Secaucus, NJ
Camden City Hall – Council Chambers (2nd Fl.)
520 Market Street, Camden, NJ
Morristown Town Hall – Senior Community Center (3rd Fl.)
200 South Street, Morristown, NJ
Long Branch Middle School – Auditorium
350 Indiana Avenue, Long Branch, NJ
NEW YORK (INFORMATION SESSION)
Port Authority Bus Terminal – Times Square Hall (2nd Fl.)
625 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY
Saturday, March 27, 2010 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
HACKENSACK (INFORMATION SESSION)
Bergen County Freeholders – Public Meeting Room (5th Fl.)
One Bergen County Plaza, Hackensack, NJ
ATLANTIC CITY (INFORMATION SESSION)
Atlantic City Rail Terminal – Lobby
One Atlantic City Expressway, Atlantic City, NJ
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