MANVILLE–The New Jersey Council on Special Transportation (NJ COST), a statewide advocacy association that for over 31 years has provided information and support for community-based transit services, has published a report detailing a serious financial crisis that is affecting New Jersey’s community transportation and paratransit services for senior citizens, persons with disabilities, US veterans and the economically disadvantaged. The report also outlines possible solutions.
Over the past four years, there have been dramatic reductions in the funding sources supporting community transit systems in New Jersey. Atlantic City’s casinos, a major contributor to community transportation funding, through the state Casino Revenue Fund, has seen its revenue drop precipitously year after year. Declining revenues have forced officials at county, municipal and social service agencies to evaluate and, in some instances, reduce their operating levels. There have been far-reaching reductions in both the types and levels of service provided to this state’s most vulnerable populations.
“Since 2006, transportation funds derived from Casino Revenues have decreased by nearly 32%. This has already translated into fewer rides year after year, the prioritization of trip purposes, reductions in night and weekend services and, for some agencies, complete elimination of specific services.” said Michael M. Vieira, NJ COST President.
Vieira continued, “In 2012 and into the unforeseeable future, the situation will only continue to get worse. The county systems have already been advised of another 14% decrease (a reduction of over $4 million) in Casino Revenue transportation funds compared to the 2011 allocation. There are sure to be other funding stream reductions due to limited county dollars, state social service dollars, and declining tax revenues. In 2012, we can expect more municipalities to cease providing transportation programs and tell their residents that they need to rely on the county services, further straining those systems. We expect more social service agencies to shut down, or at the very least stop providing transportation services.”
The report, “Stranded in New Jersey. Community Transportation…A Service in Financial Crisis” makes recommendations to the New Jersey Legislature and Governor, as well as to New Jersey Transit and the agencies that operate their own community transportation and paratransit systems.
Vieira said, “The New Jersey senior population is increasing dramatically. People are living longer and are much more independent. People with mental and physical disabilities are also winning their battles to live independently. However, they all have one thing in common – to succeed on their own they must rely on paratransit and community transportation services.”
“The state needs to be prepared for some of the possible results due to less transportation being available. Senior citizens who may have stopped driving may again get behind the wheel and possibly risk their lives and the lives of others. Senior citizens and persons with physical disabilities who at one time used community transportation services that allowed them to remain independent may end up in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. The mentally disabled who have been fighting to live independently may not be able to do so and return to facilities that assist them. There will be less transportation for food shopping and nutrition sites. There will be waiting lists for medical appointments, dialysis, chemotherapy and radiation. There is a community transportation funding crisis happening and help is needed,” Vieira said.
“Unfortunately, NJ COST cannot do anymore to solve this funding issue. It is now in the hands of our elected officials. We have been telling them that the situation continues to get worse each year. I would hope that they are listening” said Vieira
To view the report, visit the New Jersey Council on Special Transportation website at www.njcost.com.
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