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Without additional funding from state lawmakers, NJ Transit will face a budget deficit so large that it could cause a “transit death spiral,” according to Zoe Baldwin, New Jersey Director at the Regional Plan Association. How? If the agency is forced to close its projected $1 billion shortfall through fare hikes and drastic service cuts, those maneuvers would undercut service and result in even fewer riders, which would then lead to more budget shortfalls and service cuts. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. Lots of states dedicate funding to their transit agencies so funding isn’t tied to fares from riders or the whims of politicians — and NJ Transit is the largest transit agency of its kind without a dedicated source of revenue. Maybe we should change that. [NorthJersey.com / Colleen Wilson]
Instead of finding new ways to fund and improve mass transit (like our friends across the river in New York are), New Jersey lawmakers are instead spending taxpayer dollars on a new lawsuit to stop congestion pricing in New York City. The congestion pricing plan will charge drivers entering downtown Manhattan and benefit residents of both New York and New Jersey by reducing traffic, reducing air pollution, and funding subways that commuters from both states rely on. It’s worth noting that more than 9 in 10 New Jersey commuters take public transit into the city, and in the four-plus years that lawmakers have known about this plan, they’ve done little to improve or expand NJ Transit service. [CNN / Nathaniel Meyersohn]
Now for some good transit news: The Murphy administration proposed a new rule this week to promote zero emission vehicles and reduce air pollution across the state. Once adopted, the rule will require auto manufacturers to only sell zero emission vehicles by 2035. This should significantly cut down emissions in the transportation sector, which is currently the largest source of air pollution in New Jersey. And while this pollution harms all of us, it disproportionately hurts low-income, Black, and Hispanic/Latinx residents who are more likely to live near congested roads and highways. [NJ BIZ / Matthew Fazelpoor]
The Biden administration is supporting a lawsuit against New Jersey by CoreCivic — a private prison company with a facility in Elizabeth — challenging the state’s ban on immigrant detention contracts. CoreCivic is the last remaining immigrant detention facility in the state and is set to close on August 31 when their contract expires. The facility is notorious for its unsafe conditions and inhumane treatment of those detained. The facility has no windows, only one bathroom for every 40 people, and lacks basic hygiene products like pads and soap. The immigrants detained here are not charged with or convicted of crimes, and many are asylum-seekers with claims of persecution in their home countries. [Gothamist / Matt Katz]
NJPP’s Alex Ambrose was on NJ Spotlight News earlier this week to talk about the looming fiscal cliff at NJ Transit and how lawmakers can fix it. “The issue is, NJ Transit does not get enough state funding,” Alex told NJ Spotlight’s Brenda Flanagan. [NJ Spotlight News / Brenda Flanagan]
Pets of NJPP
Meet Jefferson, an African penguin from Adventure Aquarium in Camden! NJPP President Nicole Rodriguez met Jefferson this week while she was at a conference in South Jersey, and now they’re best buds. Shout out to Staci Berger from the Housing Network for sending me pics of Jefferson for this week’s Pets of NJPP feature. Honk!
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