Fare Hikes Will Not Fix NJ Transit’s Structural Financial Issues

Testimony from NJPP Policy Analyst Alex Ambrose to NJ Transit Board of Directors in opposition to raising fares for NJ Transit riders.

Published on Feb 13, 2024 in Tax and Budget

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Alex Ambrose and I’m a policy analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective. I am here today to ask you to stand up for riders and refuse to raise fares or cut service, both of which will have devastating financial consequences for commuters and our state’s lowest-income families.

NJ Transit is the backbone of our economy. Millions of New Jerseyans rely on it to get to their jobs, to school, to run errands, and much more. This fare hike, however, is not the solution. We need to be incentivizing more people to take transit in order to make the state safer and to meet our statutory goals for emissions reductions.

It is no secret that NJ Transit is still suffering under budget cuts made years ago. But imposing a double-digit fare hike at the last minute is a band aid solution to a structural problem. It’s the equivalent of sticking our finger in the dam – it may stem the leak for now, but soon we’re going to have to fix the dam itself. That means lawmakers finding the political will to finally identify a sufficient funding source for NJ Transit, ending our reign as one of the biggest transit agencies in the country without dedicated funding in statute.

My recommendations for NJ Transit:

  1. Refuse fare hikes AND service cuts until the state agrees to increase the state subsidy. NJ Transit is a public service that should not have to subsist on its own customer-generated revenue. To close a fiscal gap on the backs of riders just weeks after lawmakers gave the wealthiest corporations in the country a major tax cut is the height of inequity. Increasing the subsidy to cover this year’s gap will still not even come close to how much the state invested in FY 2020 and 2021.
  2. Offer a virtual option for the fare hike public hearing. This would send a message to people who are not able to attend in-person meetings that their feedback is just as valuable as those who are able to attend.
  3. Reverse the proposals to get rid of FlexPass and to impose a 30-day expiration on one-way tickets. NJ Transit has not shown sufficient evidence that this proposal will make a substantial difference in its budget, but this will create huge financial challenges for everyday working class New Jerseyans.
  4. Commit to holding annual hearings on any future increase in perpetuity. Whether or not it is legal should not be the question–it is simply the right thing to do to ensure the people most affected by this proposal have their voices heard.

Finally, we call on legislators and Gov Murphy to reinstate the Corporate Business Tax (CBT) surcharge to create a dedicated funding source for NJ Transit. This is a modest tax on only the top 2% of corporations that operate in New Jersey, like Amazon and Walmart. New York MTA was able to avoid drastic service cuts and fare hikes by raising taxes on big businesses, so there is no reason we cannot do the same.

We keep hearing Governor Murphy say that New Jersey is more affordable than ever. We ask, affordable for who? Thank you.

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