• Percentage state gasoline taxes have gone up in New Jersey since 1988: 0 percent.
• Percentage a NJ Transit Zone-2 monthly bus pass has gone up since 1988: 107 percent ($47 in 1988, $97.50 in 2010 with the proposed fare increase).
On March 5, New Jersey Transit announced that it is raising bus, train and light-rail fares by 25 percent and introducing system-wide service cuts. This to offset the 11 percent reduction in state support and to close a $300 Million deficit. In my opinion, a truly misguided, and deeply unfair, move.
While these fare hikes and service reductions will impact all transit commuters, they will disproportionately hurt working families, students, seniors and the disabled – precisely the groups most dependent on mass transit. Rather than sharing the pain, these changes shift the burden of supporting our transportation network to the groups least able to afford it. (The typical Republican bait-and-switch: “no new taxes” turns into higher fees for the middle class and working poor, leaving the wealthy largely unaffected.)
Perhaps worse, the fare hikes and service reductions are a huge step backward in efforts to improve the environment and they send exactly the wrong message. Rather than encouraging people to use energy efficient, clean mass transit, these changes will encourage, sometimes force, people to drive their automobiles, a far more polluting form of transportation. And, these changes will do nothing to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign oil; instead, they will exacerbate it.
But there is an alternative: a 10 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax would cost the average NJ car-driving family about $93 per year while raising $550 Million, enough to close NJ Transit’s budget gap with enough left over to fund badly-needed mass transit improvements. (As noted above, gas taxes have not gone up in NJ since 1988. This has resulted in gas prices that are the lowest in the region, one of the reasons cited by NJ Transit for service reductions: people are using mass transit less and driving more because gas is so cheap.)
NJ Transit will hold hearings at the end of the month to solicit input from the public; I encourage everyone to attend and to voice their opposition. For Hudson County residents, the hearing to be held in Secaucus (Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station at County Road and County Ave) on Friday, March 26 from 5:30 to 8:30 will probably be the most convenient.
Please also contact your state legislators, who have the power to reverse this ill-advised plan. Go to www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp to find your legislators, and then send them an email or a letter, or make a phone call, to let them know of your displeasure.
A good source for information about the fare hike and service cuts, and mass transit in the region in general, is The Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s website: www.tstc.org.
Please get involved to stop these economically disastrous and environmentally devastating fare hikes and service cuts. We deserve better.