January 21, 2020
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy promised no fare hikes on NJ Transit trains and buses in the 2021 fiscal year, Murphy announced on Tuesday. With Murphy planning to keep fares the same in his next proposed budget, it will mark the third straight fiscal year without any cost increase for riders of statewide public transportation system.
"The budget I will propose next month for Fiscal Year 2021 will be our third introduced with no fare hike for NJ Transit commuters,” Murphy said. Reforming NJ Transit and improving its services has been an important part of Murphy’s administration, so far.
NJ Transit has had five fare hikes since 2002, according to the Associated Press. There last was in 2015 when prices jumped by 9%. Revenue from fares makes up roughly 40-50% of NJ Transit’s budget, according to NJ.com.
Murphy's announcement comes as Senate President Steve Sweeney’s panel looking into NJ Transit is set to propose additional funding sources for the agency’s budget intended to lessen its dependency on fares to generate revenue, NJ.com reported. Sweeney, like Murphy, opposes a fare hike too.
But NJ Transit's own budget projections showed a $138 million funding gap for the public transportation system's 2021 fiscal year. Preliminary budgets released by the organization last year projected increasing deficits over the next four years. A budget shortfall could push NJ Transit to cut services, increase fares, or take money from capital projects.
Advocates from the NJ Association of Railroad Passengers consistently have found that NJ Transit rail fares were among the highest in the nation.
NJ Transit hasn’t escaped from widespread criticism from its riders over the frequent delays and cancellations of trains and buses. Train cancellations did decreased in 2019 but are still numbered in the hundreds per month, according to stats released in November.
The transportation agency is short on engineers and has failed to install the federally-mandated emergency braking system, positive train control, the Associated Press reported. NJ Transit has until the end of the year to fully implement the positive train control system, or it will be subject to penalties from the federal government.