Commuters to Get Chance to Weigh In On NJ Transit Fares

TRENTON (AP) -

Commuters in New Jersey who take nearly 1 million trips on the state transit agency’s trains, buses and light rail cars each week are facing a roughly 9 percent fare increase.

New Jersey Transit, which last week proposed its first fare increase since a 22 percent hike in 2010, is awash in red ink. The agency cited rising costs generally, but also the price of health care and pensions for employees specifically. The agency’s most recent financial documents show a $22 million net income loss year-to-date for the period ending Feb. 28.

Without the fare increase, the agency says, NJ Transit faces a $60 million budget gap in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. Already, Executive Director Ronnie Hakim has said the agency has slashed $40 million in overtime costs, fuel savings and in vehicle parts.

That’s not enough, though, to buoy the agency, which has a $1.35 billion operating budget.

By law, NJ Transit is required to hold a public comment period before raising its fares. The agency will hold one information session and nine public comment hearings across the state from May 16 through May 21. The hearings will be in the evenings and the information session on Saturday to promote public participation.

The sessions will be held in New Brunswick, Atlantic City, Freehold, Secaucus, Camden, Newark, Hackensack, Trenton, Morristown and Paterson.

Fare increases will affect rail, light rail and bus service. A roundtrip rail ride, for example, from Metropark to New York’s Penn Station will go up $1.50 to $21.50, while a monthly pass will go from $284 to $310. A half-dozen bus lines across the state would also be cut back, including between Lakewood and New York and two lines from Freehold and Philadelphia to the Great Adventure amusement park.