By David Cruz
While it’s been anticipated for months now, NJ Transit Executive Director Veronique Hakim was evasive when we asked her about fare hikes and service cuts earlier this month.
“Nothing’s been decided and anything that we do would be done through a very public process,” she had said.
Well, that very public process has begun with the issuance today of a press release by NJ Transit announcing nine public hearings beginning in May, at which time the public can comment on the proposals, which include reduction of service on some lines and elimination of service on others.
The fare increases will average about 9 percent, according to the release, with some riders seeing increases in their monthly passes as high as $37.
NJ Transit wouldn’t comment on camera. They said the press release they issued speaks for itself. As for commuters, their reaction? Well, let’s just say nobody likes fare increases and service cuts.
“It’s hard when it comes to finances and stuff like that when people gotta pay rent and provide for their children and stuff like that. It’s really hard,” said one rider. “If anything they should be reducing the fares instead of going up higher.”
“New Jersey Transit? You mean the buses? The 39 sucks. It’s a very poor running bus. I come home at night and have to take that bus. Depending on it? It’s always late,” said another.
“Ridiculous. Hey, I’m a senior citizen. I can’t afford it. And I ride the bus almost every day,” said a third. “What can we do?”
The agency’s reputation has been damaged by some major controversies, including its decision to store trains in low-lying areas during Sandy, and regular service interruptions during even minor snow events. They say it’s been five years since they raised fares but the executive director acknowledged that state funding — 40 percent of NJ Transit projects are funded by the state Transportation Trust Fund — is likely to be cut again, leaving the agency with an anticipated $60 million budget gap, which is going to be made up — again — by commuters.