NJ Transit board approves fare hikes

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey Transit's board of directors has approved fare increases that average about 9 percent for bus and rail riders effective October 1, 2015.

The cost of one round-trip ticket on NJ Transit buses or trains would increase between 50 cents and $1.50 depending on the travel distance.

Commuters in New Jersey take nearly 1 million trips on the agency's trains, buses and light rail cars each week. Ridership grew 8.3 percent this year; adding nearly $77 million in revenue.

Officials have said increases are still needed to cover a $56 million budget gap even after the agency cut $40 million internally, by reducing overtime, fuel costs.

The agency reports that fares account for nearly half of the revenue in the$2.116 billion operating budget; state and federal program reimbursements provide $961.8 million; and the rest comes from commercial revenues ($115.2 million) and state operating assistance ($33.2 million).

The plan includes service cuts to late-night train departures on two lines leaving Hoboken, and on several bus routes in southern New Jersey, including service from Freehold and Philadelphia to Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson.

Commuters have assailed the increases in online postings and at public forums including at Wednesday's meeting. Some riders say they want to see service improvements and challenge the agency to operate more efficiently. The amount of money from the state was also flat.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appoints the NJ Transit Board.

The last NJ Transit fare increase was in 2010.

In a new release, the agency says "costs such as contract services  – Access Link, the organization’s paratransit service, Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and private carriers – and workers’ compensation, general liability insurance, healthcare and benefits, and pensions have steadily risen."

The NJ Transit Capital Plan was also approved. That includes $61 million for improvements on the busiest line (NEC), $82 million in rail station improvements, $87 million invested in rolling stock improvements and $40 million for new buses. Hundreds of millions will be spent to protect the system against weather events. Federal funds will be used for many of those projects.

The MTA has considered fare and toll hikes every two years that keep pace with inflation. The next round would be in 2017. Another planned fare and toll hike at Port Authority crossings happens in December 2015.