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Transit Hike Unfair and Unconscionable

Date : Wed, 14 Apr 2010 11:40:45 -0400

For Immediate Release
April 14, 2010 By Jeff Tittel, NJ Chapter Director, 609-558-9100

Transit Hike Unfair and Unconscionable

Newark - The New Jersey Transit Board of Directors met today in their Newark Office to vote on the proposed fare increases and service cuts. Despite a flood of public outcry, the agency's attempts to ameliorate the cuts are meager. The Sierra Club still views NJ Transit's proposal as an outrageous tax on the working families of New Jersey.

After NJ Transit released their first proposal they received 5,000 written comments and hundreds of in person testimonies from transit riders. In response the agency reduced has reduced the fare increases to 10% for bus riders, previously 25%. However, they will keep 25% increases on train fares and significant service cuts to both train and rail. NJ Transit did not look at alternative forms of revenue, including cancelling rail or road expansion projects or consider diverting federal stimulus money.

The increase in fares will lead to a drop in ridership, which means more cars on the road, more traffic, and more pollution. New Jersey will be violating the implementation plan of the Clean Air Act. New Jersey will lose federal transportation dollars for being out of compliance with the Clean Air Act.

"The more you cut services and raise fares the less people take transit, so the more you have cut, creating a downward spiral," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "Each train eliminates about 500 cars on our roads; these cuts will add to traffic sprawl and pollution."

Governor Christie proposed cutting funding $32.7 million for NJ Transit in the final months of this budgetary year. This will hurt many of the state's disadvantaged, working poor, handicapped, and seniors, who need public transit to get to work or go to see their doctor.

The Sierra Club believes that NJ Transit has failed to review other options to close the budget gap, these include:

* cutting rail expansion of the Montclair-Boonton Line to Andover and stopping the expansion of the Bergen Passaic Light Rail.

* halting the creation of the 34th street station for the ARC tunnel

* delay the widening of the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike and use that money for NJ Transit's operating costs.

* take up to 10% of the stimulus money, or $42 million to cover operation costs. This would close the current budget hole and provide the agency more time to review long term funding solutions.

New Jersey should not spend billions to widen roads when we have no money to maintain them and car ridership is down. The State has allocated, but not expended, a billion and a half dollars to widen highways in the Pinelands, where there is no growth or traffic and $2.2 billion to widen the turnpike. If we redesigned the turnpike project to include flex or reversible lanes, it would still do the same job but would cost hundreds of millions of dollars less. New Jersey is also spending $9 billion on the construction of the ARC tunnel but we won't even have the trains to go through it. At the least, we should redesign the tunnel so that it actually does what it is intended to do.

"We need a long term funding mechanism for transit in New Jersey otherwise these cuts to service and fair increases will keep happening, leading to the dismantling of one of the most successful transit programs in the US," said Tittel.

New Jersey must establish a stable source of funding for mass transit. All other transit systems throughout the country have managed to establish a dedicated source for operation and maintenance and New Jersey must do the same. A gas tax could be one option for generating such revenues.

NJ Transit service cuts are bad for the economy and undermine our efforts to deal with air pollution and greenhouse gases. Many people who can't afford cars rely on mass transit to get to work. Businesses need transit to bring their employees to work each day. Cuts in transit funding will undermine the work the state has done to promote smart growth and build transportation around hubs.

More people will be forced to drive, adding to traffic and air pollution. Each train that is taken out of service adds 500 cars to the road. For each bus taken out of service, 40 to 50 more cars are put on the road. We can't afford the pollution and congestion that will come from more cars on the road.

While it is apparent that we need to save money and balance the budget, cutting mass transit is penny wise and pound foolish.

"This is lose-lose-lose for the people of New Jersey. It will cost us jobs, hurt the economy, and create more pollution," Tittel said.

Christine Guhl Program Assistant New Jersey Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 Tel: (609) 656-7612 Fax: (609) 656-7618 christine.guhl_at_sierraclub.org

Received on 2010-04-14 08:40:45

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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