Coalition Pressing NJ For Long-Term Transit Funding

Newsworks — Sunday, June 28, 2015

By Phil Gregory

A coalition of transit, consumer, and environmental groups is disappointed New Jersey lawmakers haven't budgeted more funding for New Jersey Transit to avert a 9 percent fare hike.

Affordable public transit is essential to the financial well-being of lower-income residents, said Ann Vardeman with New Jersey Citizen Action.

"These fare hikes and service cuts will leave some of our most vulnerable and hardest-working people behind, unable to get to work, school, or job training," she said during a news conference in Trenton.

Serena Rice, the executive director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, said the fare increases would be devastating for some commuters.

"Since car ownership is so expensive, many of these workers have no choice but to depend on public transit," Rice said. "Any increase in fares would jeopardize their budgets that are already stretched to the max."

What's more, said Cathleen Lewis with AAA New Jersey, higher fares will cause more commuters to drive instead of using mass transit.

"That means that there's going to be increases to commute times. There's going to be increases to congestion." Lewis said. "It's going to put additional pressure on our already deteriorating roads and bridges, which means that repairs are going to need to come quicker when at the moment we don't have the money to do the needed repairs today."

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel blamed both political parties for not reaching a solution.

"We've had this sort of mutual assured destruction where no one will come out for a gas tax or any funding source — whether it's closing a loophole or motor fuels or some of the other things — because they don't want to be attacked by the other side," he said.

The coalition is calling for a long-term source of funding for New Jersey's transportation needs. But they say that's not happening because lawmakers don't have the political will to raise the gas tax.

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