National Transportation Groups Document Effect of Transit Cuts in NJ
Jay Corbalis, Policy Analyst, New Jersey Future (609) 393-0008 ext 110
Veronica Vanterpool, Associate Director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign (212) 268-7474
A report released today by Transportation for America and the Transportation Equity Network, Stranded at the Station: The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Public Transportation, shows that recent cuts to NJ Transit are part of a national epidemic, making it harder for families as well as some our most vulnerable citizens to get to work and access essential services.
The report shows that outdated federal regulations and red tape are putting strains on local transit agencies around the country forcing draconian cuts to service, layoffs and fare increases at a time when Americans need jobs and affordable transportation options most. In New Jersey, NJ Transit was forced to cut staff and divert capital for operating expenses after the New Jersey Legislature cut funding 17 percent this year.
“NJ Transit continues to be the largest transit agency in the country without a dedicated source of funding, which makes it particularly vulnerable to cuts like the ones we saw in the most recent budget cycle” says Kate Slevin, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “As this report notes, these cuts are particularly painful at a time when more people are choosing transit to get around.”
According to the report, NJ Transit was forced to eliminate 140 positions, as well as implement hiring and wage freezes as a result of recent budget cuts. Additionally, the transit agency has continued the practice of transferring millions of dollars from its capital budget to operating expenses, a practice the Tri-State Transportation Campaign likens to ‘putting the agency’s operating budget on a credit card.’
Finally, the report notes that the state’s primary source for transportation funding, the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund, will be insolvent by 2011. Peter Kasabach, Executive Director of New Jersey Future, calls this situation “unacceptable” and says that reform of the Transportation Trust Fund is urgently needed. “ Transportation is the backbone of our economy in New Jersey and we must ensure that we can continue to invest in projects, like the ARC tunnel and the PATCO expansion, that will help our economy grow”. He continues, “we can get even more bang for our transportation buck by linking Trust Fund investments to the creation and expansion of vibrant, walkable communities that both reduce the need to drive and spur economic development.”