In a time of general belt-tightening, New Jersey Transit’s operating budget will increase. The State’s budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1st, includes an increase of $43.2 million in operating funds for New Jersey Transit.
The operating side of the transit budget was cut last year, resulting in rail fare increases ranging from 25% to 64% and a rise in the local bus fare from $1.35 to $1.50. Rail fares for trips taken outside peak commuting hours were raised 47% or more. There were also service cuts, including elimination of several bus routes. In recent years, service on the Morris & Essex (M&E) Line was also cut in 2006 and, even more severely, in 2008.
The Lackawanna Coalition has called for some of the budget increase to be returned as a benefit to riders, in the form of restoration of service on the M&E that was eliminated in 2006 and 2008, and the return of “off-peak” rail fares. Historically, fares for trips during mid-day and evening, and on week-ends, were 25% lower than single-trip fares during peak commuting hours. The Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North in New York still offer “off-peak” fares at a substantial discount.