“I threw the report in the garbage,” said NJ state transportation commissioner and NJ Transit board chairman Jim Simpson, referring to a report for NJ Transit rail operations saying that off-peak discounts for rail riders were not viable “for capacity reasons,” according to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (March 13). “I don’t think the report was worth the paper it was written on, so I’ve asked folks to go back to the drawing board,” Simpson continued. The report was written by staff under Kevin O’Connor, who reportedly has been forced out as general manager of NJT’s rail operations; O’Connor was not at the NJT board meeting on March 12, at which Simpson made his comments.
The off-peak discounts were discontinued in May, 2010, along with a general 25% fare increase; the end of the discounts meant that off-peak riders had to pay an average of 47% more, and reportedly 64% in the most extreme cases. Off-peak discount fares are generally available on the other two major suburban rail operators in the metropolitan area, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. Simpson said that “The goal is — you’ve got the trains running anyway — to get as many seats filled; it’s the airline model — fill the seats.” Lackawanna Coalition Chair David Peter Alan, quoted in Frassinelli’s article, said that outside of peak hours, “there is plenty of room on the trains. I am so glad to hear a commissioner take an active part in matters that really affect us as riders. I didn’t see that report, but I believe the commissioner said that it recommended against restoring off-peak rail fares. And if it said that, he put it in exactly the right place (the garbage).”
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