N.J. Transit Board Approved Budget, Avoids Fare Hike

NEWARK, N.J. – The N.J. Transit Board of Directors on July 15 adopted a $1.34 billion Operating Budget and a $1.19 billion Capital Program for Fiscal Year 2005 (FY05), and avoided increasing the system’s fares, officials said.

“Thanks to Governor McGreevey’s commitment to transportation, transit commuters will benefit from improved service on buses and trains, additional parking at stations, and refurbished facilities,” said NJ DOT Commissioner and N.J. Transit Board Chairman Jack Lettiere. “This investment will address the Governor’s goals of improving the quality of life for commuters and reducing choking traffic congestion on our roadways.”

To keep fares level, the Corporation has identified continuing administrative efficiencies in addition to the $27 million in savings from the FY04 Operating Budget. N.J. Transit has contained expenditure growth to less than 3 percent, or less than 2 percent excluding new-service initiatives.

“Thanks to internal efficiencies and increased state support, we can keep our capital dollars focused on state of good repair investments that expand and improve service quality,” N.J. Transit Executive Director George D. Warrington. “This budget begins to reverse the historic reliance on capital dollars for operating support.”

The FY05 Operating Budget:

  • Avoids a fare increase for the 13th time in 14 years. N.J. Transit fares have increased 10 percent during that time period while the Consumer Price Index has increased about 40 percent.
  • Virtually freezes the level of capital program funds that are transferred to cover operating costs at $356 million, an important step toward reversing the Corporation’s reliance on the State Transportation Trust Fund and Federal capital grants to support operating costs.
  • Provides more funding for new services such as the annualization of the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station at Secaucus Junction and the River Line, which were opened in FY04, as well as the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail extension north of Hoboken, set to open this summer.

The Operating Budget’s expenditures are offset by $618.7 million in fares and other system-generated revenue, $278.7 million in State operating assistance – an $84.9 million increase from FY04 – and $444.8 million from other State and Federal reimbursements.

The FY05 Operating Budget includes passenger revenue of $558.9 million, an increase of $21.9 million more than the FY04 budget. After modest decreases in ridership in FY02 and FY03, the trend has improved significantly in FY04 with system ridership up by more than 2 percent. The FY05 budget projects a 4 percent ridership increase for Rail – which reflects growth from the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station at Secaucus Junction and the opening of the Montclair State University Rail Station – and a 2 percent increase for Bus, which includes growth from the River LINE and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail extension.

The FY05 Capital Program reaffirms priorities aimed at providing the required resources to address the daily safety and reliability needs of N.J. Transit’s 362,000 customers. About two-thirds of the program – $772 million – is dedicated to fixed expenses that include capital maintenance and debt services. State-of-good-repair investments include more parking spaces, station improvements, overhauled train cars and new buses.

The FY05 Capital Program:

  • Invests $253 million in rail state-of-good repair needs including $31 million to fund the rehabilitation of the Morris & Essex Viaduct, $13 million to continue the overhaul of the Arrow III fleet to maintain reliability and $42 million to fund state-of-good repair needs on the Northeast Corridor.
  • Provides $18 million for bus and light rail state-of-good repair needs and includes financing for 290 new transit buses.
  • Targets $62 million for system-wide improvements, including $9 million for technology upgrades that would reduce operating costs and $15 million to public announcement systems.
  • Spends $76 million in rail station improvements at various sites, including Newark Broad Street, Ridgewood, Trenton and Metropark stations.
  • Invests $7.5 million to expand park/rides to meet Governor James E. McGreevey’s mandate for 20,000 additional spaces. This year’s parking expansion will include Edison, Hamilton and Rahway Rail stations as well as Wayne.

The FY05 Capital Program also continues to advance planning and design of the new Trans-Hudson rail tunnel.