By Michael McCurry
On Tuesday, March 20, Governor Murphy held a press conference with Acting Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti and NJ Transit’s Executive Director Kevin Corbett at the Madison Rail Station with the aim of laying out a roadmap for a proposed budget hike.
During the press conference, Murphy reiterated one of his key campaign promises of rebuilding NJT, stating, “Getting NJT back on the right track and providing value again to our commuters is both one of our top priorities, and at the same time, one of our toughest challenges.”
“We must do this – for the hundreds, of thousands of daily commuters including the approximate 1,500 here in Madison that rely on NJ Transit to get to and from work every day.”
Announced Tuesday, March 13, Gov. Murphy’s proposed $37.4 billion state budget injects $242 million more into the $141 million allocated in the fiscal year 2018 budget for a total of $383 million for NJ Transit operations in the fiscal year 2019, according to the March 13 budget documents.
“With a nearly triple state investment of $242 million in this budget; Diane [Gutierrez-Scaccetti], Kevin [Corbett], their teams and I are not going to let things keep running as they have been,” said Governor Murphy.
As for the allocations of these new funds, Murphy said $19 million would go towards the hire of 114 new bus drivers, train engineers, conductors, maintenance, procurement and Human Resources employees. A further $21 million would be allocated to upgrade current bus and rail facilities.
Another $28 million would be used to cover a revenue shortfall caused by using previous unrealistic annual passenger revenue assumptions.
He also reiterated the pledge on fare hikes he made last week, saying, “We’ve already delivered the first positive impact of this historic investment straight to the wallets of the traveling public as there will be no fare hike, at least through the end of the fiscal year 2019.” Fares account for about 50 percent of the agency’s operating budget.
Murphy’s budget would provide $21 million to cover a myriad of different fields including contractual increases for private carriers that operate the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, the River Line and selected bus routes, to cover bus facilities maintenance, technological software improvements and other various improvements to the Transit system.
Next, $4 million would expand bus and rail service between New York and the Meadowlands to relieve chronic congestion. Another $4 million is also allocated for the “enhancement of customer communications and scheduling.”
Finally, the most substantial allocation of $120 million would be used to “fix structural shortfalls and end one-shot funding,” said Murphy.
“With these resources, the Governor is throwing NJ Transit a home run pitch right down the middle of the plate,” said NJT’s Executive Director Kevin Corbett. “It’s now up to us to knock it out of the park, and I’m confident we can do that.”
“This budget gives us the full amount of resources that we requested,” claimed the Executive Director. “So – now it’ll be on us to make the critical investments and fulfill our promise to the people of New Jersey. I’m confident that we can do just that – and I won’t accept failure as an option.”
Image Courtesy of NJ.com