New Jersey’s Shrinking Commitment to Transit

New Jersey’s public transit system links residents with economic centers both inside and outside the state. But the state has committed steadily smaller shares of transportation capital spending to transit, as shown by a review of its transportation capital programs. In fiscal year 2004, nearly half of the program was dedicated to transit. In the FY2012 capital plan, which the state recently finalized, that has shrunk to a third.

(Note: In FY2012, spending on transit from the state's Transportation Trust Fund actually slightly increased over FY2011, but the federal contribution fell sharply due to the cancellation of the Access to the Region's Core rail tunnel. The capital program includes state and federal funds going to NJDOT and NJ Transit.)

In absolute terms, New Jersey’s combined state and federal funding for transit projects has stayed more or less flat. In FY2004, state and federal funding for transit projects added up to $1.27 billion. Fast forward to FY2012 and transit funding is $1.16 billion, even though the overall capital plan grew by a billion dollars.

In FY2004, New Jersey's transportation capital plan was nearly $2.6 billion. The FY2012 plan is over $3.5 billion. But the transit component of that plan has essentially stayed flat over that time period.

In a statement released today, Tri-State said that NJ Transit’s difficult summer showed the need to increase investment in the system. “It’s been a summer of woe for commuters, who have endured delay after delay,” said TSTC Executive Director Kate Slevin. “NJ Transit does the best it can with limited resources, but train and bus riders have the right to ask why the state’s commitment to them seems to be slipping.”

Much of the transportation capital program dedicated to NJDOT will pay for needed road and bridge maintenance. NJ also does a better job than most states of funding pedestrian and cycling projects. But NJDOT is also spending significantly more on road expansion than it has in the recent past. If NJ instead brought its commitment to transit back up to historical levels, it would mean less traffic and wear on the roads, and be a more sustainable, sensible way to keep New Jerseyans moving.

Images: TSTC graphs using data from NJDOT.

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