TSTC: Transit Essential to NJ, Hurricane Shows

In today’s Star-Ledger, TSTC NJ Advocate Janna Chernetz and General Counsel Vincent Pellecchia write that the disruption caused by Hurricane Irene highlighted the importance of the transit network and the need to invest in the system. But in many ways, New Jersey is going in the opposite direction:

Statewide, retail vacancies around transit hubs are at 14.7 percent compared with 29.7 percent in areas not near such hubs.

But as demand grows for density and compactness, the state cut funding for programs that encourage this type of growth and the transit system that supports it.

In 2004, 49 percent of New Jersey’s transportation construction program was spent on public transportation. Every year since, that percentage has decreased. In 2012, the state will spend 32.9 percent on buses and rail. Commuters are becoming frustratingly aware of what this means for the transportation network: more delays, breakdowns, derailments and cancellations, not to mention more traffic as commuters cram into cars that add to poor road and bridge conditions, congestion and pollution problems.

Increased funding for transit would build more reliability and redundancy into the system and help spur the economy. Not doing so means more traffic on the roads and more of the derailments, electrical problems, and other delay-causing incidents that were plaguing NJ Transit even before the hurricane struck.

The storm also highlighted the importance of transit throughout the region. The closing of NYC’s subway system made global headlines, and heavy damage to Metro-North’s Port Jervis Line has caused great difficulty for those who used it.

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