New Jersey Transit recently opened its committee meetings to the public, allowing riders greater insight into the agency’s operations and performance stats. Ridership data made available at the August Customer Service Committee meeting has revealed some interesting usage trends across NJ Transit’s operations, highlighting customer needs in several areas.
The most encouraging insight gained from the committee’s report is that total June 2014 ridership across all three modes increased by 4.8 percent compared to June 2013, while statewide vehicle miles traveled (VMT) decreased and gas prices continued to soar. Rail ridership was up 7.3 percent, and the HBLR showed tremendous gains with a 6.9 percent increase in May and 7.4 percent in June, compared to 2013.
With statewide transit ridership increasing at such an encouraging rate, the state would be wise to prioritize a sustainable funding source for transportation projects. Thankfully it seems there is growing momentum to help push this issue in the right direction, though with NJ Transit already dependent on borrowing against its own capital funds to cover growing operating costs, a solution to the state’s transportation funding crisis can’t come soon enough.
Ridership stats across NJ Transit’s three transit modes allowed us to identify three specific transportation infrastructure projects that, if prioritized, could significantly improve and expand existing service for NJ Transit customers.
|Line||Train||July 2014 Ridership|
|Midtown Direct M&E||6620 7:33am from Dover||27,918|
|Northeast Corridor||3712 8:39am from Jersey Ave||27,632|
|Northeast Corridor||3957 6:01pm from NY Penn||26,950|
|Northeast Corridor||3502 8:08am from Rahway||20,042|
|Northeast Corridor||3515 6:16pm from NY Penn||19,668|
Midtown Direct service, which offers a one-seat ride to New York’s Penn Station, was added in 1996. Since the addition of the service, homes near train stations served by Midtown Direct increased in value by an average of $23,000 per home.
The now defunct Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project would have provided not only fast and more frequent service between New York and New Jersey as well as similar financial property value gains, but it would have ensured sustainable cross-Hudson transit infrastructure. Amtrak’s proposed Gateway project would significantly expand and improve NJ Transit service as well as provide additional one-seat rides to Penn Station. So far, the right-of-way has been preserved, but funding for the project has yet to be identified.
Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) was hands down the winner in this category with 475,541 riders in July. This is more than double the ridership of Newark Light Rail and over four times that of the RiverLine.
|Line||July 2014 Ridership|
|Hudson Bergen Light Rail||475,541|
|Newark Light Rail||207,163|
|RiverLine Light Rail||99,429|
HBLR only serves Hudson County at this point, as plans to extend the line to Tenafly were quashed. This spring, 12 municipalities along the line lobbied for expanded service to Bergen County’s Englewood Hospital, the largest employer in Bergen County, asserting that the plan would “create more jobs, decrease traffic congestion and enhance economic development throughout the region.” Public hearings on the proposal will continue through the fall, with a final impact study planned for the spring of 2015.
Unsurprisingly, all of the top five bus lines all terminated in New York. Four of the five lines originate in Bergen County, which has the second highest number of New York-bound commuters in the Garden State.
|Line||Route||July 2014 Ridership|
Unfortunately for these New York-bound commuters, the last stop on their commute is a failing bus terminal. It likely comes as no surprise that the Port Authority Bus Terminal,which Port Authority Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Scott Rechler called “obsolete in every way you can imagine,” underperformed all other major regional bus terminals by more than 10 percent with an on-time departure rate of 84.9 percent for the month of July. NJ Transit’s bus service had 10 percent lower average on-time performance than NJ Transit’s light rail service between August 2012 and July 2014, with congestion cited as one of the contributing factors for lagging bus service.
However, there is some good news on the horizon: the PABT is expected to undergo improvements. In July, the PANYNJ Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution reallocating $90 million from its current 10-year Capital Program to a plan for improvements under the working title “Quality of Commute.” A detailed plan on how the Port Authority will spend that money is expected to be presented at this Wednesday’s Board meeting in Jersey City.