According to a new Tri-State Transportation Campaign analysis, if the proposed nine percent fare increase is approved later this summer, the cost of a ticket on some New Jersey Transit trains will have outpaced inflation by about 15 to 25 percent since NJ Transit first standardized its fare structure in 1982.
Tri-State filed an OPRA request to NJ Transit for its historical fare data and analyzed the cost to travel between suburban stations and major hubs in New Jersey and New York, including Hoboken Terminal, Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station. TSTC chose suburban origin stations based on high ridership or their status as natural endpoints. The Atlantic City Line, which was inactive or operated by Amtrak during a portion of the time examined, was not included in this analysis.
The fare data shows that when indexed to inflation, NJ Transit ticket prices largely kept pace with the inflationary value of a ticket from 1982 for most of the 33-year period studied. In 2010, however, NJ Transit fares broke past the rate of inflation when the agency approved a 25 percent fare increase — the largest hike in the agency’s history. This year’s proposed nine percent fare increase, if approved, would push fares even higher over the inflationary boundary.
At the same time that New Jersey Transit’s ticket prices have been outpacing inflation, the real value of the state’s gasoline tax — which remains unchanged since 1988 — has continued to fall since 1982. Data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) indicates that when adjusted for inflation, the real value of New Jersey’s gasoline tax is at an all-time low.
Increasing fares while keeping the gas tax low is further proof that New Jersey leaders are happy to let transit riders — and not drivers — fill the state’s transportation funding hole. But it’s not too late for commuters to share their opinions with NJ Transit, as the agency is holding its remaining public hearings on the proposed fare hikes tonight (Wednesday) in Newark and Hackensack and on Thursday in Trenton, Morristown and Paterson. Some commuters believe the proposed fare hikes will be approved, but plenty of others have attended hearings earlier this week to voice their frustrations. Elected officials — including Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth), Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Rockland County Executive Ed Day — have also joined the fight.
If you can’t make it to testify in person, you can still submit comments online through 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, May 21 by filling out this Online Contact Form, by dropping off comments at NJ Transit Customer Service Offices, or by mail to: PUBLIC HEARING OFFICE – FARE PROPOSAL COMMENTS, ONE PENN PLAZA EAST, NEWARK, NJ 07105.