Today the New Jersey Transit Board of Directors approved a proposal to raise fares by 9 percent and implement service cuts exactly how it was proposed back in April. The changes will take effect on October 1, 2015.
Despite pleas from advocates and commuters who oppose the proposal, each and every board member voted to approve the hikes and cuts, validating their vote by saying “their hands were tied” and that they “had no choice.” Vice Chairman Bruce Meisel explained that the board is “operating within the framework of the cards they were dealt” as he justified his affirmative vote. Meisel, posing a rehearsed hypothetical to NJ Transit Executive Director Ronnie Hakim, wondered what would happen if the proposal was voted down. Hakim’s response was substantial service cuts with layoffs approaching 1,000.
Absent from the board’s explanation was that the “cards dealt” came from Trenton. There was no mention of the governor’s continued failure to address his state’s transportation troubles. No mention of the legislature’s inaction in helping to prevent the fare increase during budget negotiations. No mention of the decreased direct state subsidy, once as high as $300 million in 2005 and now only $33 million, which landed NJ Transit in this mess to begin with.