In addition to legislation which would add transit riders as voting members to the New Jersey Transit Board of Directors, efforts continue in Trenton to provide commuters with a stronger voice. With a 9 percent fare hike scheduled to take effect next week, Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia announced his intent to introduce three NJ Transit-focused bills as soon as the next Assembly session:
- The TRANSIT Act (Transparency, Responsibility, and Accountability in New Surcharges and Increases in Ticketing) would mandate that NJ Transit, when considering fare increases, hold four public hearings — not just the one required by law (NJT held nine hearings the last time around). The bill, if adopted, would also require at least three follow-up hearings after a fare hike for riders to provide testimony on the effect fare increases have had on them, and NJ Transit board members would be required to attend hearings. Assemblyman Garcia was troubled particularly by the locations of the most recent transit fare hike hearings — the hearing in Freehold was noted as being “inaccessible by transit”– and he questioned the lack of any hearings in transit-dependent cities like Hoboken (where 55 percent of working residents commute via transit) or Jersey City (47 percent).
- The FARE Act (The Fare Affordability and Ridership Empowerment Act) would place a 3.5 year moratorium on fare increases for students, seniors and disabled riders, and subsequently cap future increases to 2 percent.
- The TRIP Act (Transit Ridership and Innovation Participation Act) would give employers incentives to encourage transit commuting through either a 15 percent tax credit or up to $150 for each employee who receives employer-provided fare cards or vouchers.
The current legislative session ends in early January, so once introduced, this package of bills would need to move with deliberate speed through both houses in Trenton. The next Assembly session has not yet been scheduled.