New Jersey Transit’s operating budget gap for 2017 is getting wider, and fast. In October, Tri-State estimated the 2017 budget gap to be approaching $400 million. Now, the latest estimate is $425 million. Why?
- A 2016 expiration of a $295 million cash infusion from New Jersey Turnpike toll revenue previously earmarked for the Access to the Region’s Core project.
- A $20 million increase in NJ Transit’s budget arising from a contract agreement with bus employees.
- A pending resolution to the unionized rail employees’ ongoing negotiations, which could add an additional $183 million between now and 2018 to the current operating budget.
- An annual increase of $20 million which NJ Transit will pay Amtrak under a new cost allocation formula imposed on all seven states that use portions of the Northeast Corridor.
NJ Transit’s operating and capital budgets are already on life support, relying upon hefty capital-to-operating transfers ($2 billion since 2012) and a bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund with no solution in sight. This does not bode well for an agency that experiences rail failures four times that of the national average and recently cut service and increased fares to close a $52 million budget gap.