There must be something that the NJ Transit Board of Directors should be doing, right?
Governor Christie and the legislature failed to reach an agreement on time to avoid bankrupting the Transportation Trust Fund this past June. Before the dust even settled, the governor ordered a shutdown of all non-essential TTF-funded projects, including New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJ Transit projects.
NJ Transit’s July Board meeting usually consists of approving new fiscal year budgets, so it was no surprise when that meeting was cancelled. But what about the following two meetings? Why were those cancelled?
The dearth of information raises some crucial questions about NJT’s current situation. How is the agency operating under the current fiscal constraints? What projects require emergency funding? How about an update on the stalled projects? Or an opportunity for the public to comment?
The stalemate in Trenton concerns the capital budget, but that distinction is less clear when it comes to NJT’s fiscal needs. Since 1990, the agency has used its capital funds to meet its operating budget shortfalls. A mere $6.5 million was transferred the first time, but since 2005, the practice has ballooned to $300 million in transfers every year.
Let’s put it this way: In July 2015, the NJT Board adopted a $2.1 billion operating budget. This included a $450 million capital-to-operating transfer. That’s 22 percent of the operating budget jeopardized by the transportation funding deadlock right off the bat.
Lawmakers in Trenton have enabled the funding stalemate to drag on for 77 days as of today. Senate President Stephen Sweeney even said it could last well into November.
One would hope that NJT has an action plan to ensure that the riders who make 928,494 weekday trips can continue to get to work, school and anywhere else they need to go while their elected leaders crawl towards a resolution. And it’d be reassuring if NJT would let its customers in on their plan to keep trains and buses moving, you know, just in case those customers suddenly find themselves suddenly needing to “use Uber” instead.
Celebrate the region’s biggest and boldest recent transportation initiatives at TSTC’s 2016 Benefit on September 27. Get your tickets here.