A proposed law to reduce NJ Transit fares for some Bergen County riders was released on June 10 by the State Assembly Transportation Committee. The bill would rescind a fare increase, effective March 1, that affected certain stations on the Main, Bergen, and Pascack Valley Lines. NJ Transit said that fare increases on those lines were “triggered” by higher fares instituted by Metro-North, which owns the portion of those lines in New York State; NJ Transit operates the trains to Metro-North station for the account of Metro-North. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Tim Eustace and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, both Bergen County Democrats, who noted that transportation costs were outstripping household income growth.
However, the reporting and the legislators’ reported statements did not disclose the background of the increase, which has roots in the last NJ Transit general fare increase, in 2010, which raised most fares by a whopping 25% and worse, eliminated off-peak round-trip fares, forcing most occasional riders to pay an enormous 47% fare increase. However, Metro-North at that time did not raise its fares, which created an anomaly: if NJT had applied to Bergen riders the fare increases imposed elsewhere in its system, Metro-North fares from New York points would actually have been lower than NJT’s fares on the same trains for shorter trips. To avoid this, the NJT fares were raised only enough to be equal to the longer-trip Metro-North fares. As Metro-North imposed subsequent increases on its riders, the temporarily-limited NJT fares increased an equal amount. In summary, while the March 1 increases for some Bergen County riders may be unwelcome to NJT customers, they were simply the last phase of an increase that other NJT riders have been paying for 3 years.
The Lackawanna Coalition believes that the 2010 fare increases were ill-advised, particularly in the disproportionate increases imposed on off-peak riders; a well-run business should charge the lowest rates when demand is lowest (off-peak), and the highest rates when demand is at the highest. NJT does exactly the opposite.