Fare Increase Proposed

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As this issue went to press, we were just days away from the first hearing on NJ Transit’s announced plan for a 15% fare increase in July and a 3% annual increase thereafter. Much of our February meeting was devoted to the topic, and we were prepared to speak at some of the hearings. We recognize that since the last fare increase, back in 2015, inflation has been about 30%, so an increase of half that amount could seem like a bargain, though coming all at once makes it hard on riders’ budgets. We note that during the same period, NJ Transit’s spending has increased more than 40%, and over the years we have not been impressed with the agency’s fiscal responsibility or transparency, so that leaves us with some concern. Particularly troubling is the plan for tickets to expire; historically, they have always been good until used—just as postage stamps have been
for some years now—and we believe that this change is a bad idea. First, people who are eligible for reduced fares—seniors and those living with a disability—must buy single tickets to get their discount, not having a monthly- pass option. Therefore, they tend to buy many tickets at once, particularly if they have mobility issues or only occasionally are at a station with a ticket agent; with a 30-day limit, they would frequently run the risk of ticket expiration. Second, and perhaps not immediately obvious, having tickets in
hand will enable quicker boarding at stations if there does not need to be a crowd at limited ticket vending machines avoiding the $5 on-board surcharge for ticket purchases. Again, regular riders also can purchase more tickets at once if they need not worry about expiration dates. Also, when tickets are bought in advance, passengers are giving NJ Transit extra cash to use for an indefinite period of time, basically the equivalent of the insurance industry’s “float” that they hold until some possible future payout. This is a drastic step
that would be a problem for many riders.
We encouraged all Railgram readers to be heard at these hearings. Unfortunately, they were all in-person only, but the hearings were distributed throughout the state. It was also possible to mail one’s comments, either through the post office or electronically, though only through March 8th. (Our first comment: Please extend the public comment period and next time have an audio or video-conference option to attend.) Find details at https://njtransit.com/hearing.

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