Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Commuter Pain

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Commuter Pain

Article excerpt

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE, who is running for president, is telling America he has held the line on new taxes in New Jersey. Christie has steadfastly refused to raise the state's low gasoline tax -- a tax not increased since 1988 -- saying the people of New Jersey are overtaxed. But since Christie became governor, NJ Transit fares have risen 31 percent. And Christie's response to bus and rail commuters is that they should expect to have to pay their fair share.

On Wednesday, NJ Transit board members did exactly what everyone expected them to do: They approved a 9 percent rate hike that will close a nearly $60 million budget deficit. For 9 percent more, commuters will have reduced service and no promise of future improvements. The last fare increase, of roughly 22 percent, was in 2010.

This time around, NJ Transit held nine public hearings, ostensibly to listen to commuters about the proposed 9 percent hike. Clearly, the public hearings were a sham.

There was never any intention of reducing the proposed rate hike or not eliminating some bus routes or trains. The Christie administration consistently has shown little interest in mass transit. The governor has moved state funds from one pot to another to keep NJ Transit barely afloat, rather than addressing the financial imbalance in the state Transportation Trust Fund, which should be the principal funding source for NJ Transit.

The TTF is funded primarily through state gas tax revenue and was supposed to be a dedicated funding source for transportation projects. The state has borrowed steadily from the fund without raising the gas tax. The result is that now, all incoming revenue goes toward paying debt.

Christie has funded needed infrastructure projects like the renovation of the Pulaski Skyway by diverting Port Authority funds to the skyway. And his cancellation of the Access to the Region's Core, or ARC, trans-Hudson tunnel project was less about the limitations of ARC and more about needing the $3 billion appropriated for it for other projects. …

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