Instead, they ask agency to reduce its administrative staff

FREEHOLD, NJ – The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted a resolution last night urging NJ Transit to steer clear of proposed fare increases and retain bus routes vital to many Monmouth County residents and commuters. NJ Transit has proposed a 25 percent fare increase as well as service cuts to fill the agency’s budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year.

“Monmouth County residents, many of whom already pay the highest fares to reach their destinations, cannot afford such a steep increase – especially one that is accompanied by reductions in service,” said Freeholder John D’Amico, liaison to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. “These cuts impact those least able to afford an automobile and they are unacceptable.”

Under NJ Transit’s proposal, a one-way rail fare from Middletown to New York’s Penn Station would rise from $11.50 to $14.25. An off-peak round-trip would increase from $19.75 to $28.50, and a monthly pass would climb from $326 to $408. Also, about 1,000 commuters would be adversely affected by the elimination of certain trains, including four trains on the North Jersey Coast Line.

“NJ Transit has been a political patronage pit for decades, and the agency needs to reduce its administrative staff before asking commuters to pay more to ride the bus or train,” Freeholder John P. Curley said. “A combined fare increase and reduced services is not the answer. Government has to change the way it operates, and that includes a re-examination of the staffing needs of NJ Transit.”

NJ Transit wants to discontinue service on Bus Route 833 serving the Red Bank rail station, Brookdale Community College, Colts Neck at routes 34 and 537, Freehold Center, the Monmouth County Courthouse, and the Freehold Raceway Mall. It also wants to end service on Bus Route 835 serving the Red Bank rail station, Fair Haven, Rumson and Sea Bright.

“To say you need to pay 25 percent more, but you will be receiving fewer service options is absolutely unacceptable,” Freeholder Amy A. Mallet said. “This would further burden individuals and families who are trying to budget their spending during these difficult economic times and it impacts the riders who can least afford an increase or find other means to reach their destinations.”

If NJ Transit cannot close its budget gap by becoming more efficient, the freeholders are urging Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature to provide more money by way of operating assistance so that the bus routes can be continued and fare increases can be avoided.

“We are talking about adversely impacting hardworking men and women, students, job-seekers and residents who would like to spend money on goods and services here in our county,” Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry said. “They can’t do that if they can’t get to the stores.”

“These cuts will affect people from all over Monmouth County who rely on NJ Transit to get them to the Monmouth County Courthouse, to the county seat to obtain county services, students who need to get to Brookdale and others who take a bus to Freehold Raceway Mall,” Freeholder Robert D. Clifton said. “I am hopeful we can prevail upon NJ Transit to take another look at their budget.”