Freehold, NJ - In a statement presented at today’s North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority meeting, Monmouth County Freeholder John D’Amico said, “the 25 percent fare increase and train and bus service cuts proposed by New Jersey Transit will damage the economy of the 13 county New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority region that includes Monmouth County, increase highway congestion, worsen air quality, reduce energy efficiency, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and deprive low income, disabled and elderly residents of essential mobility.”
An example of the impact of NJ Transit’s proposal in Monmouth County is that a one-way rail fare from Middletown to New York Penn Station would rise from $11.50 to $14.25, an off-peak round-trip from $19.75 to $28.50, and a monthly pass from $326 to $408. In addition, approximately 1,000 commuters would be adversely affected by the elimination of four trains on the North Jersey Coast Line. On the bus side, NJ Transit proposes to discontinue service on Route 833 serving the Red Bank rail station, Brookdale Community College, the Monmouth County Courthouse, and the Freehold Raceway Mall. Also slated for elimination is bus Route 835 running between Red Bank and Sea Bright.
Freeholder D’Amico said, “the proposed fare increases and service cuts will be devastating to low income families, the unemployed, senior citizens, and the disabled—many of whom do not have automobiles, cannot drive, and are unable to pay high taxi fares. They will be denied affordable access to employment, medical treatment, and food shopping. Students who depend on the North Jersey Coast Line and Bus Route 833 to get to Brookdale College will be forced to drop out of school. Litigants, jurors, witnesses, and participants in court proceedings will be deprived of public transportation access to the Monmouth County Courthouse in Freehold.”
He continued, “fare increases and service cuts are counter-productive, resulting in loss of rider-ship and revenue and causing diversion of riders to single-occupant vehicles that will increase traffic congestion on already crowded roadways in Monmouth County. The diversion of riders from rail and bus lines will also aggravate critical county, state and national problems, including air pollution and over-reliance on imported oil.”
With regard to air quality, D’Amico pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency issued a report last October stating that air quality in Monmouth County is among the worst nationwide. According to the Northern New Jersey Air Quality Conformity Determination report, Monmouth residents breathe dangerously dirty air as a result of pollution from ozone and particulate matter caused in large part by highway traffic.
“Instead of raising fares and cutting service,” D’Amico said, “we should enhance and expand services on the transit system so that we can remove cars from the road, relieve development pressures on open space, improve air quality, enhance energy efficiency, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, affordable public transportation is critical for economic development and competitiveness, generating an enormous return on investment in terms of growth in employment, income, tax revenues as well as reduction in such costs as time lost in vehicular traffic congestion and vehicle maintenance.”
“For all of these reasons,” D’Amico concluded, “elected officials and citizens should urge New Jersey Transit to cut its budget for administration and areas unrelated to services to riders in order to avoid the fare increases and service cuts; and to the extent needed, the Legislature and Governor should provide sufficient operating assistance to NJ Transit to mitigate the proposed fare increases and service reductions.”