KEARNY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — NJ TRANSIT commuters are breathing a sigh of relief.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday there will be no new fare hikes next year.
But as CBS2’s Lisa Rozner found out, riders want to know when service will improve and if higher taxes will make up for the agency’s rising costs instead.
For the time being, riders are rejoicing.
“That’s good because we got tickets that’s like $10 already,” said Kason McLain of East Orange.
“Oh, that’s great. I like my $4.65 that I’m paying,” another resident said.
Web Extra: Gov. Murphy Talks NJ TRANSIT Fares:
The decision marks three straight years without a fare hike. But at the same time a budget gap is expected for things like hiring new employees and replacing old bus and train fleets. So where will the money come from?
Janna Chernetz with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said she hopes a dedicated revenue source is finally created.
“Whether that be dedicated revenue from the sales tax, from corporate taxes, real estate fees, capitalizing on NJ TRANSIT-owned property, marketing opportunities, advertising,” Chernetz said.
Senate President Steve Sweeney said that will be finalized by a special committee in a few months, but the agency’s service needs to improve. A severe shortage of engineers has contributed to major delays and cancellations over the past year.
“The trains would show up 20-30 minutes late and not being able to get into cars on trains because they are so over-packed,” Oradell resident Thomas Melvin said.
At a graduation for train engineers on Tuesday, NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Kevin Corbett said by summer around 350 will be on the job, improving service.
Graduates take two years to complete the training, but one source questions the quick turnaround, so Rozner asked if the engineers are being rushed into the program.
“We did change the program and some people may have took that as lowering the standards. We absolutely, both with us and the [Federal Railroad Administration], make sure the standards everyone out there is totally qualified and competent,” Corbett said.
The latest class of seven engineers is expected to start work in a few weeks.