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Assembly Democratic Bill to Force NJ Transit to Defend Proposed Fare Increases Continues to Advance

Bill Would Require Rate Counsel to Evaluate Fare Hikes

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, John Wisniewski, Timothy Eustace, John McKeon, Annette Quijano, Daniel Benson and Eliana Pintor-Marin sponsored to better protect NJ Transit riders from fare increases recently cleared the Senate Transportation Committee.

The bill (A-2587) comes amid a proposed 9 percent fare hike by NJ Transit that comes after a 22 percent hike in 2010.

“These fare increases have been brutal and unfair,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Riders have made their voices heard, but sadly to no avail. Gov. Christie and NJ Transit continue to seek fare hikes without having to justify them. That must end. Riders need a stronger defender.”

“This legislation aims to protect thousands of New Jersey commuters from costly rate hikes determined at the pleasure of this Governor and his administration,” said Wisniewski (D- Middlesex). “Raising ticket prices with input from commuters must not become the default strategy for solving NJ Transit’s financial crises.”

‘Before implementing any fare increase proposal, NJ Transit is to consider the division’s evaluation and determination and is to respond to any objection the division may have to the fare increase proposal,” Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). “This will put a stop to the Christie administration’s plans to jam these fare hikes through with as little justification and public debate as they can. Riders will have a voice.”

“Unproportioned rate hikes dig deep into the pockets of commuters who count on the train to get to work and earn a living,” said McKeon (D-Essex. Morris). “There must be more notice to allow commuters to participate in the discussion and prepare for the change in ticket costs, if needed.”

The bill – advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in June – expands the powers of the Division of Rate Counsel in the Department of the Treasury by requiring the division, within 90 days after receiving notice from the NJ Transit of any proposal to implement a fare increase to evaluate the proposed fare increase and determine whether the increase is necessary and fair to corporation customers.

“Right now under current provisions, New Jersey commuters are solely at the mercy of unscheduled and unfair rate hike decisions made with little or no notice and without their consult,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Thousands of New Jersey’s commuters travel by rail to go to work, further their education and even simply to visit other cities. For many commuters who are working hard to make ends meet, an increase in transit costs can impede their ability to continue to take the train for many of their activities.”

“A 22 percent increase in 2010 and, now, a proposed 9 percent increase only five years later is unreasonable and unfair to daily transit commuters,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Expanding the powers of the DRC will, hopefully, help to safeguard commuters from excessive and unnecessary rate hikes.”

“Living in close proximity to New York, as in my district, residents rely on the train for quick trips in to the city,” said Pinto Marin (D-Essex). “Loyal commuters should always be a part of the conversation to raise ticket costs. Any other way and you’re taking advantage of commuters.”

NJ Transit is to provide any information that the division requests in the course of preparing the division’s evaluation and determination.