Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee Chair John S. Wisniewski issued the following statement Wednesday after the committee received testimony regarding ways in which the state’s transportation system acts as a barrier to those living in poverty:
“With 2.8 million of our residents living in poverty – the highest statewide poverty rate in 50 years – we have a duty to find ways to connect more people to better opportunities. New Jersey’s transportation network is a critical part of that equation.
“As we discussed during today’s meeting, the inability to travel affordably and efficiently in our state has a direct negative impact on the overall quality of life for too many New Jersey families. The inadequate state of our transportation system makes it infinitely harder for people to find and retain employment or even engage in routine activities like visiting a doctor’s office or buying healthy foods from a supermarket.
“The high cost of transportation in New Jersey cuts mercilessly into household budgets, forcing families to forgo groceries, clothing, school supplies for children and other essential items. Recent New Jersey Transit fare increases – which, notably, were accompanied by service cuts – have placed a significant economic burden on those already struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. For those with limited access to mass transit, the poor condition of our state’s bridges and roads manifests itself in the form of hundreds of dollars annually in auto repairs that individuals with lower incomes simply cannot afford.
“Today, we began a conversation about how to make our transportation network more affordable, more efficient and more reliable. This is an ongoing issue that warrants an ongoing discussion. I look forward to continued talks about New Jersey Transit, the Transportation Trust Fund and other factors involved in making the state’s transportation network a vehicle out of poverty and into the middle class.”