The New Jersey Transit Board of Directors today approved a $1.9 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2013 and a nearly $1.2 billion capital program. Executive Director James Weinstein says the budgets are a dramatic demonstration of NJ Transit’s responsibility to taxpayers.
“It’s a budget that’s basically held the line and it’s held the line not only on spending, it’s held the line on fares. There’s no fare increase there, the spending is about the same, half of one percent increase,” Weinstein said. “It’s the lowest increase in 15 years.”
Nearly half of the revenue in the operating budget comes from fares and roughly a quarter comes from state and federal aid. Nearly 60 percent is dedicated to fringe benefits and labor costs. Contracted Services, fuel and power comprise about 30 percent of the budget. The remaining 13 percent cover costs like utilities and tolls.
NJ Transit’s capital budget calls for more long term additions and improvements like 1,400 new buses, more than 50 electric and dual-power locomotives and more than 400 multilevel rail cars.
Riders can also expect to see some new additions. “I think the most exciting thing is the technology that we’re installing on our buses, the clever device technology which is going to go to bus riders, which is almost two-thirds of our system,” Weinstein said. “It’s going to give them the ability to use a smart phone and find out on a real time basis when the bus they want to ride is going to arrive at the stop they’re waiting.”
Critics argue the NJ Transit system doesn’t offer the same accessibility to riders in South Jersey. Weinstein says the region isn’t being overlooked, citing a new transit station in Pennsauken that is expected to open this winter and studies that are underway for new bus service along route 42. NJ Transit is also funding the Delaware River Port Authority study on a potential light rail extension from Camden to Glassboro.
As for the Hudson River Tunnel Project known as ARC, Weinstein says a tunnel will be built, but when it happens remains to be seen.
“We got some real solid, valuable information that was generated through the ARC project,” Weinstein said. “We spent a half a billion dollars on the project before it was terminated and that money is not going to go to waste.”
But Weinstein said he’s not prepared at this point to say how he’s going to accomplish that.
Lauren Wanko reports from Newark.