By David Cruz
Many will argue that the governors tried to dump the bad news of their vetoes over a holiday weekend, and some will quibble about how much reform the governors really want to see happen at their cash cow agency, but the report from the special panel on the future of the Port Authority is chock full of tough medicine for the agency and, for PATH commuters, perhaps a bitter pill.
Among the changes to PATH recommended by the panel:
Partnering with a third-party operator. Most assume this would be NJ Transit, which runs a state-wide rail system and local light rail. NJ Transit had no comment.
Pursue federal funding. Officials think they can realize over $15 million a year if they just apply for more federal grants.
Increase advertising revenue. Expect more ads on everything from your MetroCard to more shrink wrapped rail cars.
Eliminate overnight service 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. The Port Authority says the impact of this will be “minor.”
Commuters we spoke to this morning shrugged at the idea of a service change overnight. After a fare increase last month, though, they’re hoping that the Port Authority starts to deliver some bang for their buck.
“I think that the fare increases would be OK if the service is more reliable. There’s a lot of issues with the PATH especially when the weather is bad,” said Hoboken resident Heather Tenuto.
“I actually live over by where Exchange Place to World Trade Center and we weren’t able to get service for the whole year on the weekends. It is really limiting and I think it has implications for people who maybe need to work late into the night or wanna see New Jersey as a viable option for where to live,” said Jersey City resident Saba Nwankpah.
“It boggles my mind. I don’t know the rhyme or reason and I’m sure there’s fiscal responsibility, but again, I don’t see the books so I don’t know,” said Bayonne resident Mike Lapinski.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop — who is in the middle of a legal dispute with the agency — says that the Port Authority’s ridership estimates, which he considers conservative, still show that over 150,000 people a year ride the PATH during the 1 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours. He says those are mostly working people who rely on the service for late night or early morning shifts. He was one of several elected officials venting frustration today.
“They have a budget the size of a state; they have a number of employees the size of a state but the challenge is that there’s no accountability. It is a nightmare of an organization,” Fulop said.
“The world does not stop turning between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. People still work; they go to and from work; they have families that depend on them working,” said Hoboken Councilman Ravinder Bhalla.
Bhalla says he will introduce a resolution next week calling on the Port Authority to reconsider. And Fulop says he’ll join other affected mayors to push New Jersey’s PA commissioners to vote against a service cut. But if this trial balloon eventually takes flight, commuters will have to find another way into and out of the city in the wee small hours of the morning.