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February 18, 2010

NEWARK, NJ — NJ TRANSIT Executive Director James Weinstein appeared before New Jersey’s Assembly Transportation Committee today to discuss how the statewide transit agency will meet the serious fiscal challenges of the current and coming budget years.


“The severe recession has put the state and NJ TRANSIT in the direst financial straits in our history.  The state is faced with a current year budget deficit of more than $2.2 billion and a shortfall of about $11 billion for fiscal year 2011,” Weinstein said.  “Governor Christie values our public transportation network and understands its importance to the state.  But every agency and arm of government must help meet the challenge of meeting these deficits.”


NJ TRANSIT’s current year state subsidy is being reduced by about 11 percent—$33 million—as part of the administration’s plan to close the current budget gap.  Moreover, NJ TRANSIT faces an FY11 operating budget shortfall approaching $300 million, Executive Director Weinstein said.


“Unfortunately, the state cannot afford to continue providing its historic level of yearly operating subsidy to NJ TRANSIT,” Weinstein said.  “In addition, we are very unlikely to receive another round of stimulus and other one-time federal transportation funding, which helped bolster the FY10 operating budget by $150 million.”


At the same time, NJ TRANSIT ridership has declined about four percent systemwide, reducing fare revenue, and inflation continues to raise fuel, parts and other costs, he added.


“We cannot ask the state for help it cannot afford to give, and we cannot pretend otherwise or we risk making a bad situation worse,” Weinstein told lawmakers.  He said that balancing the NJ TRANSIT budget will take a combination of actions and innovative thinking.


Weinstein promised an open, inclusive process, welcoming Legislative and public suggestions and input, as NJ TRANSIT develops its financial plans.


“Some of the adjustments we will have to make will be painful,” Weinstein said. “But I am committed to some crucial guiding principles: We will not compromise safety and service reliability.  Second, we won’t ask our customers to pay more at the fare box until we have identified every possible efficiency and sacrificed internally.  Everything is under review.  Finally, we welcome all suggestions and ideas from our riders, the public, our employees and others as we move forward.”


Weinstein also announced that a series of nine public hearings have been scheduled around the state on fare and service change proposals.  The hearings will take place mostly at NJ TRANSIT facilities and will be held in Newark, Atlantic City, Trenton, Secaucus, Camden, Paterson, Hackensack, Manalapan and New York.  An extended period of public comment will be available online on beginning in early March.


More detailed information on the proposals and the hearings will be made available in the next week or two on our website and through formal public notices statewide.


“I believe we can emerge from this challenging time as a stronger agency, with a more stable financial picture, and continued pride in our service to customers,” Weinstein said. “I ask for the help of all of you, and the larger NJ TRANSIT community, as we navigate this financial storm “




NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 895,000 weekday trips on 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 12 commuter rail lines.  It is the third largest transit system in the country with 165 rail stations, 60 light rail stations and more than 18,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.