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April 28, 2009

TRENTON, NJ — In prepared testimony submitted to the Assembly Budget Committee today, NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Richard Sarles said that NJ TRANSIT’s FY10 budget does not include a fare increase for riders, despite a cutback in state operating support for the agency.


Sarles said the agency will balance its budget by cutting administrative expenses by $22.5 million to partly offset the shortfall, as well as benefit from federal funds made available from the Department of Transportation. 


“NJ TRANSIT is a vital component of our transportation network and we want to encourage continued ridership growth on the mass transit system, which relieves congestion and reduces fuel emissions,” said DOT Commissioner Stephen Dilts.


Sarles said that the agency has reduced administrative cost to an all-time low with expenses now accounting for only eight cents out of every operating dollar, with a full 92 cents going to service delivery.  He also noted that NJ TRANSIT is more cost effective than its peer agencies on a cost-per-passenger-mile basis.


“We have worked hard with the Governor and our Board to ensure that we will be able to operate rail, bus and light rail services without any major service cuts and without a fare increase this year,” Mr. Sarles said.


NJ TRANSIT eliminated 140 jobs this year through attrition and early retirement, and has instituted both hiring and wage freezes for non-agreement employees.  It also expects significant savings in FY10 from a dependent health benefit audit, reduced marketing expenses, and cut backs in printing and customer service call center hours made possible through technology that allows customers to get more information online.


NJ TRANSIT also is proposing a $1.3 billion capital program focused on safety and state of good repair investments, as well as expansion projects.


“In preparing our capital budget, we embraced NJ TRANSIT’s role as an important engine helping to drive the region’s economy through expanded services and job creation,” Sarles said. “The federal stimulus funded projects alone will generate nearly 4,000 jobs.”


Some of the capital projects he outlined include: new transit buses; design of a new Portal Bridge on the Northeast Corridor; continuation of projects such as Northern Branch and Lackawanna Cut-off to Andover; the Passaic-Bergen rail project, and the state’s signature project—the Mass Transit Tunnel.


These projects are in addition to $424 million in federal-stimulus funded projects, including: the Pennsauken Transit Center, connecting the River Line with the Atlantic City Rail Line; signal improvements on the River Line; a new Edison park and ride; and minibuses and bus shelters systemwide.


“Perhaps no time in our generation have we been more powerfully aware of the role transportation investment plays in our mobility, our economy and our environment,” Sarles said.


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 11 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 164 rail stations, 60 light rail stations and more than 18,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.