Testimony of Zoe Baldwin, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Zoe Baldwin, and I am the New Jersey advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional non-profit advocacy organization working toward an environmentally sound, fiscally solvent and socially just transportation network in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. I am also a daily rider from Newark Penn Station to New York or Trenton.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign calls on Governor Christie to restore funding to NJ Transit, and asks the legislature to stand up for their constituents, so transit riders are not (literally) left out in the cold.
If fares are increased 30%, it will represent a 75% increase in transit fares since 2000. In the same period, the gas tax has increased zero percent, remaining at the same level it has been since 1988. In fact, the gas tax’s purchasing power is a fraction of what it was over two decades ago. The Motor Fuels Tax as a share of the price of fuel at the pump has tumbled from 15% to just 3% in the last decade.
Raising fees on transit riders while avoiding raising fees on car or truck drivers is a decidedly selective way of funding transportation, but it hurts New Jerseyans across the board. Riders that do own a car will start to drive, adding traffic and pollution to our roadways, and those that depend on transit to get around will be forced to pay more for less service and longer waits. Our economy will suffer as worker productivity declines and transportation jobs are slashed.
Governor Christie has said that he wants to grow our economy and help business. Transit investment is a perfect way to do this. According to the American Public Transportation Association, every billion invested in transit operations creates 41,000 jobs, and every billion dollars invested in transit construction projects creates 23,000 jobs. NJ cannot afford to overlook transit’s economic growth potential.
New Jersey had been recognized as a national model for investing in transit and encouraging development around it. The numbers show our progress. Over the past decade, travel on our trains and buses has grown at twice the rate of driving and new development has sprouted up near train or bus hubs in dozens of towns. But cutting transit will take us back in time, and threaten the gains we have made towards a more balanced, economically competitive, and environmentally sound transportation network.
The long-term fiscal problems of NJ’s transportation system will not be cured through fare hikes and service cuts. These measures are simply stopgap solutions until we deal with the real crisis at hand – a broke transportation fund that is over burdened with debt. One that will be paid off by our children and grandchildren for decades to come.
We desperately need new transportation revenue, but the state needs to adopt a mantra of “everyone benefits, everyone pays,” and ask both riders and drivers to pay their fair share.
Since Tri-State's testimony at the last round of fare hike hearings three years ago, the state’s transportation funding crisis has grown worse as the state’s debt increases and the Transportation Trust Fund careens toward bankruptcy.
Now is the time to make a change. Now is the time to do the right thing and protect the mobility of those who need it most.