Testimony of Kate Slevin, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
NJ Transit Headquarters, Newark
April 14, 2010

Good morning. My name is Kate Slevin and I am the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit advocacy organization working toward an environmentally sustainable and socially just transportation system in NJ, NY and CT.

TSTC is pleased that NJ Transit listened to our calls to reduce the impact on this proposal on local bus riders, but we still believe the overall plan is a bad deal for New Jerseyans and a tax increase on the working people of the state.

The fact that families are dealing with such a proposal at a time when so many are struggling to pay the bills is a failure of our leaders in Trenton. Governor Christie, why are you singling out transit riders while drivers aren’t being asked to pay more?  Everyone in the state benefits from our mass transit system- drivers, businesses, and riders.

Going forward, Tri-State urges NJ Transit and our elected leaders to take the following actions:

First, further reduce the severity of service cuts by using federal stimulus dollars. States are able to flex 10% of federal transit funds from the ARRA stimulus package to pay for day-to-day operations. Cities like Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Seattle have used this provision to stop service cuts and we urge NJTransit to do the same. As of December 31st, NJ Transit had only spent $125 million of its $426 million stimulus funding. Using 10%, or $42 million, would go a long way to preserve service. Today, I hand in a letter from 26 labor, business, planning, environmental, equity and transportation organizations urging you to take this action.

Second, fix the Transportation Trust Fund and ensure adequate funding for NJ Transit. The fund will be broke next year, with 100% of revenues going to debt service. Reauthorizing the Fund could provide needed revenue to fix NJ Transit’s funding problems while shoring up spending for road and bridge maintenance.

Third, when you fix the Transportation Trust Fund, create a dedicated fund for transit operations. Recently, NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson rightfully supported such a fund and noted that tolls could help plug N JTransit’s funding woes, and put it on more stable financial footing. High quality, affordable transit service is a requirement for New Jersey to meet the economic and environmental challenges of this century.

Fourth, Governor Christie, if the fare increases are approved, pledge to transit riders that you won’t raise fares again during your first term. Riders will be suffering because of your recent actions, and they deserve your word that won’t ask them to pay more for less service again.

Thank you for your time.