JERSEY CITY – As light rail trains clanged behind him at Exchange Place in Jersey City, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop rang Governor Chris Christie’s bell, denouncing his administration for a proposed nine percent increase in NJ Transit fares that would be accompanied by service cuts.
“It seems to be a common practice over the last several months to attack mass transportation, which is crucial and vital to urban areas throughout the state of New Jersey,” said Fulop, a potential 2017 gubernatorial candidate, on Thursday. “Anytime that there is a proposed fare increase and service reduction on mass transportation, it impacts disproportionately working families and urban areas. Absent of a long-term plan, this will be a situation that repeats itself year after year.”
Fulop announced the creation of a non-profit organization, called “Fight the Hike,” designed to raise awareness of the latest NJ Transit fare hike and service cut proposal, which would be the fourth increase since 2002. A website for the organization includes a petition drive to the fight the proposed changes, as well as alerting New Jersey residents about the public meetings to be heard by NJ Transit about the proposal. There will also be a petition effort at NJ Transit bus stops, Fulop said.
Other notable North Jersey politicians chimed in to add their concerns.
“Mass transit is vital to our economic lifeline,” said Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, who has partnered with Fulop and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka in recent months to coordinate their efforts regarding urban issues. “This proposed nine percent fare hike will have Paterson residents having to choose between paying more for transportation and providing their families with basic needs. I think it’s prudent that we ask NJ Transit to consider examining this nine percent fare increase, along with the service cuts, and look for alternatives that don’t affect our citizens so harshly.”
“The refusal to have any kind of legislation that will refuel [the state Transportation Trust Fund] is being felt in every part of our transportation system,” said Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, referring to the ongoing policy conundrum regarding the future of the fund. “When the Christie administration does not allow the Transportation Trust Fund to be paid for, you’re saying no to people who need to get to work everyday. I don’t think there is any question that [Christie] is playing to an audience that is voting for President next year, not for an audience that will be voting for the next governor in 2017.”
Labor leader Ray Greaves, chairman of the New Jersey Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Statewide Council, felt that the proposed NJ Transit fare hike and service cuts was “another bad decision” that has happened under Christie’s watch that “leads the middle class in the wrong direction.”
“While this is being labeled as NJ Transit’s proposal, we know who the real villain is here – it’s Chris Christie,” Greaves said. “We have a governor whose transportation policies are very disruptive to every commuter in the state of New Jersey. Despite record increases in ridership, Christie’s budget once again will slash and burn NJ Transit.”
When asked by PolitickerNJ how much direct responsibility Governor Christie, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, bears for the controversial NJ Transit, Fulop verbally slashed Christie.
“I hold [Christie] very responsible, because I think there is an absence of a long-term plan,” said Fulop. “There is no [proposed] solution other than rate increases and service reductions. What we’ve been working on collectively here is to have a short-term plan and long-term plan to increase riders. An investment in mass transportation is crucial not only to Jersey City, but far beyond it.”