Transportation Committee Speeds out Two Garcia-Sponsored Transit Bills

Carmelo Garcia leaves the voting booth on Election Day.

Carmelo Garcia leaves the voting booth on Election Day.

TRENTON – Aiming to increase the transparency and accessibility of the New Jersey Transit Corporation and protect vulnerable populations from unreasonable transit fare hikes, the Assembly Transportation Committee today passed A-4755 and A-4756, both sponsored by departing Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-33).

Designated as the “Fare Affordability and Ridership Empowerment (FARE) Act,” A-4755 would place restrictions on the amount that the New Jersey Transit Corporation (corporation) may increase the cost of a discounted fare for a ticket or pass for bus or rail passenger service under the corporation’s programs offering reduced fares for senior citizens over the age of 62, persons with disabilities, and students attending an institution of higher education that participates in a corporation program offering the discounted fare.

Under A-4755, starting on October 2, 2015, the corporation is prohibited from increasing the discounted fares under these programs for a period of three years, and not more than two percent annually thereafter.

Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-40) didn’t like the bill.

Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34) did.

“The issue of the cost of transit is killing working class people in this state,” said Oliver.

Rumana protested.

“It’s a big complex picture. When you’re shifting, that’s everyone else you’re going to to get income,” he said. “We’ve got to get the money from somewhere.”

He ultimately abstained on the bill, along with Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (R-9) and Assemblyman Rob Clifton (R-13).

“The real answer is growing and expanding the economy in New Jersey, and that’s something we have failed to do in the last six to seven years,” said the assemblywoman.

The bill passed 6-0-3.

Garcia’s A-4756 increases the number of public hearings that the New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) is required to hold prior and subsequent to a fare increase of any motorbus regular route or rail passenger service or the substantial curtailment or abandonment of any of those services.

According to the summary of the bill, it provides that not less than 30 days prior to the adoption of any fare increase for any motorbus regular route or rail passenger service or the substantial curtailment or abandonment of any of those services, NJ Transit is required to conduct at least four public hearings in the area affected, of which at least one public hearing is to be conducted in each county affected by the proposed fare increase or the curtailment or abandonment service.

“The fare hikes are outrageous. I am totally bugged out every time I go through one of the transit tunnels and see that $15 sign,” said Oliver.

Rumana didn’t support the bill. Rumpf abstained.

The bill passed 7-1-1.

Transportation Committee Speeds out Two Garcia-Sponsored Transit Bills