Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday that New Jersey Transit would be able to hire more than a hundred new workers, improve bus and rail service and hold the line on fares under his proposed state budget.
Murphy outlined how the beleaguered agency would spend extra state funding included in his $37.4 billion budget, which would increase the state’s direct subsidy to NJ Transit by $242 million. The agency has struggled to fund its operations and has been plagued by safety and staffing issues in recent years.
“Getting New Jersey Transit back on the right track and providing value again to our commuters is both one of our top priorities and, at the same time, one of our toughest challenges,” Murphy said during a news conference at the Madison train station. “We must do this for the hundreds of thousands of daily rail commuters, including the approximately 1,500 from right here in Madison every day who rely on NJ Transit to get to and from work.”
Most of the extra state funds—$148 million—would go towards stabilizing the agency’s finances by closing budget shortfalls and reducing its reliance on one-shot revenue sources, Murphy said. Roughly $19 million would towards expanding the agency’s workforce with 114 additional staffers, while $21 million would go toward bus and rail facility maintenance, software improvements and other programs, he added.
The agency would not have to raise fares next year, the Democratic governor said. NJ Transit’s fares have jumped 36 percent since 2009.
“Customers have been taken for a ride long enough, and we cannot ask them to pay more right now,” he said.
The transit agency has been deeply underfunded for years, with millions of dollars diverted from capital funding projects to cover the cost of its operations. New Jersey’s direct state subsidy to NJ Transit plummeted under former Gov. Chris Christie, from $348 million in 2009 to $33 million in 2016.
Murphy’s budget would increase the subsidy from $141 million to $383 million, though the agency would receive less money from other sources. When including funding from the state’s Turnpike Authority and a clean energy fund, Murphy’s budget boosts aid to NJ Transit by about $167 million, according to figures from the governor’s office.