NJ Transit board approves fare hikes

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Transit's board of directors formally approved fare increases Wednesday that average about 9 percent for bus and rail riders and will go into effect in October.

Commuters in New Jersey take nearly 1 million trips on the state transit agency's trains, buses and light rail cars each week. NJ Transit officials have said the increases are needed to cover a $60 million budget gap that remained even after the agency cut $40 million internally.

Board chairman Jamie Fox told The Associated Press last month that raising fares was a difficult decision to make but was preferable to widespread service cuts.

The proposal includes some service cuts — to late-night train departures on two lines leaving Hoboken, and on several bus routes in southern New Jersey including service from Freehold and Philadelphia to Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson.

Commuters have assailed the increases in online postings and at public forums held by NJ Transit at several locations around the state in May.

Lawmakers, not surprisingly, are split along party lines when it comes to doling out blame. Democrats fault Gov. Chris Christie for not coming up with a new revenue source for the state's $1.6 billion Transportation Trust Fund. Republicans point to the cost of retirement benefits, a source of court battles between Christie and unions, as a major contributor to the transit agency's budget gap.

The hikes are the first since 2010 when fares increased an average of 22 percent. NJ Transit Executive Director Ronnie Hakim had said earlier this year that the agency would take pains to ensure any increases didn't reach those levels.

One-way fares between Trenton and New York, the two endpoints of the Northeast Corridor Line, would rise by $1.25 to $16.75, an 8 percent increase. A monthly ticket would increase 9 percent, from $440 to $480.

A one-way ride from Lakewood to New York would go up $1.50 to $19, for example, and a monthly pass would increase by $37, to $448, a 9 percent hike.