Americas Jul 12, 2012
Good news for transit administrators in Bergen and Passaic counties came Wednesday as NJ Transit announced extra money would be allocated for the next 12 months towards improving transport service to senior citizens and persons with disabilities.
The additional $2 million for the Senior Citizen and Disabled Resident Transportation Assistance Program will be awarded and split among all 21 counties. This comes as a result of the NJ Transit Board of Directors approving a local and community transportation program at corporation headquarters.
The additional funding — especially welcome after transport revenue allocations were cut back last year — was generated from the state’s casino revenues. Bergen County will be receiving about $170,000, according to Rudy Pasterczyk, director of Bergen County Community Transportation. Passaic County staff were uncertain about their allocation.
“We lost $500,000 over the last two years …this is going to help us,” Pastercczyk said.
The funds are administered by NJ Transit, which usually receives 15 percent of the Casino Revenue Tax Fund. That is what the $2 million represents. This year, NJ Transit waived the 15 percent and the 21 counties will retain the entire sum.
John McGill, director of the Passaic County Para Transit Program, noted that his agency had received less and less of such aid four out of the last five years. “It helps us out a little,” he said of whatever boost the new allocation provides.
The Passaic County Transit Program runs a fleet of vehicles that provides transportation for senior citizens and persons with disabilities in need of non-emergency rides to medical appointments, shopping, and county-run nutrition and adult day care sites, and for residents with disabilities to attend group work programs.
McGill said residents in rural communities such as Ringwood and West Milford are eligible for the same service as those who live in more urban areas.
As was expected, the Board of Directors also approved the operating budget for the fiscal year 2013. It is made up of $1.904 billion. The capital program stands at $1.152 billion. Executive Director James Weinstein said Wednesday that “At only one-half of one percent, the operating budget growth for Fiscal Year 2012-13 represents NJ Transit’s second lowest overall growth rate in 15 years.”
Revenue from the budget mostly comes from customer fares at $894.2 million a year, according to Weinstein. Commercial revenues, capital transfers, state operating assistance, and federal reimbursements make up the remainder.
Weinstein noted that the portion of the operating budget dedicated to labor and fringe benefits has decreased by nearly $19.2 million from 2011-12.
In regards to the NJ Transit’s capital budget, the agency plans to continue the “procurement of more than 1,400 new buses, more than 400 multilevel rail cars and more than 50 electric and dual-power locomotives,” it announced.
Board Chairman James Simpson also announced the purchase of 200 vehicles, which will provide transportation “for persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and those living in rural areas.”
Half of the capital budget is funded by the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. The rest of the funding comes from federal sources and other entities, such as casinos.
Also at the meeting, the board approved a revised bus service optimization plan. That initiative was a result of customer feedback according to the board. The plan includes discontinuation, reconstruction, and expansion of routes. Route number 75 from Butler to Newark will be discontinued.
“It is probably being done for cost measures. That’s the only thing I can think of. No one knows until it actually occurs who it affects,” said Mary O’Keefe, borough clerk for Butler.
“Most customers will not be significantly impacted, as system access remains available with alternatives,” according to a NJ Transit press release.
Route number 42 from Newark to 18th Avenue, 43 from Newark to Jersey City, and 93 from Bloomfield to Newark Light Rail also will be discontinued.