Despite an increased capital budget, New Jersey’s slipping when it comes to mass transit funding, a regional transportation policy group said today.
The state has dedicated a shrinking share of its annual transportation capital program to transit over the past eight years, and next year’s capital plan will devote an even smaller percentage, according to Wednesday’s announcement by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
In fiscal 2004, state and federal funding for New Jersey bus and rail projects was $1.27 billion, but that fell to $1.16 billion in the fiscal 2012 plan, according to the advocacy group.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation did not respond to a reporter’s request for comment.
“NJ Transit does the best it can with limited resources, but train and bus riders have the right to ask why the state’s commitment to them seems to be slipping,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Her organization said the largest portion of NJDOT’s capital plan will go to road and bridge maintenance.
But a business advocate wasn’t as worried about the allocation.
“Widening roads and maintaining bridges are great investments that mean a lot to small businesses,” said Laurie Ehlbeck, New Jersey state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. “It makes it easier to suppliers to transport goods and for consumers to get to shopping centers. We think mass transit is also important, but if we had to choose, we’d favor road and bridge improvements, especially since small businesses usually don’t have many employees who depend on mass transit to get to work.”
But if New Jersey increased transit funding, “it would mean less traffic and wear on the roads, and better service for train and bus riders,” said Janna Chernetz, New Jersey advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “That would be a more sustainable, sensible way to keep New Jerseyans moving.”