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Long-term fix still needed for PATH’s financial woes

Port Authority rail service, a key to new development, losing $300M annually

A controversial proposal to cut overnight PATH service has been tabled, but questions remain about the system's financial health.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

If you’re a fan of the PATH train, the good news is that overnight service on the 24/7 system connecting Newark, Harrison, Hoboken and Jersey City to Manhattan isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Elected officials, led by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, made sure of that earlier this month by leading a loud charge against a recent Port Authority of New York and New Jersey report that suggested a curtailment of late-night service could yield a savings of roughly $10 million annually for the bistate agency.

The bad news? That $10 million wouldn’t have made that much of a difference anyway, as PATH is still losing upward of $300 million per year, according to the Port Authority.

It’s a dilemma facing a transportation asset that is seen as the anchor to much of the redevelopment in Hudson County. And, as of now, the agency and other stakeholders are searching for a long-term solution.

Before agreeing to indefinitely table the proposal amid the backlash, Port Authority Chairman John Degnan said PATH’s annual operating loss was “not a sustainable trajectory” for the agency.

While the threat of overnight service cuts are nonexistent for now, Fulop still says the Port Authority crying poor over PATH is “disingenuous,” as it’s no different than other transit systems that regularly operate at a loss.

Rather than eliminate service, Fulop said the Port Authority should be looking to expand it and invest in more trains, seeking “better integration with all of the transit systems.”

But that’s especially hard to do when PATH is presented as more of a burden than an asset.

“Chairman Degnan is obviously out of touch,” Fulop said.

Despite repeated requests last week, the Port Authority did not provide specific comment for this story. An agency spokeswoman referred to the special panel that made the initial recommendations for PATH, saying they will be presented to the authority’s board next month.

She added that “it would be premature for us to comment on them — with the exception of confirming that service changes at PATH have already been tabled per the chairman’s letter” to state Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto — until the board has formally received them.

Andrew George

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