New Jersey Transit is slashing services as the coronavirus outbreak triggers a drop in ridership by 88 percent, prompting the agency to push for a $1.25 billion federal bailout to stay afloat.
Starting Friday, the statewide mass transit agency’s train routes will indefinitely run on a weekend schedule, with the exception of the Atlantic City Rail Line. The Gladstone Branch’s rail services will be available only on weekdays.
Eight extra trips between Dover and Hoboken will be available only on weekdays, while bus, light rail and Access Link will still run on weekly schedules.
Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit’s president and chief executive officer, is asking the state’s congressional delegation to press the federal government for the federal aid, as drops in ridership prompt the agency to drastically tighten its belt.
“New Jersyans are staying home, heeding the messages of President Trump and [Gov. Phil] Murphy. They are staying off the roads and they are staying off transit,” Corbett wrote in a March 19 two-page letter to the state’s 14-person Congressional delegation, which consists of two Republicans and 14 Democrats.
“Emergency federal funding is required, so that current programs for capital projects and state of good repair funding are not cannibalized,” he writes.
Corbett continued that as ridership drops, the statewide mass transit agency would lose at least $1.25 billion by the end of the 2021 fiscal year –June 30, 2021 – should things continue their current trend. And the added costs of cleaning have been a bigger drain on the agency’s budget.
Murphy and the state’s congressional delegation have been making a push this week for more federal dollars from the Trump administration, both to plug multibillion dollar holes in the state budget, as well as to cover the sudden loss of income for tens of thousands of businesses, and exponentially more residents.
The former would come in the form of block grants, which have very few restrictions on how they can be used. The latter in the form of a low-interest emergency loan program run by the federal Small Business Administration, which approved the state’s bid earlier Thursday morning.