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(April 30, 2018)(CNBNewsnet)--Today the Assembly Budget Committee is holding their hearing on the FY 2019 State Budget in regard to the Department of Transportation and New Jersey Transit/Motor Vehicle Commission. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:

“We have a new Administration, but our transportation system is still a mess from years of damage under the Christie Administration. Fares are down 12% down because of the decrease in services, signifying a serious loss of ridership. It will take time to ger NJ Transit back on track, especially because there are still problems with the budget, but we need to move forward. For example, we must come up with a stable source of funding for operations rather than stealing clean energy funds. We also need to fix reliability and safety issues to increase ridership. Listening to the hearing all day makes you understand why nothing gets done. NJ Transit goes around in circles without getting to a destination, just like the agency itself.

“New Jersey is at risk of losing $631 million in federal funding for our transit program due to our failure under the Christie Administration to address safety and fund the TTF. The Administration said they’re looking to get an extension on the deadline for the federal funding for safety but we believe they should try to meet the deadline. We need to address these important safety issues with our transportation now because the more we delay, the longer people are put at risk. Other terminals like New York Penn Station have Positive Train Control breaking system to override the train crew in case of an emergency. Instead of using the $8 billion of federal funding for capital upgrades like automatic braking, NJ Transit used it for tires and to keep the lights on.

 “We saw impacts of the broken system with the 2016 fatal incident in Hoboken. Even though they found that the cause of the crash was the engineer’s fatigue, he can’t take all the blame. NJT is partly responsible as well. The agency has not updated safety controls thanks to lack of funding, especially from the Christie Administration. The original findings that the NJ Transit Hoboken train was going double the speed limit shows we need to have Positive Control braking systems installed on our rails. Unfortunately, if we had these braking systems in place, this tragedy may have been prevented. The Murphy Administration needs to take emergency action to make sure we fix these safety issues and get the federal funding we need.

“We need to fund the TFF because our mass transit system is old and antiquated. By not funding the Transportation Trust Fund, we have no money for dilapidated bridges, roads, or even safety features on public transit. In comparison to other high population density states, NJ Transit receives smaller portions of their operating budgets from state and local governments or other funding like advertising—which means our N.J. commuters are forced to pay more. The failure to have good and reliable public transit is bad for the environment because it will out more people in cars and increase pollution.

 “New Jersey Transit has been a disaster waiting to happen and without these funds, the agency may cease to function. New Jersey Transit has been raising fares and cutting services to NJ Transit for too long. Services have gone down while there are more delays and breakdowns. This is hurting the commuters and hurt our economy because thousands of commuters may not be able to get to work. New Jersey’s debt consistently has ranked highest in the nation and now the TTF and NJT is suffering as a result. We once had one of the best transit systems in the country, but the Christie Administration’s mismanagement and failure to fund transportation almost ruined it.

“The way NJ Transit runs currently has commuters feeling an unfair burden of increased costs than motorists. The people of New Jersey are paying more to drive cars and are stuck in traffic longer, causing more pollution and traffic for all of us. It also pushes people out of mass transit and onto the roads that we don’t have money to fix. It is outrageous that instead of considering a gas tax, the state has consistently turned to transit riders and employees to fix their deficits. The Governor is in Florida during this transit strike, which shows how much he cares about public transit, people getting to work, and our environment.

 “The Murphy Administration needs to invest in saving NJ Transit from the mess it has become. Not only must we fund the Transportation Trust Fund, but we must be sure we are doing everything possible to secure federal funding. New Jersey has the worst smog and air pollution in the nation from car and truck pollution. Public transportation can help us get cars off the road and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gasses. However, the wheels are falling off the bus when it comes to NJ Transit. We need to fix this broken system and get NJ Transit moving again.”

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