Gov. Christie and state legislators have cut the state's subsidy to NJ Transit, but somehow NJT has "made do" in a "shell game," according to reporting by Mike Vilensky, Andrew Tangel, and Ted Mann, with contributions by Kate King, in the Wall Street Journal (Oct. 8-9). NJT managers have appealed for more money for years, but the Christie administration's response has been to cut, cut, cut the state's subsidy, from $285 million in 2012 to $33 million in 2016. How has NJT kept the system running? By financial legerdemain, such as diverting money from other state resources such as the NJ Turnpike Authority and the state's clean energy fund. And fares were raised twice on Christie's watch, most recently 9% last year. Critics say these are short term solutions that cannot work in the long term, and reflect a "weak commitment by Mr. Christie to the transit system." The critics include Assembly transportation committee head John Wisniewski, who characterized the budget transfers as "temporary, one-shot fixes . . . those sources will dry up . . . when you don't have enough operational money, safety suffers." Analysts blame the decreasing transit funding on competing budget demands and Gov. Christie's commitment not to raise taxes.  According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign's Janna Chernetz, "they have had to resort to cannibalistic funding practices in order to keep the lights on and the wheels turning," noting that over six billion dollars have been diverted from capital funds to subsidize operating expenses. The NJT Board was scheduled to discuss the budget at its July meeting, but that meeting was cancelled and the board hasn't met since. People familiar with the board's thinking, the article says, blame the failure to meet in part on fear of confronting what look like a set of unappetizing options: service cuts, layoffs, or another fare hike.

A parallel story was reported in the New York Times (Oct. 14).