As we start a new year with a new governor and administration, we look to plan our legislative year. As always, there will be budget hearings in March, and we will be there to advocate for a dedicated NJ Transit operating budget, so that capital funds are available to spend on capital maintenance and projects, not filling operating-budget gaps. We are encouraged by AR-158, now in the Legislature, that would create a task force that would “study and make findings and recommendations concerning all potential opportunities for the New Jersey Transit Corporation to generate new revenue without increasing fares.” We would remind the task force that NJT real estate is part of our common resources, owned by the public and managed by NJT in trust for us all; we would prefer lease arrangements and would argue against almost any sale of real estate. We hope that the two “people with expertise and experience in public rail passenger transportation” appointed to the task force come from the riding public, rather than from industry executives; otherwise, we call for the addition of such individuals.

 

 In 2016, a bill was passed that allows NJ Transit to cut up to two hours of service without public comment or review. We strongly opposed that bill after it was changed from its original language, which would have prohibited just that action, and we have received assurances that the legislature will take up this issue again. We consider repeal of this provision (Public Law 2016, Chapter 52) to be our top legislative priority, and we will be watching and advocating for that to happen quickly.

 

 We are definitely in favor of A-2497, which would extend NJT’s current full-time student monthly pass discount to all New Jersey higher education students, not just those attending “certain participating institutions.” The rate is 75% of full fare and is an important but not overwhelming discount that will help all students, too many of whom are burdened with a large amount of student debt, to afford transportation to their classes and jobs (and wherever else they travel). It would help most those without cars, and may enable some to put off an automobile purchase, both helping their finances and making the roads just a little less clogged and our air just a little bit cleaner. These students are our future; if we can help making attaining an education a little easier, it will benefit us all in the long run.

 

 We urge you to join the Lackawanna Coalition and to join us in our campaign. We are planning to make statements at legislative hearings and to organize a “Day in Trenton” in March. The more of you who join us and campaign with us, the more successful we can be in improving YOUR mobility.