June 2009

New Jersey Transit Digs Deep for Project Success

by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) is the third-largest transit system in the country, providing more than 895,000 weekday trips on 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 11 commuter rail lines. Like most other transit agencies across the nation, NJ Transit faces a budget deficit, compounded by the fact that its state support was cut by around $60 million dollars. Despite this setback, the agency expects to achieve what numerous systems have not: balance its budget without having to resort to fare hikes or major service cuts.

Closing the gap

NJ Transit Executive Director Richard Sarles says the agency will balance its budget by cutting administrative expenses by $22.5 million to partly offset the shortfall, as well as benefit from federal funds made available from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Sarles says that the agency has reduced administrative costs to an all-time low with expenses now accounting for only eight cents out of every operating dollar, with a full 92 cents going to service delivery. He also noted that the agency is more cost effective than its peer agencies on a cost-per-passenger-mile basis.

"We have worked hard with the Governor and our Board to ensure that we will be able to operate rail, bus and light rail services without any major service cuts and without a fare increase this year," Sarles says.

NJ Transit eliminated 140 jobs this year through attrition and early retirement and instituted both hiring and wage freezes for non-agreement employees. It also expects significant savings in FY10 from a dependent health benefit audit, reduced marketing expenses, and cutbacks in printing and customer service call center hours, made possible through technology that allows customers to get more information online. "We've gone to other electronic means to communicate with our customers, using text messages and the Web," Sarles says, adding that doing so enabled the agency to reduce the number of timetables it prints.

NJ Transit also is proposing a $1.3 billion capital program focused on safety and state of good repair investments, as well as expansion projects. Some of the capital projects include: new transit buses; design of a new Portal Bridge on the Northeast Corridor; continuation of projects such as Northern Branch and Lackawanna Cut-off to Andover; the Passaic-Bergen rail project and the state's signature project - the Mass Transit Tunnel (MTT).


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