NJ Transit: Going Nowhere Fast

by Ryan on March 6, 2010

in Economy,Election 2009,New Jersey,Politics

Governor Chris Christie inherited a huge mess in New Jersey when he took office about six weeks ago.  Since then he’s taken an approach which has dealt with cutting large state expenditures in order to try to deal with the state’s $2.2 billion budget deficit.  His first offensive was against the pension system (which I have my own unpopular opinions about), and it looks like the next wave seems to be against NJ Transit system.

New Jersey is mostly a state of “bedroom” communities where many who work in New York choose to live away from the city’s hustle-and-bustle and ridiculous taxes.   That being the case, NJ Transit seriously relieves traffic congestion going into New York and has become the third largest transit system in the nation.  Honestly, I only use it going into the City for fun or to Newark Liberty Airport.

But NJ Transit has had some major systemic waste (a $300 million budget deficit!) and Christie is thinking about reducing already massive state subsidies by 11%.  So, as a subsidized, wasteful mass-transit system which has predictably had less business since the recession hit, the NJ Transit Authority is thinking about raising fares 25%!

Very typical and predictable.

However, the political problem for Christie is two-fold:  first, he just appointed the guy making the recommendation for the fare hike, and second, the people being affected are wealthier working-types who were with him on the state pension cuts, but will be a little miffed that they ostensibly face a new toll hike.  Some are calling it a stealth tax increase (which Christie graciously promised he wouldn’t do), others say the Transit system should make the necessary cuts since it’s having less business.

Ultimately, NJ Transit will be the loser here because anyone who’s taken Econ 101 (at a decent school anyway) knows:  if you want less of something, tax it.  At the end of the day, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, nor a free ride and NJ Transit is taking the wrong approach — they should cut as if fare hikes were not even on the table.

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