Sunday, March 27, 2016

Editors must blast Christie for making NJ Transit a business

An NJ Transit train in Hackensack.


Whether you commute by car, bus or train, you have been screwed royally by Governor Christie.

And I'm not just referring to toll and rail-fare hikes, increasing traffic congestion, and unsafe roads and bridges.

In less than six years, the GOP bully has managed to turn mass transit from a service with uncounted benefits to society -- from cutting air pollution to boosting worker productivity -- into a business that must pay its own way.

Readers can see the change in The Record's coverage of the Port Authority, NJ Transit and the nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund on Friday, Saturday and today.

$25B for debt

On the Opinion front today, the sordid history of the state's Transportation Trust Fund is laid bare by Janna Chernetz of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (O-1).

The fund, created in 1984, is how "New Jersey pays for all things transportation, including repairs to roads and bridges, keeps the trains running, builds sidewalks, makes roads safer for all users -- and it's broke."

Christie promises

But Christie largely broke his 2011 funding promise, "resulting in more debt and the use of unsustainable one-shot gimmicks to meet annual funding levels," Chernetz writes.

"As a ... result, the state is currently on course to pay $1 billion annually for debt through 2041."

After a recent contract deal with NJ Transit rail workers, Christie raised the spectre of another fare hike-- on top of the 9% hike last October to help make up his own cuts in state subsidies to the  agency.

And it was clear Christie is treating the state's mass-transit agency as just another business that would be forced to hike prices to pay for raises and health-care coverage won by NJ Transit's unionized rail workers.

Editors buy argument

"Wages go up, health costs go up for employees, other costs go up and there is always going to be the need for periodic fare increases," Christie said, winning support from The Record.

But no mass-transit agency in the country should be expected to make a profit or even break even.

In return for investing in efficient and affordable bus and rail service, we take cars off the road, cut air pollution, slow climate change and improve worker productivity.

Still, The Record hasn't challenged Christie's deep cuts in state subsides to mass transit or his repeated threat to veto a gas-tax increase to bring stable funding to the Transportation Trust Fund.

Today's paper

Editor Deirdre Sykes' front page is filled with long, boring think pieces on everything from Atlantic City casinos to opiate addiction in North Jersey to whether the white police chief in Wyckoff is biased against minorities (A-1).

If you missed the flurry of stories about Wyckoff Chief Benjamin Fox, see Mike Kelly's news-in-review column on O-1 today.

That's what happens when Sykes can't rely on stories about terrorism in Belgium (A-12).

Local news?

Leading Local today is another ditzy Road Warrior column about a road project, and this one won't be finished until 2022 (L-1).

But don't worry if you live in Bergen County, as the vast majority of readers do, because you can circumvent the mess by using other roads and highways.

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