Over the first half of 2015 the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition (RVRC) worked closely with NJ Transit to achieve several milestones, including the expansion of one-seat ride service into New York on weekday evenings. The RVRC has continued to meet quarterly with NJ Transit staff to discuss ideas to increase one-seat ride service on the Raritan Valley line on weekends.
Unfortunately, due to severe budget constraints at NJ Transit and the state transportation budget, the lack of funding has become the biggest obstacle keeping one-seat ride service from advancing on the Raritan Valley line. With a $56 million dollar budget gap in spring 2015 and the need to raise public transit fares in July 2015 by an average of 9% to close that gap, NJ Transit currently has no additional funding to support any expansion of one-seat service at this time.
NJ Transit staff has repeatedly noted the lack of any extra funding has slowed expansion of one-seat ride service and advancing other important transit system improvements.
They emphasized the addition of any new one-seat ride service into New York Penn Station will result in increased expenses to pay for extra fuel, train crew and other costs associated with operating trains into Manhattan.
The RVRC has been working with NJ Transit to find ways to incrementally increase one seat ride service on the line on weekends. The resulting discussions have led to little forward progress due to the lack of additional funds at this time.
The RVRC Board of Trustees continues to actively work with NJ Transit staff promoting the importance of increased one seat ride service and other infrastructure improvements which will benefit Raritan Valley line commuters. We plan on hosting a regular coalition meeting in the near future along with announcing several new initiatives including a fall event promoting the critical need for two new rail tunnels to increase capacity into Penn Station New York.
The Raritan Valley Rail Coalition will continue to focus attention on this funding issue and working with state elected officials, NJ Transit and NJDOT to help craft a solution to identify a long term stable funding source for the transportation trust fund. We are encouraged by an upcoming meeting between USDOT Commissioner Anthony Fox, Governor Chris Christie and Governor Andrew Cuomo which, hopefully, will jump start the long process of building two new tunnels under the Hudson River. Amtrak is currently funding the next step in the Gateway Tunnel Project development which includes the environmental impact work.
Peter S. Palmer, Chairman