New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has mandated an audit of New Jersey Transit designed as the first step to restore the beleaguered mass transit agency’s finances and infrastructure from the ground up.
The new Democratic governor signed an executive order for the full-scale audit Monday saying that the investigation will review NJ Transit’s fiscal practices and delayed implementation of federal safety measures.
“We cannot continue with a system that has been so starved by Trenton that it has been forced to raid long-term capital funds to pay for day-to-day expenses delaying much-needed upgrades,” said Murphy during a press conference at the NJ Transit station in Summit. “We cannot continue with a system that has increased fares 36 percent over the past eight years even as customer experience eroded.”
State support dropped under former Gov. Chris Christie from $348 million in fiscal 2009 to $141 million in the current budget, according to Murphy.
Murphy said the audit will take about three months and be led by incoming state transportation commissioner, Diane Gutierrez-Scacetti. Beyond examining NJ Transit’s financial picture, the audit will also explore the agency’s relationship with Amtrak and its delayed implementation of Positive Train Control, a new system required by Congress designed to prevent train accidents.
A September report by the Fund for New Jersey said that NJ Transit gets only 1.3% of support from dedicated taxes compared to nearly 50% or higher that public transportation systems in Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles receive from state support. The advocacy group also noted that the transportation system received $204 million from New Jersey Turnpike Authority tolls for the 2018 fiscal year to address part of its operating deficit.
NJ Transit is the nation’s third-busiest public transportation system and last raised fares 9% for the 2016 fiscal year to combat a $56 million budget gap. The agency also refinanced outstanding revenue bonds in early 2017 through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to combat a $12 million hole created by falling 2016 ridership numbers.