New Jersey Transit yesterday approved a system-wide fare increase of 22% to generate $126.6 million of new revenue and help close the agency’s estimated $300 million fiscal 2011 deficit.
Along with toll revenue, the Garden State’s largest mass-transit provider will look towards public-private partnerships to help generate additional funds.
Board members yesterday approved a one-year, $480,000 contract with Scott Balice Strategies as financial adviser to analyze potential revenue that the agency could derive from its assets. In particular, officials are seeking to craft lease and concession agreements on its parking assets.
NJTransit would still maintain ownership and pricing controls over the structures, said Kim Paparello Vaccari, the agency’s chief financial officer.
While NJTransit does not have an approximation of how much revenue it could generate through P3 projects, the goal is for such revenue to help balance next year’s budget beyond the $126.6 million of new fare revenue. Fiscal 2011 begins July 1.
“It depends on the value of the assets and the number of assets, but we’re hoping we’ll be able to address the remainder of our budget deficit with parking assets playing a significant role,” Paparello Vaccari said.
Officials anticipate private investor demand in parking structures.
Many private-equity firms and investment banks were expecting to invest in transportation P3 deals before the credit crisis, but the volatile credit market since the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and fewer than expected toll-road concession agreements have resulted in parking assets becoming more attractive to investors, she said.
The fare box increases will take effect May 1. They include a 25% hike on interstate buses and 12 commuter-rail lines and a 10% boost on local bus lines and light-rail services.
NJTransit last increased its fares in 2007 by 9%.
To help reduce costs, the agency has also eliminated or reduced certain bus and rail services. Officials say those changes are in line with an overall decline in ridership of about 4% from last year.
In addition to the May 1 fare increase and service reductions, NJTransit has implemented a spending freeze, and plans to reduce its workforce by 200 employees, cut executive salaries by 5%, and decrease its 401K retirement contributions by one-third.