March 13, 2024

Fare Hikes on NJ Transit Could Be Implemented This Summer

By Anne Levin

Come July, riders on NJ Transit trains may be paying $18.40 to travel one way between Princeton Junction and New York’s Penn Station, up from the current $16. Public comment ended last week for fare increases proposed by NJ Transit earlier this year to close a budget shortfall of $106.6 million.

Since the onset of the pandemic, ridership has returned to approximately 80 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels, with many peak period trips at or exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to a January 24 press release from NJ Transit. But the system is entering the fifth consecutive year of ridership that will be below pre-COVID-19 levels, meaning a loss of nearly $2 billion in revenue. Federal COVID-19 relief funding ends at the end of June 2025. Rising fuel costs, operational costs, wage increases, and health care costs have also contributed to the shortfall.

More than 200 people attended 10 hearings throughout the state last week. The transit line also received “a very robust 1,197 public comments across all feedback channels — nearly double the 672 comments we received back in 2015,” said spokesman Everett Merrill, referring to the last time NJ Transit raised fares.

“I wish you’d look inside your agencies to see any type of bloating that you can cut out,” one man commented at a hearing in Paterson on March 5. Another man who was quoted on a FOX 5 New York television report said, “If they need it for expenses to provide the service, fine. If they’re going to use it to rent out some fancy-shmancy office buildings in the middle of nowhere, that doesn’t work for me.”

A combination of $44 million in cost reductions and an additional $52 million in revenue enhancements have already reduced the originally projected fiscal year 2025 deficit “and offset some mandatory, non-discretionary cost escalations,” reads the press release. “Included in the FY25 revenue enhancements are the proposed conclusion of the FLEXPASS pilot and the implementation of 30-day expiration dates on all one-way tickets. Internal savings and revenue enhancements alone, however, are not sufficient to eliminate this budget gap.”

The 15 percent fare hike would be followed by three percent fare rises each July, in coming years. The proposal does not specify an end date for those increases.

NJ Transit cites improvement in the customer experience “through a variety of enhancements since 2018, including fully restoring the ranks of locomotive engineers, delivering a highly rated and completely redesigned NJ Transit mobile app, introducing new fare payment technologies, and graduating more than 2,300 new bus operators, along with numerous other improvements,” according to the release. The system has operated “with the highest standards of safety and security, including meeting the federal requirements for Positive Train Control in 2020, and expanding the presence of New Jersey Transit Police Department officers throughout the system.”

Some commuters have complained about such issues as late trains, canceled trains, general delays, and the occasional use of old train cars that appear to be past their prime.

“It is important to note that many of the impacts to NJ Transit service on the Northeast Corridor are the result of Amtrak infrastructure issues,” said Merrill. “Amtrak owns, operates, and maintains the Northeast Corridor tracks, overhead wires and signal systems, which trains from Princeton Junction operate on. NJ Transit Rail Operations management staff continues to work with their counterparts at Amtrak to identify improvements to mitigate the impacts these issues have on NJ Transit rail service. Please visit to see an illustration of Amtrak impacts on NJ Transit rail on-time performance and cancellations.”

The NJ Transit board is expected to vote on the fare increases at its April 10 meeting.