On Wednesday, May 13th, 2015, I attended a public meeting of the New Jersey Transit board of directors at NJT headquarters in Newark. With a proposed fare hike looming in spite of service and equipment failures, and said hike intended only to "keep the lights on" and not to improve anything in any way, twelve of us took turns at the microphone to complain, to chastise, to suggest... to be heard. After brief unscripted condolences for the victims, and their families, of the fatal Amtrak derailing the night before, I read the following (from my Nexus 7 and not a printout - got to stay green!). (Update: NJ.com put up this article about the meeting, featuring a picture of me at the mike, and WNYC put up this one, which has my name misspelled, but still...)
My name is Andersen Silva, and I had to leave my job in Paramus, 20 miles away, at 2:30 PM in order to make it here by 5. One bus, two trains… two hours. In my efforts to be as green as possible, to reduce my footprint on the environment and the roadways as well as to save a little money, I’ve opted not to own a car, but New Jersey Transit makes it harder and harder to justify that decision, and asking us to accept a 9% fare increase simply to maintain the woefully inadequate status quo is pushing the boundaries of fairness and good taste. For me, personally, a 9% increase will cost approximately an additional $250 a year, which I could accept if it bought fewer breakdowns, more frequent service, and fewer missed connections. However, I fear the floggings will continue until morale improves.
While I certainly ride New Jersey Transit to and from New York City on weekends and for concerts and other events, I’m probably one of the few regular intrastate commuters you’ll hear from today, and we’ve got it just as bad as the interstate commuters. When the Bergen Line train gets me to Ridgewood two minutes too late to make the 752 bus in the middle of the winter, there’s no heated area at the bus transfer for me to wait inside for 28 minutes until the next one. Secaucus Junction and Hoboken Terminal might be more comfortable, but no one wants to wait for a train for an hour and a half at either place on a weekend night. Quiet Cars and the MyTix app and My Bus Now are nice, but they’ll never make up for delays and long lines and wait times.
I call upon State Senator Paul Sarlo, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, and Assemblywoman Marlene Caride to represent my fellow commuters and me in the legislature and fight to restore $60 million in subsidies to New Jersey Transit’s budget, and avoid this unfair fare hike. Not investing in our public transportation system, turning a blind eye to the crumbling Hudson tunnels and the failing Portal Bridge, refusing to prioritize the rapid and efficient movement of people to and from jobs inside and outside the state… that’s not the way to go. There are two toll lanes closed, the bridge is out, and I doubt I’ll be the only one to jump if something isn’t done soon. Thank you.