Tuesday, April 03, 2012

NJ Transit Does Not Expect To Raise Fares in 2012

Thank goodness for small miracles. NJ Transit has announced that it doesn't intend to increase fares once again in 2012. Considering that the level of service has been quite poor - despite NJ Transit metrics claiming otherwise - riders are going to breathe a temporary sigh of relief.
Executive Director James Weinstein told members of the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday the fiscal 2013 state budget does not include any fare increases.

Weinstein also explained the agency has ordered 1,400 buses, which will be phased in to replace older vehicles.
The NJ Transit budget includes the purchase of 1,400 new buses, but I've got to wonder whether these new buses will be significantly more fuel efficient than buses currently in use.

With rising fuel costs, a modest boost to fuel efficiency would have significant monetary effect on the agency. The 2011 annual report. Consider the following:
Fuel and propulsion expenses increased $18.6 million,
or 14.5 percent. Fuel expenses increased $16.2 million, or 19.4 percent, as a result of a $0.52 per gallon increase in the cost of diesel fuel. Propulsion expenses increased $2.4 million, or 5.4 percent, reflecting an increase in charges from the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) for traction power on the Northeast Corridor rail line. Utilities expenses decreased $5.7 million, or 12.4 percent, as a result of reduced expenses for non-propulsion electricity, heating gas and telecommunications.
Fuel expenses increased nearly 20% as a result of a major rise in diesel fuel costs.

What's particularly infuriating is that getting fuel economy specifications for various buses in service is quite difficult. MCI, which produces the bulk of buses NJ Transit operates, does not include a fuel economy figure for its buses, including its most current iteration of the D series (the most common bus in NJ Transit operation).

Despite claims that fuel economy standards could be relatively easy to implement in buses and trucks, it seems that fuel economy standards and improving fuel economy in bus fleets is far more difficult to achieve. For starters, it might be worth it for the EPA to focus on requiring manufacturers to list the fuel economy for its vehicles so that customers - transit agencies - can decide how best to spend the money rather than to continue working with manufacturers who have always provided vehicles albeit with not the best fuel economy. If a transit agency is working with a manufacturer that already provides good fuel economy, so much the better but there's no way to know.

Fact is that with fuel costs continuing to rise, this will eat away at fare increases and transit budgets despite higher demand. NJ Transit should do more to inform its customers and manufacturers of its needs to have higher fuel efficiency vehicles to maximize its investment in its bus fleet.

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