This story originally appeared on 6abc.
Facing a ballooning deficit and lower ridership, New Jersey Transit has announced plans to raise fares by 15% on July 1 and by an additional 3% annually.
The fare hike on its bus and train network would be the first since Governor Phil Murphy took office six years ago.
New Jersey Transit has been struggling with a significant drop in ridership since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.
Ridership has returned to only 80% of pre-pandemic levels, resulting in a reduction of nearly $2 billion in fare revenue.
While NJ Transit received billions of dollars in federal aid, the agency says that money is nearly exhausted.
In July, NJ Transit estimated a $119 million deficit for the next fiscal year.
The agency plans to reduce that deficit through $44 million in cost reductions and $52 million in revenue enhancements but says the fare hike is needed to close the remaining gap.
NJ Transit will hold 10 scheduled public hearings in 10 New Jersey counties, including both morning and evening sessions, beginning Monday, March 4, 2024, through Friday, March 8, 2024.
Customers may visit www.njtransit.com/hearing for more information regarding the fare adjustment proposal, the public hearings, and to submit comments/questions electronically.