Update on Governors’ Proposal to Cut PATH: Riders’ Council, Public, Lawmakers Respond

Transit riders and lawmakers on both sides of the Hudson have reacted swiftly and strongly to the suggestion by Governors Christie and Cuomo to cut overnight PATH service between 1:00-5:00 AM. The PATH Riders’ Council issued a statement strongly opposing elimination of service, and PRC Vice Chair Stewart Mader spoke to PIX11’s Greg Mocker about the need for legislative oversight of reforms.

Early Tuesday morning, NJ.com reporter Brian Donohue interviewed riders who rely on the trains that run between 1-5AM:

Take a ride on the PATH train at that time of night, talk to the working stiffs who rely on the PATH to get to their service industry jobs. Meet a few IT workers who keep the servers running for Manhattan firms 24/7. Or the Wall Streeters whose long hours and high salaries are pumping millions into the boomtown that is Jersey City these days. Speak with them and you’ll see what a downright dastardly idea this is. In today’s video, I did just that – I skipped sleep last night to get a look at how the idea is going over in the tubes under the Hudson River in the pre-dawn hours.

US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said the Governors should not use reform as a “Trojan Horse’ for cutting transit:

As someone who has consistently fought for resources to help New Jersey commuters and expand our public transit systems, I have serious concerns with the Governors’ proposal to privatize PATH or cut system services. The notion of using Port Authority reform as a ‘Trojan Horse’ for transit cutbacks is ill-conceived. More than anywhere else in the nation, our region depends on transit for our economic viability and quality of life.

Menendez told WCBS880’s Steve Scott: “The global economy doesn’t stop at 1AM, and neither should the PATH”.

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-NJ) told the Star-Ledger that he opposes ending overnight PATH service, and plans to meet with Port Authority Chair John Degnan. Sweeney is the highest-ranking official in either state to oppose the plan, and he is said to be weighing a run for Governor in 2017.

It’s important that we have a very thorough discussion on all the recommendations that have been put forward,” Sweeney said in a phone interview this morning. “The PATH recommendation is not a good one. It’s a bad one. We created urban enterprise zones for mass transit. We need to focus on ensuring that the PATH stays with the service that it has.

State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack (D-NJ) issued a statement opposing the cuts:

I am strongly opposed to the termination of overnight PATH service, as this means of transportation is the only practical way for some of my constituents to travel to and from New York City,” Stack said in a statement. “As the economy is only beginning to rebound, employees do not have the freedom to select optimum work hours, depending on overnight service to put food on the table. Accessible transportation to New York City, on a 24 hours basis, is what makes communities on this side of the Hudson so attractive to prospective residents. This idea needs immediate reconsideration.

Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-NY), one of the legislation’s sponsors in New York, told WNYC there was no justification for vetoing the reforms:

All of these provisions in one way shape or form are elements of existing laws in New York and or New Jersey. There is no justification or rational basis for rejecting them.

Since the legislative session during which the bill was initially passed ends at midnight, Brennan’s spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal he plans to reintroduce the bill when the 2015 legislative session begins in January. If the bill reaches Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk and he again vetoes it, the New York legislature would then attempt an override.

The reform bill’s primary sponsor in New Jersey, State Senator Robert Gordon (D-NJ), told the Bergen Record he intends to attempt an override of the veto:

Gordon said he feels the vote is an important move for both legislatures to fight for reforms they worked hard to craft and should be implemented at the Port Authority. The panel’s recommendations, he said, are commendable but would not be bound by law, a major sticking point for legislators.

“What the governor was doing, I think, was decorative. He was in effect stopping the effort to give the agency up for scrutiny, but proposing different reforms, which were not mutually exclusive, so he could look like the great reformer,” Gordon said.

Gordon told the Star-Ledger he has the support of Senate President Sweeney:

“We made that decision last night. I contacted the senate president. He’s agreed. We’re in the process of trying to finalize a date. We’re looking at mid-January and possibly the same day as the State of the State Address, since everyone will be there.”

Assembyman John Wisniewski (D-NJ) questioned whether the move was a form of retaliation by Governor Chris Christie against Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, but Fulop was quick to dismiss the suggestion:

I honestly don’t think that the motivation is retaliation,” Fulop said. “But I think it is just a byproduct of laziness in solutions by the authors of the report coupled with neither governor ever riding the PATH at night. In the end it is less relevant why and more important that this doesn’t move forward.

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