Report from governors of New York and New Jersey recommends big changes to PATH train service

IndustriesAssociated Press

A report is calling for privatizing the operations of PATH trains between New Jersey and New York City and scaling back the transit system's hours.

The report was put out over the weekend by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his New York counterpart, Andrew Cuomo.

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The governors offered the recommendations as they both vetoed an overhaul of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the train line, bridges and tunnels and New York-area airports.

Lawmakers from both states unanimously supported measures including requiring an annual independent audit of the agency, creating an inspector general's office and creating whistleblower protection.

The agency has long been seen as an inefficient patronage machine but it received new attention this year after the revelation that one of its officials and an aide to Christie shut down approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge, apparently for political reasons.

The legislation calling for changes and the governors' task force both came in response to that scandal, which is still under investigation by federal investigators.

Some of the biggest changes called for in the panel's 99-page report dealt with PATH.

The trains run from Newark to New York and carry 73 million riders annually, making it among the busiest mass transit systems in the country, though it has less than 30 miles of tracks.

But the report says changes are needed because ridership is declining and revenue is low compared with other train lines.

The panel says a private operator may be able to run the trains more efficiently.

The report notes that the PATH fare of $2.75 per ride is the same no matter how far its passengers travel, unlike other commuter rails systems that charge based on how far riders go.

That could be one reason that fares cover 40 percent of the cost of running the trains — far below the 65 percent average of the 50 biggest heavy rail train systems across the country.

The report says that less than 1 percent of the rides each weekday are between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., and suggests that eliminating that overnight service would mean savings without harming many riders. Only three other commuter train systems in the U.S. operate around the clock.