Rail services would be required to provide passengers with proof of payment for their ticket under a bill approved Monday by the New Jersey Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee.
Currently, passengers on the light rail need to purchase tickets at one machine and validate, or “time stamp,” them at another.
If a riders forget to validate their tickets, they face a fine of $75, the same penalty as fare evasion.
Drivers or conductors on NJ Transit buses and commuter rail check tickets for validity, but riders on the light rail are asked only to show time-stamped paper tickets or monthly passes sporadically when requested by a fare enforcement officer.
Some passengers have simply hopped on the train for free, only to later be caught at a different station by fare enforcement officers who rove platforms and light rail vehicles at unspecified times to check if passengers have validated and purchased a ticket.
The new bill (A-1223) is sponsored primarily by Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D Hudson) who represents parts of Hoboken, Jersey City, Union City, and Weehawken. Under the bill, when passengers buy a ticket they would receive proof of payment that would include the time period for which the ticket is valid or the time of expiration so that light rail riders would not need to take the additional step to time stamp their tickets at validation machines.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, NJ Transit made electronic tickets available to light rail riders last year via their smartphones, which are valid three minutes after activation Previously, only monthly passes for the light rail were available for purchase on the app.
Following that activation, valid tickets expire after 60 minutes on the HBLR and Newark Light Rail lines, and 75 minutes on the River LINE.
Under the bill, proof of payment would be printed or delivered to users electronically.
“There’s no reason for someone who rightfully bought a light rail ticket but failed to validate it to be penalized equally to a person who did not buy a ticket,” Chaparro said. “Some riders may expect a conductor to validate their ticket, just as they do on commuter rails, or may not know they’re supposed to time stamp their own ticket at a separate machine. With varying policies and procedures across NJ Transit services, it’s easy to see why there could be confusion.”
She said the bill aims to quash the confusion.
“This bill simplifies the ticket validation process for riders by providing them proof of payment and ticket validity,” she said. “The goal is to protect passengers from being unfairly penalized and make the system easier for all.”