Monday, April 9, 2012

These Zones of Freedom!

I came across this notice taped to the window of a Red and Tan bus last week:

I apologize for the blurry words. Let me transcribe them:
In accordance with the "Zone of Rate Freedom" provisions of N.J.A.C. 16:53D-1.1 and N.J.A.C. 16:53D-1.2, the undersigned has filed a tariff with the New Jersey Department of Transportation for an increase in all its regular one-way intrastate fares effective May 1, 2012 as follows: All present fares are increased 10¢ per ride.

School ticket book fares per ride will be 66% of the increased regular one-way adult fares and senior and handicapped citizen fares will be 50% of the increased regular one-way adult fares so long as the state reimbursement programs for such reduced fare rates continue.

The increased fares are within the "Zone of Rate Freedom" established by the Commissioner of Transportation of the State of New Jersey.

Further information may be obtained at the company's office, 201-263-1254, or by contacting the Office of Regulatory Affairs, Motor Vehicle Commission, 225 East State Street, PO Box 162, Trenton, NJ 08666-0162.

Rockland Coaches, Inc.
180 Old Hook Road
Westwood, New Jersey 07675

This tells us at least two interesting things: (1) There is something called a "Zone of Rate Freedom" that constrains rate changes by private bus operators in New Jersey. It sounds like those "Free Speech Zones" at protests that remind you how much freedom you have by limiting it. (2) New Jersey has a reimbursement program providing low fares for students, seniors and "handicapped citizens."

I should make it clear that this relates to intrastate fares, in other words for trips that do not cross into New York, Pennsylvania or Delaware. There's a transportation lawyer who has a nice little history (if a little dated) of bus regulation in New Jersey. The Zone of Rate Freedom for interstate bus fares has been limitless since the 1980s (PDF).

Back in 2002, Tri-State had trouble finding out what the Zone of Rate Freedom was (PDF). It's determined every year by the New Jersey DOT, but it's not on the DOT's website. It is available, as they say, from Lexis-Nexis, so here's the latest edition for your reading pleasure. If you don't feel like reading through all that legalese, here's the Plain English summary: ±10%.


N.J.A.C. 16:53D-1.1 (2012)

§ 16:53D-1.1 General provisions

(a) Any regular route autobus carrier operating within the State, which carrier seeks to revise its rates, fares, or charges in effect as of the time of the promulgation of this rule, shall not be required to conform with N.J.A.C. 16:51-3.12, Tariff filings that do not propose increases in charges to customers, or 3.13, Tariff petitions that propose increases in charges to customers, provided the increase or decrease in the rate, fare, or charge, or the aggregate of increases and decreases in any single rate, fare, or charge is not more than the maximum percentage increase (10 percent for 2012) or decrease (10 percent for 2012), upgraded to the nearest $.05.

1. For illustrative purposes, the following chart sets forth the 2012 percentage maximum for increases to particular rates, fares, or charges and the resultant amount as upgraded to the nearest $.05:

Present Fare Percent of Increase Increase Upgraded To
Nearest $.05
$ 2.00 or less 10.0% $.20
$ 2.05-$ 2.50 10.0% $.25
$ 2.55 upward 10.0% $.30+

2. For illustrative purposes, the following chart sets forth the 2012 percentage maximum for decreases to particular rates, fares, or charges and the resultant amount as upgraded to the nearest $.05:

Present Fare Percent of Decrease Decrease Upgraded To
Nearest $.05
$.50 or less 10% $.05
$.55 to $ 1.00 10% $.10
$ 1.05 upward 10% $.15+

3. Except as may be provided in the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, changes to student, senior, transfer, interline and other unique rates, fares or charges for a regular route shall not be subject to the requirements of this chapter, provided they remain less than the current or adjusted regular route fare applicable to the route.

I love how they give you little examples in case you have trouble figuring out what ten percent of two dollars is. Yeah, I know that the ZORF could potentially be set to 17.3% and the fare could be $2.38, but still. Based on the history given in the Chapter Notes, it looks like it's been ten percent since at least 1984. But every five years they have a hearing. Those must be fun.

You know what else is funny? Coachusa doesn't even list the intrastate fares on their website.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Hah! I saw that notice as well, while riding out to visit family in NJ.