NEW BRUNSWICK - The first public meeting on a series of NJ Transit fare hikes and service changes was held Saturday at the New Brunswick library.

NJ Transit officials say they have to fill a $56 million hole in their budget. They are proposing fare hikes. The fare increases would vary by line and transportation mode but they would represent a 9 percent increase on average for most commuters.

There are also some planned eliminations and changes to service.

Plenty of commuters and lawmakers are speaking out against the proposal.

Natasha Smith, of New Brunswick, said the agency needs to do a better job of managing its money, rather than looking to customers to make up funding differences.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-District 19) pointed out that Gov. Chris Christie pulled $7 million in funding for transit in 2016.

"It's a slap in the face to New Jersey residents," said Ray Greaves, of the Amalgamated Transit Union. "It's a slap in the face to commuters."

Transit officials say their costs have increased in areas such as health care and liability insurance. They also say they have already found $42 million in savings.

Also under the proposal, certain hours of service on the Pascack Valley and Montclair-Boonton lines would be cut to reduce costs. Bus fares would rise from $1.50 to $1.60 per ride, but discounts for senior citizens and the military would remain.

If approved, the service changes would start in September and prices would increase on Oct. 1.

The next hearings are May 18 in Freehold and Atlantic City