Slight update to New Year's Post #3: top transportation stories
-- New Year's Post #2: DC area top transportation stories of 2014
In the discussion, commenter h st ll made the point wrt item #27. While high speed rail development continues to be controversial and languish in California, that I was selling the state of California high speed rail short, that it was about to start construction.
Item 27 is listed in the section of "Other/National" matters.
He's right of course. Yesterday, the first (ceremonial) groundbreaking, highlighting the start of construction occurred in Fresno. See "Groundbreaking at Fresno for high-speed rail ,"from the Sacramento Bee. From the article:
"Everything big runs into opposition," Brown said, calling the project's critics - some of them protesting at the fence line - "weak of spirit."The Other/National section has another 9 items, ending at #30.
But there should be at least one other item added, numbered around 24 or 25, which would make the total number of items at 31.
The veto by Governor Cuomo of New York and Governor Christie of New Jersey of reform and accountability legislation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The legislation grew out of investigations concerning the 2013 lane closure scandal on the George Washington Bridge, which was done to "punish" a Democratic mayor who didn't endorse Republican Governor Christie for reelection.
The scandal touched off greater consideration of the way the authority, a bi-state authority where the board members are appointed by the governors of each state, and certain executive positions are "allocated" between the states, operates and the misuse of funds, especially by New Jersey, for projects not related to the mission of the agency. That led to the accountability legislation, unprecedentedly passed unanimously by the legislatures of each state.
But not wanting more checks on their power, the governors vetoed the legislation. It's not clear if the legislatures will be able to override the vetoes ("Opinion: Port Authority reform is needed now," Bergen Record).
Separately, at the behest of the governors, a commission was formed to review the operations of the authority, and they released the report last Saturday, when the veto actions were announced.
-- Keeping the Region Moving, A report prepared by The Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority for The Governors of New York and New Jersey
From "Port Authority transformation will take time, top appointees say" (Bergen Record):
Those include selling the recently completed One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, handing over operation of the PATH train system to NJ Transit or another operator, and shuttering a small port on the Brooklyn waterfront and turning it over to commercial developers.
Part of the financial problems faced by the Port Authority concern PATH, the subway system connecting Newark, Harrison, Hoboken, and Jersey City to lower Manhattan. The system has an annual deficit of $300 million.
PATH is both railroad and subway, because in some places the tracks interlock with Amtrak and NJ Transit commuter railroad services.
Therefore PATH is regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration, not the Federal Transit Administration. Not only does that make regulation more expensive, PATH ends up not being eligible for funding from FTA for the provision of urban transit services.
Among the report's discussion is the suggestion that PATH should be priced as a railroad service rather than a subway service, pegged to the pricing of the NYC Subway ("Doblin: The road less traveled is called the PATH," Bergen Record; "What's the real reason the Port Authority is targeting the PATH," NJ.com).
Meanwhile Hoboken and Jersey City have successfully positioned their cities as an extension of New York City, but cheaper, because of PATH service (not unlike how Rosslyn and Crystal City in Arlington County are positioned vis-a-vis Downtown DC). It happens that Hoboken has the highest rate of transit ridership of any city in the US.
Now, Harrison too is experiencing a building boom because of proximity to NYC and PATH's connections to Manhattan.
Another Port Authority financial burden is the $4 billion transit center in lower Manhattan, built to replace the station that had been at the World Trade Center. ("How Cost of Train Station at World Trade Center Swelled to $4 billion," New York Times). For a variety of reasons beyond setting "a reasonable expense based on ridership" (30,000 people daily), the choice was made to construct an "iconic station" which ended up costing billions.
A future financial burden is the extension of PATH to Newark International Airport, duplicating service provided by the NJ Transit commuter railroad. Construction is expected to start in 2018.
(Were I the transit czar there, I'd probably merge PATH into the MTA/New York City subway system, excepting that $300 million financial burden. PATH accepts MetroCards already, but not MTA passes. That creates different problems sure, but the PATH system, formerly the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, is about leveraging access to Manhattan.)