Thursday, October 7, 2010

The War On Trains

Ugh... apparently this is going to be a thing now: (via atrios)
TRENTON — Two senior officials say Gov. Chris Christie today will kill the controversial $8.7 billion Hudson River rail tunnel project, which he says the state cannot afford to build.
. . .
The tunnel, the largest public works project in the U.S., was to double train capacity between New Jersey and midtown Manhattan when it was completed by the end of 2018.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who has been trying to keep the tunnel project on track, has called a rebuttal news conference for 3 p.m. outside Newark Penn Station, anticipating the cancellation by the governor.

Memo from ARC Project Executive Committee:
“Canceling the tunnel project is not just bad transportation policy – it’s bad fiscal policy,” Lautenberg said in a statement earlier today.
These people are such idiots.

Update: Krugman has more on the economics:
The usual suspects on the comment board are, inevitably, arguing that rail transit should pay for itself. The obvious response is that road transit doesn’t; why should only public transit have to self-finance, when private vehicles generally drive on free roads built and maintained out of taxes?

But in a way that misses the larger point: urban transportation is an area in which we know that market prices bear very little relationship to true social costs. Even if you ignore environmental impacts and the national security implications of oil imports, the fact is that driving in an urban area, especially in rush hour, imposes huge congestion externalities on other people. And I mean huge: Felix Salmon had a nice piece last year putting the external cost you impose on other people by driving into lower Manhattan at $160 a day. (I can’t find the reference, but Dave Barry once had an “ask Mr. Question Authority” about how long it takes to drive across Manhattan during rush hour. The answer was that nobody has ever succeeded in driving across Manhattan during rush hour.)

Now, Econ 101 says that the first-best answer to these externalities is to make people pay these social costs; if we did, New Jersey Transit could charge much higher fares! But since that isn’t going to happen — at best, we may someday get a modest congestion charge — we’re into second-best territory.

And rail transit takes people off the roads, thereby yielding a large benefit that doesn’t show in NJT’s books.
Right around the start of the Obama's presidency I went to a talk where a Steelworkers official stood at a podium next to someone from the chamber of commerce, both in agreement about how everyone benefits from improvements to our infrastructure.

These people don't have a method to their madness, they're just know-nothing shitheads, who will blindly destroy any good idea in their way and claim they did it on principle afterwords. It's really fucking depressing.

1 comment:

  1. Watching train-related politics around NYC is always horrifying. The MTA is set to raise the cost of an unlimited fare card by $14 a month, after raising it like $10 just last year. The alternative they proposed would make the unlimited no longer unlimited (limited to 90 rides a month), which would be even crazier - punishing, most directly, the people who need to use the train to get to more than one job per day.

    There's just this palpable, crazy expectation that the subway system should break even, which is true NO WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD. Bah.