Greater Greater Washington

Afternoon links: Republicans vs. sustainable transportation


Photo by cwalker71 on Flickr.
ARC tunnel confirmed dead: As expected, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) has officially killed the ARC tunnel. Paul Krugman calls it "arguably the worst policy decision ever made by the government of New Jerseyand that's saying a lot." (Transportation Nation via Second Ave. Sagas)

VA to cut bike/ped funds: The McDonnell administration is proposing to cut $4 million in bike and pedestrian funding. Tell them not to. (Virginia Bicycling Federation)

Why is transit a partisan issue?: Christie, McDonnell ... many Republican governors are oppsing high-speed rail spending in their states ... What's going on? Is it that transit is a public sector industry? If that's the case, then why the hatred for bicycling? Or do conservatives simply oppose everything liberals advocate? Do libertarians just support sprawl because liberals hate it? (TAPPED, Rob Pitingolo)

It pays to live car-free: Hoboken, NJ is offering rewards to citizens who live car-free.

Metro map to change: WMATA is gearing up to redesign the iconic Metro map for rail to Dulles and some likely station name changes. Interestingly, there has been no official decision to call the Dulles line the Silver Line. (WTOP, BeyondDC, Gavin, Steven Yates)

DC "poorly designed"?: So says Jon Stewart, complaining about DC's quadrant system. At least we can figure out what cross street any address goes to without looking it up, unlike your city, Jon. (TBD)

White House gets solar panels: The White House will be adding solar panels to power its hot water heaters. Jimmy Carter, too, put solar panels on the White House, let's hope Obama's panels don't suffer the same fate as Carter's. (The White House)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

Add a comment »

Did somebody say "send us a proposal"?

A new map would be the perfect time to revisit all of the multi-name stations and cut them back to either their original, short name or a better alternative based on their location more than sites that happen to be no closer to any other Metro stop.

by ah on Oct 7, 2010 3:30 pm • linkreport

Or do conservatives simply oppose everything liberals advocate?

Yes. Any other questions I can answer for you this afternoon. Okay, less snarky: without the culture war, the Republicans have nothing but plutocracy, which ain't exactly a recipe for success at the polls in a Democracy where the middle class is rapidly evaporating. So they run on keeping the Negroes enslaved, stopping women from getting the vote, keeping the Negroes from getting the vote, stopping the long-hairs from disrespecting the flag, preventing homosexuals from getting married, etc, etc... which they can convince profoundly stupid people are major threats to the Republic.

Given the choice between not having their children die from an undiagnosed condition due to lack of health insurance, or sending a big "fuck you" to Jane Fonda and the Hollywood elites that are destroying our country from within, they'll choose the F.U. every single time.

captcha: "lnid filounpe" maybe?

by oboe on Oct 7, 2010 3:31 pm • linkreport

Hot water doesn't need a heater.

by spookiness on Oct 7, 2010 3:35 pm • linkreport

Jon's got a few good points (apart from the quadrant system which I actually quite like). Some of these have to do with unrealized portions of the L'enfant plan, modifications as a result of the McMillan plan, installation of railroads (Delaware Ave NE, Virginia Ave SE/W), or security measures, while others are inexplicable and a result of bad planning.

However, for a city that was master-planned with lots of long, straight roads, we still have a lot of gaps at inexplicable intervals, awkward triangular intersections, and weird crap like the fact that the naming of streets around Stanton and Lincoln park makes for some very awkward naming of intersections.

And how did they determine that the stretch of Florida Ave west of 9th St NW should carry the same name? The road literally makes no sense, and underlies the planning-chaos that erupted when DC exceeded the boundaries of L'Enfant's original plan (why does the grid skew 45 degrees in some areas but not others? why did we stick to the naming scheme in places where it literally made no sense to do so (Try to follow T St NE on a map)

We often talk about how freeways create huge physical and psychological barriers between neighborhoods. I agree, but what about Rock Creek Park? It's one heck of a barrier, and is difficult to cross, access, or use. Although I like our little wooded oasis, it's got to be one of the most poorly-conceived urban parks I've ever seen.

How about the directionality of many of our one-way streets? This isn't L'Enfant's fault, but many of the current patterns are bewildering. For a master-planned city with a grid and supposed street-naming convensions, it sure is easy to get lost in DC.

by andrew on Oct 7, 2010 3:46 pm • linkreport

Incidentally, this is the first comment following the Krugman piece:

I have no problem with people who want a particular service, and are willing to pay the tolls necessary to provide it. The problem with "progressives" is that they want the services, and want OTHER people to pay for it.

Could very well have been one of Lance's tongue-in-cheek wind-ups, or written by that GGW commenter who was arguing against HSR on the Northeast corridor on the basis that a single round-trip ticket to Boston on JetBlue was less expensive than the 10-year projected capital costs for the HSR project.

I remember when American conservativism followed a proud intellectual tradition, but I don't think there's any argument that, in the post-Reagan Era, they've managed to corner the market on glib, self-indulgent and proud ignorance.

by oboe on Oct 7, 2010 3:48 pm • linkreport

It's not quite accurate to say you can figure our the cross street based on the address. That's mostly true for the lettered streets (but not universally so) but it's not the case for some of the avenues (such as Wisconsin or Connecticut) or the numbered streets. Sure you can try to remember which 100 block is associated with what lettered cross street, but it's not self evident.

by Reid on Oct 7, 2010 3:50 pm • linkreport

Do libertarians just support sprawl because liberals hate it?

Please don't lump all libertarians together like this. (Also, you seem to be implying that Republicans = libertarians, which I can assure you is not the case, despite the liberal/conservative tendency to see everything along a left/right continuum.) Sure, there are organizations like the Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute that are generally pro-sprawl, but GGW has linked approvingly to our blog before (marketurbanism.com), so there clearly is a model for anti-sprawl libertarianism.

...I should add that most libertarians are against zoning and minimum parking regulations (perhaps the most pro-sprawl rules on the book), which is a position that I rarely see Democrats taking.

Sorry for the rant, but you hit a nerve.

by Stephen Smith on Oct 7, 2010 3:54 pm • linkreport

@ Reid -- The avenues are no more confusing than the numbered streets--the blocks are still (generally) the same.

The real confusion is in determining whether the avenue runs more N/S or more E/W, which determines which way the numbering runs. I always think 2100 block of New Hampshire Avenue should be somewhere in the West End, not up in Meridian Hill.

by ah on Oct 7, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

Perhaps amtrak and acela can eliminate stops at trenton, metro park and newark. It would speed up service.

by stan on Oct 7, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

@ ah: The real confusion is in determining whether the avenue runs more N/S or more E/W, which determines which way the numbering runs.

Never knew that. So, which way is it around?

by Jasper on Oct 7, 2010 3:59 pm • linkreport

@stan:
Actually, since Amtrak owns the North River Tunnels, I think they should say to New Jersey:
1. Until you build new tunnels, you cannot add any trains.
2. If we need to add any trains, yours get bumped.

Unfortunately, it's a bad situation for everyone involved. More rail capacity across the Hudson is desperately needed. And it's going to get built eventually. Unfortunately, it will probably cost more in the long run.

Such a senseless and myopic decision by Christie.

by Matt Johnson on Oct 7, 2010 4:00 pm • linkreport

I was at a loss of words when I found out that ARC was cancelled. How short-sighted and foolish is Chris Christie? I also hate the argument that it's saving "taxpayers money." Well, it's a lot cheaper in the long run to use transit instead of driving into NYC (which can average $160 PER DAY including parking, gas, tolls, etc.)

Thankfully I can say that I no longer consider myself a NJ resident, but this decision still has repercussions for the entire Northeast.

by John on Oct 7, 2010 4:04 pm • linkreport

Re: Why is transit a partisan issue?
C'mon David, you're better than this piece. The reason for conservative skepticism about high-speed rail is quite obvious, though the piece you cite doesn't mention it. The reason is that it is astonishingly expensive, and our country is, you might have heard, digging itself further and further into debt by the day.

Conservatives don't hate bicycling -- indeed many of us are cycling enthusiasts. Conservatives, like everybody else, get annoyed by cyclists who are simultaneously lawless and self-righteous -- but that's not a political issue.

There are many conservative urbanists like me who read your blog faithfully, but portraying conservatives so contemptuously is going to drive us back to nationalreview.com. You don't just want to preach to the liberal choir, do you?

by Nat Greene on Oct 7, 2010 4:13 pm • linkreport

Dear Metro:
Thinner lines. Much thinner lines.

by Eric on Oct 7, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

Never thought it would come to me defending McDonnell, but he has not done anything nearly as idiotic, self-serving, and counter-productive as Christie's move today. In fact, McDonnell has let the expansion of Amtrak service (underway from Kaine admin.) go forward, in sharp contrast to pledges from dim bulb gubernatorial candidates in Ohio and Wisconsin, and of course to Christie's stunt.

The only good thing is that everyone agrees that this tunnel is needed and Christie looks to be governor about as long as Palin was. He seems to be setting himself up to be her VP pick, running even more of a too-hell-with-my-former-constituents campaign than Romney.

McDonnell, on the other hand, seems to have looked at Cucinelli and decided he could not outcompete the field on craziness. It's been a pleasant surprise that he has not played these kind of games in the same way as the likes of Christie. Feel free to correct me, but I am not convinced the association in this post is fair...

by DavidDuck on Oct 7, 2010 4:20 pm • linkreport

Conservatives see mass transit as "European" (*gasp* the HORROR!), old-world, and collectivist.

Cars are seen as American and individualist (you own them, pay for their fuel, set your own routes and schedules).

They identify transit with the old Soviet Union, France (a country they have an unexplainable hatred for), London (seen as 'quaint' and liberal), and crowded Asian megacities. Some Northeast conservatives may differ, but they're a tiny minority in a party now dominated by Southerners and people from the Mountain West (regions which aren't exactly known for having a lot of public transit or sympathy for it).

The auto and the suburban pattern of development meshes well with their interpretation of the "Jeffersonian ideal" (people living on independent freeholds and only interacting with one another as needed). Mass transit and mixed used urbanity, not so much.

To a lot of conservatives, having a car is a sine qua non for being successful (or even for being normal). Only a "loser", poor person, or eccentric crackpot would walk, bike, or take the bus/train to work.

There's also regionalism ("Why should I have to pay into a project that benefits a bunch of damned Yankees?"), knee-jerk anti-environmentalism ("The greenies like this? Then I'M against it!").

Conservatives and CATO/Reason-style libertarians have internalized the idea that cars=freedom, which is why they're OK with the Interstate System and massive subsidies for highways... though they no longer want to raise taxes even to repair the ones we have. Air travel's kind of a one off...it's techincally public transport, but I guess they're OK with the current system because it's possible for an airline company to be privately owned but still take advantage of the FAA, public airports, and government support.

It's a mix of reasons, but it all adds up to American-style conservatives hating public transit.

by Stan Jr. on Oct 7, 2010 4:22 pm • linkreport

If you have to ask a question about GOPers and their Libertarian friends (who are too embarrassed to call themselves Republicans or conservatives), you're wasting too much space.

by Rich on Oct 7, 2010 4:25 pm • linkreport

Actually, since Amtrak owns the North River Tunnels, I think they should say to New Jersey:
1. Until you build new tunnels, you cannot add any trains.
2. If we need to add any trains, yours get bumped.

As a former NJT commuter, I can positively say that they already do this. If your train missed its "slot" on the NEC, you had to wait until the next one that was allotted for your line (and the delays cascaded downward from there). Amtrak traffic always had priority, and I don't believe that there is any remaining tunnel capacity to add trains during rush hour (nor is there much "padding" built into the schedule for delays). NJT's undertaken capacity increases by adding longer trains, introducing bilevel railcars, and will eventually have no choice but to add additional services to Hoboken, and cram everybody onto the PATH in the hopes that they're not going to midtown.

Commuters on the Raritan Valley Line probably get screwed the most, as their line doesn't even go to Secaucus.

I wonder if there's anything that can be done to save the project. It also came to light today that Christie sacrificed a $400M federal grant due to his ongoing witch-hunt against the teachers union. (For those of you not following New Jersey politics, I cannot blame you. However, please understand that I don't use the term "witch hunt" lightly. Based upon his policies as governor, one could reasonably conclude that he's opposed to all forms of public education without resorting to hyperbolic rhetoric.)

by andrew on Oct 7, 2010 4:29 pm • linkreport

@Stan Jr.

They identify transit with the old Soviet Union, France (a country they have an unexplainable hatred for), London (seen as 'quaint' and liberal), and crowded Asian megacities.

You neglected to mention...well...every other developed nation in the known universe, but your point is well-taken. We're America, and we do things differently because we're America, and we do things differently because...

by oboe on Oct 7, 2010 4:31 pm • linkreport

I'm as lefty as they come, but I'd like to offer a much more bloodless explanation as to why conservative office-holders tend to oppose transit projects: because they generally benefit people who live in urban and close-in suburban settings, who are in turn more likely to not vote for conservatives. There's a lot that's been said about the "red state/blue state" divide that's grown over the past decade or two but just as profound is the divide within states, where the type of built environment you live in correlatest strongly with your political leanings. 20 years ago, the commuters who would have benefitted from improved transit would have been much more equally divided between Democrats and Republicans; today, conservatives are more likely to see transit as something that benefits people that they don't know and to whom they cannot relate.

by jfruh on Oct 7, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport

I guess they're OK with the current system because it's possible for an airline company to be privately owned but still take advantage of the FAA, public airports, and government support.

This one's easy: If there's one common creedo that runs through American "Conservative" movement, it's the privatization of gains, and the socialization of losses.

by oboe on Oct 7, 2010 4:35 pm • linkreport

Who do oil companies give money to?

by Gavin on Oct 7, 2010 4:44 pm • linkreport

@Nat Greene:

The idea the conservatives oppose transit and make it a partisan issue is well-earned. There was not a single Republican co-sponsor of S.3412, "Public Transportation Preservation Act of 2010," which would have provided $2B to help cover operating expenses of transit agencies nationwide that are cutting service or raising fares.

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-3412

No Republicans in the House and only three in the Senate supported the Recovery Act which has provided funding for numerous transit projects, commuter rail, and high speed rail. Additionally, Republican candidates across the country are running on the promise of blocking high speed rail.

by Ben on Oct 7, 2010 4:55 pm • linkreport

@Gavin:

Who do oil companies give money to?

They give to *both* parties, of course. But not equally by any stretch of the imagination. And the Democrats who get money generally have voting records further to the right than the 3-4 most centrist Republicans.

by oboe on Oct 7, 2010 5:06 pm • linkreport

Krugman may have deserved his Nobel Prize, but as a pundit he's certainly become a partisan hack. He'd be for a transit project if it cost a trillion dollars and carried three riders, because in his view that's what progressives do.

ARC has become a great example of everything that's wrong with transit spending in this country---a project that doesn't go where it's needed, isn't well designed for future expansion, will cost far more than advocates claim, but relies on "it's the only game in town" and "we need transit" to overcome all objections, no matter how substantive. It's not just conservatives who are tired of that way of doing business. (Personally, I contributed a large amount to Corzine's campaign. But that doesn't stop me from seeing that Christie is getting some things right.)

by David desJardins on Oct 7, 2010 5:20 pm • linkreport

People advocate for ARC, despite the project's shortcomings, because it is an all or nothing deal.

If you want to fix the process, then let's fix the process. I'm all for that, it certainly needs fixing. But let's not kid ourselves that killing this particular project is a good thing. It most certainly is not. It's not like all that money will now be going to another, more worthy transit project.

by Alex B. on Oct 7, 2010 5:24 pm • linkreport

@David desJardins:

He'd be for a transit project if it cost a trillion dollars and carried three riders, because in his view that's what progressives do.

I don't even know the particulars of this project, but I know the whiff of political hackitude, and given the choice between Krugman, and random Internet hack guy, in the absence of compelling evidence otherwise, I'll stick with Krugman.

by oboe on Oct 7, 2010 5:28 pm • linkreport

The reason [for conservative skepticism] is that it is astonishingly expensive, and our country is, you might have heard, digging itself further and further into debt by the day.

Why did "conservatives" only start worrying about debt under Obama, when the ignored the record deficits of Bush II?

by Vicente Fox on Oct 7, 2010 5:29 pm • linkreport

@ Vincente Fox:

"Why did 'conservatives' only start worrying about debt under Obama, when [they] ignored the record deficits of Bush II?"

Most conservatives -- yours truly included -- criticized Bush as a big spender. But we're all the more worried now because Obama quadrupled the deficit immediately upon taking office, and he has more big plans for our children's money.

This chart should also help answer your question:

http://blog.heritage.org/2009/03/24/bush-deficit-vs-obama-deficit-in-pictures/

by Nat Greene on Oct 7, 2010 5:58 pm • linkreport

This chart should also help answer your question...

That's nice and all, but do you have any charts or figures from a source who's charter isn't to make us all more ignorant? Thanks!

by oboe on Oct 7, 2010 6:02 pm • linkreport

"This chart should also help answer your question:"

Oh...the Heritage Foundation. Now there's a unbiased source of info. Just ask Sean Hannity. Something tells me if the money were being spent on a nuclear missile shield, aircraft carriers, or a new bomber program that Conservatives wouldn't bat an eyelash about "their grandkids money".

Obama and the Dems are spending money where it's needed--to shore up the economy. Not throwing it away on military extravagance or tax cuts for the rich. It's called Keynesian economics, and unlike The Gipper's "trickle-down" nonsense, it has a track record of success.

by Johnny T. on Oct 7, 2010 6:16 pm • linkreport

@ Nat Greene That post could be titled "How to Lie with Charts". Nearly all of the deficits past 2009 are a result of the recession, the recovery/bailouts, and the Bush tax cuts and wars.

Not to mention the fact the FY2009 began in October 2008. Obama was inaugurated on January 2009. In January 2009, before Obama had been inaugurated, the CBO projected the FY2009 deficit would be $1.2T, not counting any Obama policies.

by jcm on Oct 7, 2010 6:31 pm • linkreport

The Bay Bridge out here in SF (not the Golden Gate, but the one that runs from SF to Oakland) used to run trains on it -- the Key System. I think we should re-institute the trains here.

I don't know if bridges up in NJ/NY used to run trains, but regardless, let's check the engineering and then get it done.

Also, just take away one of the car tunnels and start running trains through it. Done and done.

by Peter Smith on Oct 7, 2010 6:42 pm • linkreport

@Peter Smith: The Bay Bridge out here in SF (not the Golden Gate, but the one that runs from SF to Oakland) used to run trains on it -- the Key System. I think we should re-institute the trains here.

The new Bay Bridge, among its many other flaws, is not designed so that it could carry trains.

by David desJardins on Oct 7, 2010 7:17 pm • linkreport

@Peter Smith: Also, just take away one of the car tunnels and start running trains through it. Done and done.

You would still have to get the trains from the tunnel to a station in Manhattan. Which is much, if not most, of the cost of ARC in the first place. It's not just the tunnels under the Hudson.

by David desJardins on Oct 7, 2010 7:18 pm • linkreport

@ Peter Smith: There ARE bridges in the area that used to run El trains that don't now (Queensboro and Brooklyn Bridges), with most of the others along the East River carrying streetcars. But nothing ever on the Hudson.

As for turning a tube of the Lincoln or Holland, or lanes on the GWB into rail: only over the dead bodies of NJ/NY commuters. In NYC, when it comes to change, people tend to have a "what it is now, is what it will always be" mentality.

by Eastern on Oct 7, 2010 7:36 pm • linkreport

Damn, the way this thread is going, I might as well just spend all my time at Daily Kos.

/nothing is cuter than the old "but Bush..."

by MPC on Oct 7, 2010 7:39 pm • linkreport

a bad day for trainsit in Jersey

by Jerome on Oct 7, 2010 8:16 pm • linkreport

@MPC:

Yep, let's not bicker and point fingers about who shit all over the bed. The important thing is, the maid's not cleaning the sheets thoroughly nor quickly enough.

I will say this about American "Conservatives": they've got massive, massive balls.

by oboe on Oct 7, 2010 8:48 pm • linkreport

@jfruh: I'm as lefty as they come, but I'd like to offer a much more bloodless explanation as to why conservative office-holders tend to oppose transit projects: because they generally benefit people who live in urban and close-in suburban settings, who are in turn more likely to not vote for conservatives.

I don't think that matches the demographics of ARC at all. The people who commute into Manhattan on NJ Transit (remember, the purpose of this project is to add peak capacity) are, on average, pretty well off. A lot of them are also commuting from pretty far out.

by David desJardins on Oct 7, 2010 9:15 pm • linkreport

@oboe: I don't even know the particulars of this project...

But of course you're for it. Now there's a deep example of critical thinking.

by David desJardins on Oct 7, 2010 9:16 pm • linkreport

It's "Jon Stewart" not "John Stewart". Simple mistake, I don't mean to nitpick. Also, he's right. The quadrant system is confusing. I see people get it wrong all the time.

by David C on Oct 7, 2010 11:03 pm • linkreport

I'm as lefty as they come, but I'd like to offer a much more bloodless explanation as to why conservative office-holders tend to oppose transit projects: because they generally benefit people who live in urban and close-in suburban settings, who are in turn more likely to not vote for conservatives.

Maybe I can provide some perspective here: I lived in Chris Christie's hometown for 18 years (Population ~6,000). There is no public transit, except for a bus that arrives 4 times daily to bring a handful of housekeepers into town in the morning, and hauls them away at night. I do not know of a single resident of the town who has ever used the bus. Also, I do not know of a single occasion during which the town has ever voted for a Democrat (much like, but opposite to DC, the Republican primary is the only election that matters). After all, if the Republicans support Reganomics, why would the wealthy ever vote Democratic?

However, the town is indeed heavily transit-dependent. With a median income of $136,000, it's no surprise that the town has its share of Wall Street traders, along with a wide range of New York City businessmen and women. Given the frankly *insane* amount of time and money it requires for one to commute into New York City by car, most of these people commute daily via New Jersey Transit from Morristown, Bernardsville, or Convent Station (all a ~15-20 minute drive and $5 parking pass away). I did it myself for a year, and apart from the expense, it was a pretty nice way to commute, even if it did require a 15 minute drive, 60 minute train ride, and 20 minute subway ride/walk once in Manhattan, but I digress...

Chris Christie is incredibly popular in New Jersey, because he's perceived as the first person in decades to do away with wasteful government spending and taxation. Unfortunately, even though NJ does indeed have historic patterns of wasteful/inefficient spending, the reality is somewhat less rosy, as he's taken the machete to some fairly benign and inexpensive social programs, and hasn't made a dent in the state's budget.

Even though he's enjoyed the unfaltering support of the wealthy (and moderately-wealthy), I suspect that he's going to alienate a considerable portion of his base as a result of this decision. NJTransit is the great equalizing factor -- all of the power brokers ride it, and the wage-workers in Newark board the very same train a few stops down the line to travel to their jobs in New York City. There are very few NJ residents who will be happy with this decision, especially once NJT reaches capacity, and has to begin turning away passengers.

If the media pick up on this story and adequately convey the level of damage that has been done as a result of this decision, Chris Christie's reelection prospects will be essentially nil, come 2013.

(Sidenote: I'm a leftie, and apart from certain members of his administration (Ken Cuccinelli) and his meddling with the Metro board, I really have no major beef with Bob McDonnell. He seems to have done a good job of judiciously trimming his state's budget without resorting to reckless and drastic cuts. Conservatives are foolish to group him in with Christie. He's so much better.)

by andrew on Oct 8, 2010 12:53 am • linkreport

@andrew: If the media pick up on this story and adequately convey the level of damage that has been done as a result of this decision, Chris Christie's reelection prospects will be essentially nil, come 2013.

I just think you're vastly overselling the actual merits and benefits of ARC. As you say, it's already a long commute including getting from Penn Station to wherever you actually want to go. Do those commuters really want train capacity that takes them to the deep underground ARC station? I think if the media explains how inconvenient the actual project would have been even if completed, they won't see it as a big loss to them personally.

by David desJardins on Oct 8, 2010 2:31 am • linkreport

@DavidDesJardin:

Yep, and your profound understanding of the issue--arrived at over an afternoon of poring over Heritage Foundation whitepapers--gives you a unique perspective. Too bad you won't conceive an argument and share it rather than simply flinging generic Teabagger chaff. You might be in danger of convincing someone.

by oboe on Oct 8, 2010 7:56 am • linkreport

As great as the tunnel would be, there is a positive side to this. In some way, it will encourage development IN NEW JERSEY, closer to where most people can afford to live. The tunnel would encourage more commutes to NYC, in some way INCREASING sprawl into NJ.
Now I know there are plenty of benefits to the tunnel as well but it's not the golden project of urbanism that some have made it out to be.
The benefits are for the region, not strictly NJ so I don't blame Christie for not wanting to foot most of the bill.

by Pat on Oct 8, 2010 8:01 am • linkreport

@Pat

Ahh yes, the anti-rail because it's "sprawl" argument.

These aren't Loudoun County-style suburbs this thing is serving. These are places that will transition to denser urban environments eventually. Or are you suggesting that the density of Manhattan should increase so that more people can live closer to CBD jobs?

A second set of tunnels HAS to be built at some point - the existing ones are at 100%. So yeah, delaying projects that have already started is a waste of taxpayer money.

by MLD on Oct 8, 2010 9:29 am • linkreport

The ARC is the kind of project I'd support, but is there an estimate anywhere of the value of the completed tunnel. If it is more than the original cost and less than the new expected cost, this would be a defensible act. I doubt that is the case, but before we decide the cost overruns are worth it, we should know the value of the end product.

by David C on Oct 8, 2010 9:34 am • linkreport

but is there an estimate anywhere of the value of the completed tunnel

That's a bit of a loaded question. How exactly do you measure the value, and over what period of time do you do it? By all measures, we've gotten a tremendous "value" out of the existing 100-year-old tunnels, although it currently stands as a dangerous bottleneck in the country's infrastructure. If a train stalls in the tunnel, you strand around 100,000 people in a tiny train station, and create cascading delays all the way south to Richmond, and north to Boston.

Many of the towns served by NJT are "walkable" suburbs (in the style of DC's "streetcar suburbs," as the trains have existed for a loooong time). However, there are a number of park & rides.

by andrew on Oct 8, 2010 9:41 am • linkreport

It wasn't meant to be loaded. At my work we do a cost benefit analysis before spending any real money. Surely one was done for this project. I just want to know if anyone knows what the benefit was that they determined. Surely they didn't decide that the benefit and cost don't matter.

by David C on Oct 8, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport

@David C, it is a good question of how you determine the cost benefits of a project like this, which will serve the region for a century or more (after all, the original tunnels that the ARC is going to relieve were built in 1910). I'm not trying to discount the need to quantify things, but I do wonder if conventional accounting methods can realistically describe the lifetime benefits of a piece of infrastructure that will last longer than anyone today will be alive, and will continue being used when the economy is radically different from ours today in ways we probably can't even understand (any more than the folks who signed off on the original Hudson tunnels in 1910 could understand ours).

On a vaguely related note, it is easy to throw around scary numbers about how many billions the project is overrunning, but over a 7-10 year construction timeframe they start to look like a much smaller portion of the state budget.

by jfruh on Oct 8, 2010 10:04 am • linkreport

The ARC project was using FTA New Starts money. The New Starts program has extensive cost-benefit analysis as a part of it.

by Alex B. on Oct 8, 2010 10:06 am • linkreport

I'm pretty interested in the coming brouhaha over whether or not Christie will be able to divert the Port Authority contribution to the project to other NJ transportation projects. I think that is the key to this whole thing - the NJ transportation fund is almost empty and regardless of the merits of ARC, Christie sees this as a way to fund NJ roads throughout NJ without having to raise taxes. I'm not so sure that the PANYNJ will let him divert the funds to non PANYNJ-related projects. The PANYNJ doesn't exist to fund local road projects down in Salem or Burlington or Cumberland county and at some point they're going to weigh in.

by andy on Oct 8, 2010 10:11 am • linkreport

jfruh, there are ways to determine the present value of future gains. They discount quite a bit over time though. The farther out you're talking about, the less value they have (because the opportunity cost goes up and maintenance costs go up, etc...)

It may very well be that the net present value of the project is $1T in which case a few billion dollars extra is unsubstantial.

by David C on Oct 8, 2010 10:11 am • linkreport

See page 148 of this PDF (large file!) from the FTA on the full funding grant agreement for the ARC tunnel:

http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/20090508_Release_FY_2010_Annual_Report.pdf

The project received a cost-effectiveness rating of 'medium' from FTA and an overall rating of 'medium-high.'

Now, FTA's cost-effectiveness methodology can often leave a lot to be desired, but that's usually in the other direction - e.g. it overestimates costs while underestimating benefits.

by Alex B. on Oct 8, 2010 10:14 am • linkreport

It may very well be that the net present value of the project is $1T in which case a few billion dollars extra is unsubstantial.

Whatever the price tag, you can knock off $600 million in already costs.

http://transportationnation.org/2010/10/07/nj-u-s-senator-menendez-a-600-million-hole-in-the-ground/

by oboe on Oct 8, 2010 10:26 am • linkreport

@Andy; my reading was the ARC money was coming from highway tolls, which will instead to redirected to the TTF to fund it, instead of raising gas taxes.

Still a possibility this is a negotiating stance. I can see why NJ would be concerned about the ultimate price tag.

There is a powerful case for not raising the gas tax during a recession like this. You can change behavior but it takes some time -- basically a new car or new commuting pattern. $4 gasoline really hurt a lot of people, and I think it was a major factor throwing us into recessions.

That being said, there is clearly room for something like a 25 to 35 cent increase in the gas tax on either the federal or state side before there is too much pain.

by charlie on Oct 8, 2010 10:45 am • linkreport

@charlie

There's 3 roughly equal funding components - the fed contribution, the state contribution, and the $3 billion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - an interstate regional authority which built and operates most of the bridges and tunnels in NYC. Christie basically wants to take this money - from an interstate authority and meant to be used for an interstate project - and use it to fund transportation projects solely within New Jersey that he isn't willing to fund himself with New Jersey dollars.
From the NYT article : "He said he also expected to be able to redirect the Port AuthorityÂ’s $3 billion to other projects in the state, though he did not identify any."

I don't know where he thinks he has the authority to misappropriate the Port Authority money to replenish the state fund, but I think that's what's going to end up being determinative. New Yorkers are really going to love seeing the tolls that they pay on their bridges being used to fund New Jersey roads that should be funded by New Jerseyites. Should be a lot of fun to watch.

If Christie's main point of this whole thing is to get his hands on the Port Authority's $3 billion and he is unable to, it's just possible that this project could go back on the table.

by andy on Oct 8, 2010 11:42 am • linkreport

Not to jump the thread, but - random question: after reading that article on the Metro maps, I was surprised to read that the "so called" Silver Line is not officially "Silver." In fact, there is no color designated yet. Is that true? Could Metro make it whatever color they want? Not a big issue or deal at all, but just curious.

by Shipsa01 on Oct 8, 2010 10:13 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or