Post #100 on the Transit Pass!

It is not news that economic downturns are particularly hard on transit, just like all government services.  At the moment that affordable government services and assistance are most needed is also the time when government can least afford to provide them.

The voters of New Jersey reap what they sow.  They dumped their CEO-governor Jon Corzine for the Republican challenger who promised the unattainable Holy Grail of New Jersey politics, lower property taxes.  Now in office, Chris Christie has dealt with New Jersey’s budget deficit by cutting services and refusing to raise taxes, on anyone.  Of course, when you don’t raise taxes you can still effectively tax many people by offering fewer governmental services.  Therefore, Joe Millionaire is barely affected by the situation but Jane Minimum-Wage is put into an even more difficult situation because suddenly day care, transit, health care, etc. are less available and more expensive.  Perhaps that is good politics for a Republican, but it is certainly bad governance.

Governor Chris Christie in February said he would cut the state’s $296 million annual subsidy for NJ Transit by 11 percent, or $33 million, to help close a $2.2 billion deficit in the state budget for the fiscal year ending June 30. Christie, 47, a Republican who took office in January on a pledge not to raise taxes, introduced a $29.3 billion budget last month that contains $10 billion in spending reductions.

Christie, in a March 17 interview, said “there’s no way to fix” NJ Transit’s budget woes without raising fares. The governor also said he supported increasing transit fees over putting tolls on free roads in New Jersey including Interstates 78, 80, 195 and 295.

Specifically, Christie has cut NJ Transit’s funding by 11%.  In response, NJ Transit has been forced to raise fares; increasing the cost of local bus and light rail travel by 10% and commuter bus and train travel by a hefty 25%.  I used NJ Transit’s commuter rail for a full year when I worked in New York.  At that time my 35-40 minute ride cost $198 for a monthly pass.  While most people in my hometown probably can absorb the 25% increase without too much difficulty.  However, along the same route are a number of towns with poorer towns, such as Paterson (median 2000 household income: $32,778) and Garfield (median 2000 household income: $42,748), where the residents will have much greater difficulty absorbing such a fare hike.

A monthly pass from Paterson to New York Penn Station is currently $166.  A 25% hike will bring that price to $207.50, or an extra $498 a year, and that does not even include the costs of a monthly pass for the bus or subway in New York City, given that most jobs are not within walking distance of Penn Station.  With the price of a subway pass included a person from Paterson could be required to spend $3,450 a year for transit.  That is simply outrageous when your household income is $32,778.

Governor Christie hasn’t lowered taxes, he has impaired the rights of people throughout the state to procure employment and provide effectively for their families.  For the sake of saving some very wealthy residents the pain of having to pay a a little more in income tax the lower class has been implicitly taxed by virtue of being poor.  Transit justice exists and this is not it.  Governor Christie lacks that sense of empathy that Obama has been smeared for.  He has prioritized the needs of suburban drivers over transit commuters, continuing our history of poor transit priorities.

hoover bypass

Montana:  The state has created secure structures, including tunnels, to help wildlife cross US 93.  As evident here.BLACK_BEAR_6 More importantly, the state has an amazing video game on the dangers of crashes between motorcycles and cars.  Most importantly, you get a character and you get to change his “general awesomeness” which means adjusting his mustache; including a fumanchu!

Nebraska:  The Department of Roads has posted the Nebraska road laws from 1898 including the following gems:

  • No person owning any carriage, running or traveling upon any road in this state, for the conveyance of passengers, shall employ, or continue in employment, any person to drive such carriage who is addicted to drunkenness or the excessive use of spirituous liquors …
  • No person riding any horse or mule shall run the same on any public road, except in cases of necessity
  • The term “carriage” as used in this act, shall be construed to include stage coaches, wagons, carts, sleighs, sleds and every other carriage or vehicle used for the transportation of passengers and goods, or either of them.

Nevada:  Certainly the coolest project is the impressive Hoover Dam Bypass being built, as seen in the picture above.

New Hampshire: I need to get a bike up to New Hampshire!

New Jersey: As a one-time NJ resident, I was a frequent rider of NJ Transit and SEPTA.  However, I was unaware of the transit village project, attempting to develop towns around transportation and decrease sprawl.  Go NJ!

New Mexico:  The state has some of the most scenic roads I have ever been on.  The promotional videos for the land of enchantment are lame, but the images are still gorgeous.

New York:  I like the concept behind the GreenLITES program, certifying the green and sustainable characteristics of transportation projects.  Now, NY should make it stick, if it hasn’t already with some sort of economic incentive.

North Carolina: The state apparently has 74 public airports and over 300 private airports.  That seems like a lot, but I do not actually know, and North Carolina was of course first in flight.NC license Plate

North Dakota:  The DOT offers a defensive driving class to drivers 17-24, called Alive at 25.  Seems like a good proactive step, especially by a rural state.

Ohio: 5,484 miles of railroad track crisscross the Buckeye state, operated by 35 railroad companies.  I now want to visit just to take advantage of all the great railroad tourism.   Unfortunately, my railroad vacations have been limited to a solitary trip to the Altoona Horseshoe Curve.

Oklahoma:  A really boring website save for the information on the Heartland Flyer, the 10-year-old project to reinaugurate passenger rail to the state.

Oregon: The state is celebrating its 150th anniversary and the DOT is participating.  Interesting facts include:

  • 1792: Captain Robert Gray enters Columbia River (May 12) and names river for his ship. George Vancouver explores Columbia River to its confluence with the WillametteRiver.
  • In 1913 there were only 25 miles of paved roads in Oregon. In 2008, there are more than 36,000 miles of paved roads.
  • From 1804 – 1806, explorers Captain Merriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled from Missouri across the Rockies and down along the Columbia River, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. By 1833, Oregon’s first shipment of lumber sailed for China.

Pennsylvania:  The Keystone state has a lot of great information on their page, including transportation research.  Most impressive to me are the overall stats, including the 403.3 million annual trips on fixed route vehicles.