Friday, October 08, 2010

Chris Christie's legacy

NJ Governor Chris Christie's announcement Thursday that he is effectively stopping the project to construct an additional pair of rail tunnels into NYC won't have visible implications for a long time. The second pair of tunnels probably wouldn't have been ready for nearly a decade or so. And for now, NJ Transit can continue to run basically at capacity, with moderate delays but on most days not too crazy.

In the long term, the implications start looking bad. The population of New Jersey, and the number of people who want to commute into NYC at the busy hours, goes up. How much, no one knows. You can make more people stand on the trains, or you can eventually buy more double decker cars on some of the lines. Some lines (NE Corridor/Trenton) are already double deckered, so to add capacity on that line you have to start adding more trains and thus taking away from frequency on other lines. It gets not good quickly. Oh, and forget about restoring service on any of the lines that had it decades ago but lost it.

So you can squeeze a few more people through the existing tunnel, yes, but it starts getting more and more inconvenient. Commute times become longer, delays more regular. People are pushed toward commuting at non-ideal times. People start to realize it's gone downhill and eventually it starts having an effect on real estate values and ultimately the growth of the tax base.

The problems aren't just for NJ Transit and the commuters from Jersey, but also for Amtrak. When Amtrak wants to add more trains going southward out of NYC in 4pm-7pm (if they don't already), they won't be able to. This is not good.

When crisis time comes, and funding is eventually given to build the new tunnels, then it of course takes a while to do it. That's why it should have happened now.

For more, from Streetsblog, "ARC Post-Mortem: Chris Christie Afraid to Bite the Bullet."


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