• NYT piece: New Jersey Transit, a Cautionary Tale of Neglect

  • Discussion related to New Jersey Transit rail and light rail operations.
Discussion related to New Jersey Transit rail and light rail operations.

Moderators: lensovet, Kaback9, nick11a

  by Gilbert B Norman
Well, Chris went and did it - signed into law a hotly contested bill raising NJ Fuel taxes to a parity level with the contiguous states.

Of course, Chris isn't running for anything; how convenient!!!

NJT gets an allocation of fuel tax revenue to support both its highway and rail operations. Let us hope that the issues addressed first by The Times and by our subsequent discussion can be remedied:

http://nytimes.com/2016/10/01/nyregion/ ... cents.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by jmatchesky
Since I feel some responsibility for steering this thread into the dark place it's now reached, I might as well chime in again.

I don't think anyone would disagree that it's a good thing to have a federal agency enforcing safety regulations on RRs. Perhaps what lead to that thought was my suggestion that the FRA morph into some kind of funding allocation overseer, which was not a very well thought-out point from me. I do still have a problem with the way passenger railroads are organized in this country, but I don't think there's any type of quick fix available for that.

These are private companies operating under the illusion that they can somehow make a profit, while requiring state and federal funding which they don't get enough of. Therefore, they can't make enough of the operational, infrastructure, and safety improvements they should be making.

The question is how to fix this. My contention is that fining the RRs while continuing to under-fund them (I realize these are different entities -- FRA being separate from federal and state funding sources) is not helping. The RRs never make a profit anyway, so fining them is almost as bad as fining States ~ They pay a fine and the funding coming in doesn't increase, so maybe that aging bridge doesn't get fixed for another year.
  by JCGUY
I'm not opposed to federal regulation. However, I'd make the following points:

1. Regulation is akin to a forced expenditure. You wind up paying for something you might not have paid for in the absence of a directive. True story: My dentist had to reconfigure his office to raise the reception desk several feet to comply with HIPPA so people can't look over the desk and see 'private' dental records (!). Maybe, I'd rationally want my dentist charging less with a lower desk or not wasting months on a pointless office renovation and instead focus on dentistry. There's a trade off. The money that goes to PTC cannot be spent making the Elizabeth station modern let alone eliminate the local "S" curve or the bottleneck at Elmora.

2. And so I tend to favor safety regulation applied to invisible hard-to quantify "bads". Regulation of parts per million concentration of some toxic gas seems useful, if backed by reasonable science.

3. What is less defensible is regulation of high-profile railway with a unionized workforce carrying hundreds of thousands of registered voters into prominently-located national landmarks. No politician can stay in office with safety truly compromised in such a system, and such political pressure, coupled with an (over)functioning tort system does a great job deterring the bads all on its own.
  by F23A4
Ken W2KB wrote:Fines are rather effective in enforcement actions against private enterprises. Fines against government agencies are rather ineffective since states and state agencies pay fines using someone else's money.
As someone who works for a European investment bank with a large US presence having had many fines levied against it over the years, I totally agree with your statement. It's amazing how much action is taken after such levies.
  by Tom V
It seems like Trenton has gotten the message about NJ Transit:
Senator Sweeney, a Democrat, described New Jersey Transit as an agency in crisis, echoing the findings of a report by The New York Times this week.

“An agency that was a national model with a bright future seven years ago is now suffering from years of neglect, chronic underfunding, questionable decision-making, including poor preparations for Hurricane Sandy,” he said. Nearly one-fourth of the railroad’s fleet was damaged during the 2012 storm.
Leaders of the State Assembly are considering the use of subpoenas to require officials to testify and to collect documents.

“The public and the state’s economic vitality depend on N.J. Transit to fulfill its mission, but the public has lost confidence in the agency’s ability to operate safely and efficiently,” said the Assembly speaker, Vincent Prieto, a Democrat.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/15/nyreg ... .html?_r=0

On this years election ballot is a ballot question that would create a constitutional requirement that all of the gas tax revenues go to the Transportation fund. Right now only 10% is required to go to Transportation. This combined with the gas tax increase should create a stable source of revenues for NJ Transit to both stabilize their operations, and to begin to once again plan and implement new capital projects.

https://ballotpedia.org/New_Jersey_Dedi ... n_2_(2016)

And some good news as pointed out in the NY Times article, Portal North bridge (a fixed span two track bridge) is moving forward with construction starting in 2018. That goes a long way towards creating a state of good repair of the current system before the Gateway tunnel project comes on line.