According to Census journey-to-work data, 27 percent of New York State commuters, and 11 percent of New Jersey commuters, use public transportation to get to work each day. That makes New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie the chief executives of the nation’s two most transit-dependent states.
But you’d hardly know it based on the way they’ve governed.
Until recently, Governor Cuomo has been unwilling to help close the gap in the MTA’s 2015-2019 capital program. It wasn’t until the MTA revealed some cost-cutting measures that the governor pledged to help close the gap — on the condition that the New York City increase its annual MTA contribution from $100 million to
$125 million $300 million $325 million.
It’s welcome news that Governor Cuomo will fill the MTA’s funding gap, but exactly how he’ll do so is yet to be determined. For a moment it seemed like the recent debate about Uber-related congestion might advance the MoveNY plan, but the governor and MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast have expressed doubts about the plan’s political feasibility.
Earlier this week the governor announced a major investment to rebuild LaGuardia Airport, which served roughly 27 million passengers in 2014. Cuomo described LaGuardia as “‘un-New York,’ because it’s considered “slow, dated, [and] almost universally derided.”
But couldn’t he say the same about the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which handled more than twice as many passengers as LaGuardia last year? Or New York City’s subways, which handle 27 million passengers every work week? Second Avenue Sagas‘ Ben Kabak writes:
As with many Cuomo projects, it’s hard not to feel that this one came from his personal experiences flying between the city and Albany. In terms of bang for your buck, an overhaul of the Port Authority Bus Terminal or a real plan to rebuild Penn Station and start moving on trans-Hudson tunnels would affect far more daily travelers than a rebuild of LaGuardia airport, and the dollars would be comparable. But Cuomo doesn’t talk about these proposals because he doesn’t take buses or trains.
While the situation in New York has been less than ideal, it doesn’t compare with what’s happening across the Hudson. New Jersey Transit riders have seen five fare increases since 2000 (two under Christie’s watch), but the governor won’t budge on raising the gas tax — which hasn’t seen an increase since 1988. Governor Christie’s indifference to transit riders (and transportation issues in general) has been covered ad nauseam here at MTR and elsewhere, so no need to beat a dead horse.
Connecticut, on the other hand, has been quietly staging a transportation revolution, despite the fact that less than 5 percent of Nutmeggers commute via public transportation. In the last year, Governor Dan Malloy cut the ribbon on the new CTfastrak bus rapid transit system (and pledged an east-of-Hartford CTfastrak extension), unveiled a 30-year transportation vision that would, among other things, modernize the New Haven Line and expand bus service, signed a budget which directs a portion of the sales tax to the state’s Special Transportation Fund, proposed the creation of a Transit Corridor Development Authority aimed at helping municipalities develop land around transit stations, led the charge to run more frequent trains on the Metro-North New Haven Line, and won reelection on a platform some say included a “purposeful strategy to push people out of their cars, and onto mass transit.”
Governor Malloy’s transportation track record is far from perfect: he approved spending $300 million to widen 2.7 miles of Interstate 84 in Waterbury, $10 million to design and engineer a widening of I-84 in Danbury, and called for widening I-95, too. Still, it’s hard to overlook the progress Connecticut has made during Malloy’s tenure, especially when you compare it to what’s going on in New York and New Jersey lately.