Smoking gun e-mails have now been produced that definitively tie the September 2013 closure of approach lanes at the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey, to the office of Governor Christie. They additionally provide concrete evidence that the action, taken by Christie appointees at the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey (PANYNJ) who have since resigned, was politically motivated retribution against Fort Lee and its mayor, Mark Sokolich (D).
The irony, of course, is that if the PANYNJ had, in fact, taken any kind of traffic study, which they falsely claimed to have in the aftermath of the incident, those of us who believe that driving cars into cities ought to be more difficult and/or expensive would have applauded the move. And if the number of toll lanes assigned to Fort Lee had been reduced from three to two instead of three to one, they might have been subtle enough to get away with their malfeasance, at least for longer. Instead, the Governor of New Jersey has been exposed as a thug who sanctions the abuse of government power for petty vengeance, and allows transportation policy to be set by a combination of caprice and windshield perspective rather than need.
Meanwhile, even rid of the New Jersey appointees directly responsible for the closure of the Fort Lee toll lanes, PANYNJ is still fairly useless from a transportation reform perspective. The Lincoln Tunnel Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL) is arguably the most successful and efficient transit facility in the country, but the XBL runs eastbound-only from 6:00a to 10:00a on weekdays, with not even a hint that PANYNJ might build on that success by creating a westbound XBL in the evening. Or implement any kind of bus priority at any other time. Or at any other crossing under its jurisdiction. For Greater Philadelphians who travel up the Turnpike of Anger by bus, who still number thousands of passengers daily, this is a big deal and a big problem; it’s far worse for daily commuters at the PANYNJ crossings. And with Greyhound, Peter Pan, their subsidiaries BoltBus and Yo!, Megabus, and the resurgent Chinatown carriers all looking like they’re here to stay, and Amtrak fares likely to remain out of reach for the bottom tiers of the market, this is one New York problem that strikes home in Philadelphia.
If PANYNJ were to ever get wise and implement 24/7 bidirectional bus priority lanes at the Lincoln Tunnel, or any kind of improved bus approach to the George Washington Bridge, it’s probable that the concerns of us here in Philadelphia wouldn’t have had the slightest bit of influence on the decision-makers. But you’d better believe that, when they do, we’ll care. Meanwhile, we have the unfortunate task of anticipating a third of our region’s transportation decisions being made by a temperamental bully for the next three years. Oh, rapture.