…that when I wrote this post describing how to carve up DRPA and its bridge revenues in such a way that it could never rise from the dead again, I was intending to include actual budget numbers from DRPA’s own documents, to show that there was enough revenue to go around to SEPTA, NJT, the bridges, and the bondholders. I didn’t do that because those budget PDFs are in a completely unreadable font, and I had too many demands on my time to decode them manually like a latter-day Rosetta stone. It’s my intent to come back to it, but if someone wants to scoop me on that, I won’t even be mad.
Meanwhile, the meme that PATCO could be run more efficiently under the umbrella of a larger agency with economies of scale, and specifically SEPTA, has successfully infected Pennsylvania State Senator John Rafferty (R-Montco). I don’t know if someone in the Senator’s office reads this blog, or if the idea is simply obvious enough to originate elsewhere independently. But if it moves the ball forward on phasing out our reliance on vampire squid bondholders for our vital infrastructure, then I’m all for it, no matter how it happened.
It would kinda suck to have to rely on PA legislators to look out for NJ interests. Can’t we just set this up more like the WMATA? Metro Washington seems to get nice things…
I’m sure that anyone with more direct experience of the Charlie-Foxtrot that is the WMATA would be happy to correct you on its quality. At length.
You’re right that a PA agency and its political overlords will not naturally be inclined to look after the interests of Camden County. My suggestion in my original post was an interlocking set of contract terms that guaranteed a certain level of service and performance in exchange for the bridge toll money. Basically, make it in PA’s direct interests to care very well for its NJ charges. I think savvy lawyers representing both sides of the river ought to be able to come up with fairly ironclad terms that accomplish that.
That’d be swell. What I was alluding to by bringing up the WMATA is that they seem to be able to do what PA and NJ can’t, which is coordinate transit under one brand across a multi-statw region. I hate how we live in feifdoms run by machine politicains at the expense of operational efficiency and, I dunno, ease of use by actual customers. States whose metro regions involve only one state seem able to do this so much better. Speaking to my own experience, the MBTA is light years ahead of SEPTA and PATCO on so many levels. I just want that for us and this inability to work as one goddamn region seems like the biggest obstacle.
Wouldn’t the MTA be a better model to wish for? My (flawed? certainly oversimplified) understanding is that it is governed by the counties it serves across multiple states, which have the power (given by their respective state legislatures) to add their own penny to sales tax for the purpose of paying for the MTA, but isn’t entirely dependent on state legislatures as a whole for the bulk of its funding. And while SEPTA has a governing board comprised of served-counties representation, those counties can do nothing besides lobby the PA legislature, a solid bloc of which would love to see SEPTA zero’d out of the budget altogether. Adding PATCO — which to someone from Venango County is even *less* in his interests to fund than SEPTA — to SEPTA does not seem to help from the practical aspect of giving transit sufficient money to function adequately much less improve service, no matter how great the theoretical benefits of operational efficiency in a reasonable world where transit agencies had funding.
MTA is actually a good example of what I’m talking about: Connecticut has no representation on the MTA board. East of the NY/CT state line, Metro North is a contract operator, and ConnDOT owns the tracks and the service. MTA’s tax base only comes from New York City, Long Island, and the five suburban New York counties served by Metro North. Similarly, NJ Transit has no taxation power and gives no representation to Rockland and Orange counties; MTA contracts with NJT to provide service to NYS on the Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines. In neither case does the contract operator have any matural incentive to provide good service except the check they get for doing so.
You are right that SEPTAland really needs a way of funding transit that does not rely on the whims of Harrisburg. That is independent of whether it assumes the role of contract operator for PATCO.
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