Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Transportation In New Jersey

I've had it up to here with people claiming that the only thing New Jersey needs to solve ALL of its transportation problems is the ARC (Access to the Region's Core) Project.  It is ONE solution amidst a growing number of major problems with transportation in NJ.  

Today I'm pissed off at this moron in the Asbury Park Press claiming that special HOV / single user lanes will somehow solve major congestion issues on the Parkway in the shore areas.  

Let's give some of these things a background, because while transit news and information happens to be one of my hobbies (distilled to me by my incredibly smart, wise, funny and talented uncle, Tim), it certainly isn't the case for the majority of people.  

Currently, if you want to get to New York from most points in New Jersey, you have two options: car (NJ Turnpike, Garden State Parkway) or train (NJ Transit, PATH).  Driving is just fine for some people, but others can't afford the high tolls for the bridges and tunnels, and many can't afford parking in NYC on a consistent basis.  For those people outside the Newark/Jersey City area, the PATH is a partial option - as long as you can find your way to Newark or Jersey City first.  South of the Raritan Tolls, the Parkway has express lanes and local lanes going north and south until exit 105, for Tinton Falls and Long Branch.  The local lanes are three lanes wide and the express lanes are two lanes wide, with almost no stops in between.  After 105, the Parkway is two to three lanes wide on the north and south ends.  It's relatively the same north of the Raritan tolls, with the exception of areas around toll plazas, where lanes suddenly balloon from two to three, up to ten to twelve and then back down.  Yeah it's a frickin nightmare for casual drivers, and the third circle of hell for commuters.  

OK so people coming from South Jersey and Northern-er Jersey can drive straight into the city, park and go to work, or get to Newark, pay for cheap parking and take the PATH, or just take the NJ Transit train closest to them to either New York and be done with it, or Newark or Hoboken and transfer from one of those stops to the PATH into New York.  Fine, great, problem solved.  

Except it isn't.  NJ finally decided it was a good idea to try and fix the problem with traffic jams on the GSP, so they floated a lot of proposals on how to fix it.  HOV lanes, single-driver fees, higher tolls, expanded mass transit, and expansion of the GSP lanes were all fielded.  Only the last two options were actually seriously considered, thanks to NY's horrendous experience on the LIE (if you've ever driven on that road, at any point in the day, you know exactly what I mean.  The second you start with the HOV lanes, you get traffic jams and a freaking solid lane wide open begging for use) and the fact that NJ drivers were probably going to riot if the tolls went up any more.  In addition, NJ Transit's system, while well-put-together and decent for a thirty-year-old system (NJ Transit was formed in the early eighties from the remnants of the major railroads that had passed through NJ, including the Penn Central which makes up today's Northeast Corridor line that passes through New York and New Jersey and gives name to Newark and New York City's major railroad stations), has been showing its age for a while and has had difficulty scaling to meet the increased demand for commuters, the majority of whom are going back and forth to New York, and to a lesser extent Philadelphia, every day.  

NJ Transit just recently upgraded its fleet with double-decker cars from Canada's Bombardier, Inc., and is working with Amtrak and the Port Authority to upgrade many area railroad bridges from one or two tracks to five to eight tracks (They have to work with Amtrak because technically Amtrak owns the actual tracks into New York, as well as the inbound and outbound tunnels connecting New York with New Jersey).  At the moment, NJ Transit and Amtrak share the length of track between New York Penn Station and Trenton's Transit Center (Amtrak shares the tracks from there with SEPTA), and if a train wants to go to New York, it absolutely must use those tracks.  All trains going to New York, every single one of them, must use those tracks.  While PATH uses a separate system entirely and passes under the Hudson River further south, this doesn't help those people who want to just take the train straight into the city without transferring at all.  It also means that if something happens in one of the tunnels, ALL of the trains are stuck using the other one until things are back to normal.  This happens rather frequently - a train, either an Amtrak or NJ Transit train, will get stuck in the tunnel and either need to be towed out or need to be serviced, but in the interim everything is backed up and no one is able to get to where they need to go.  

Enter the ARC project. The central idea is to drill two new tunnels to supplement the two existing tunnels into New York, and to have these tunnels go under the existing Penn Station, expanding capacity and making longer, more frequent trains a reality (in addition to connecting service with the PATH and with fourteen subway lines (A, C, E, 1, 2, 3, B, F, D, V, N, R, Q, W) instead of the current situation which forces commuters up to street level before they can catch those last eight subway lines over a block away).  In addition, the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack, connecting Kearny and Secaucus, will be expanded from two tracks to eight tracks (three south of the current bridge, and three north of it), and the rail lines around Secaucus Junction will be reconfigured so that trains can more easily turn around at Secaucus and head back to New York (very helpful during rush hour) or head off to other tracks that would not normally be possible, such as trains from New York heading to Hoboken or trains from Port Jervis and Spring Valley going to New York (not currently possible, requires changing trains at Secaucus).  

It's a great idea but it's not the only thing that NJ can do to fix its traffic problems.  Expanding the GSP where it's obviously bottlenecking is the best idea - upgrading the transit system is a great start but like it or not, NJ is a state of drivers and drivers actually like their cars.  Taxing the crap out of them doesn't stop them from driving any more than it stops smokers from smoking.  It's a bullshit theory lauded by some idiot who apparently gets paid to sit around and make stupid ideas, because the article I've linked above is full of stupid ideas like "induced demand" - the haughty-man's way of saying, "If you build it, they will come".  Well of course they'll come, genius.  Summer weekend traffic isn't going away any time soon - it's a fact of life in New Jersey.  Rush-hour traffic on the other hand is something we can work with.  HOT/HOV lanes aren't any more of a solution than building more road - in fact they'll work against you because you'll be stuck with a billion drivers paying the higher fee and STILL getting a traffic jam.  There's no way to stop that except to build more, newer roads and expand the ones we already have.  

And what the hell are you babbling about sprawl for?  As if it's a bad thing!!  Having MORE people living in their own homes is a good thing, jackass - not everyone wants to live in an apartment forever and ride their bike to work and be all green and shit.  You sir, FAIL.  Just because you don't like suburbanites and kiddies and soccer moms and schools and lots of people doesn't mean they're inherently bad!  And don't even start with me on overpopulation, because that's exactly the next step for you dolts.  "WAAAAAA people are everywhere we're gonna run out of resources WAAAAAA!!!!!" I challenge anyone with even the slightest hint of a brain in their head who thinks this is the case to A) stop bitching and pull your head out of Algore's ass, and B) go into true Southern New Jersey or true Northern New Jersey, just as an example, and see how long you can drive on non-highways without seeing other people.  The further out you go, the longer it takes to find people - just a matter of fact.  Even in NEW JERSEY, the most densely populated state in the union, you have VAST, WIDE OPEN SPACES.  And with those spaces you have the possibility of new homes for people, and new businesses and new spurs to the economy.  Every family in New Jersey could have ten kids  and we'd still have plenty of space!  As for resources, cut back on that bullshit about global warming or climate change or damn it's getting hot in here or whatever you want to call it and stop limiting private industry.  People will conserve their resources on their own, they don't need Big Daddy Government to do it for them.  

And as for expanded mass transit?  Absolutely!  Let the rest of the state enjoy what Northern and small portions of Central and Southern New Jersey enjoy now, a damned fine rail system!  Expand it! I want trains from Cape May to New Hope, from Cherry Hill to Wall!  I don't care if it's light or heavy rail, I want more trains!  There's abandoned rails all over the state, and if we don't act now, the greenies are going to turn them into friggin "rail trails" for biking and hiking, because you know, we don't have enough of that already!!  Stop pulling up these rails!! STOP, DAMNIT!!  Put trains on them, expand service to all corners of the state!  If you REALLY want people to use mass transit, then make it an OPTION FOR THEM!!! South Jersey residents, all they have are the PATCO Speedline, the RiverLINE and the Atlantic City Line, which are both useless unless you're going to either Philly or AC, and let's face it - people want MORE OPTIONS.  They want to be able to hop on ONE train and take that train to Cape May or to Wildwood or to Delran or Glouscter or Glassboro or Howell or Toms River or any other place in New Jersey. 

Get it together, guys!  Come on now!  

1 comment: