Friday, May 2, 2008

Shame on You, Senator Menendez

It's just been reported that Senator Bob Menendez will be co-sponsoring Hillary Clinton's gas tax "holiday," and I confirmed it when I called his office to express outrage.

This is an insane proposal, period. But it's even more insane for a New Jersey Senator to propose.

As I noted earlier, the proposal won't do anything to reduce gas prices, but it will reduce money available for transportation spending, and that mass transit expansion (of infrastructure and use) and increased carpooling, as well as better density, rail electrification and increased use of those electrified rails for long-distance freight transport; less outsourcing of goods-production or use of old-technology wind-powered ships for transport might help as well.

We can buy some time by using the Los Alamos process (although nuclear isn't renewable either; however, it's planetary poisoning is at least concentrated to a relatively small area in the no-accident scenario)

We could use the lens-based solar concentration for it, I suppose, since the fuel production wouldn't have to be happening all the time.

At any rate, New Jersey is by far the best-situated state (statewide) for mass transit at the present time, despite lacking a single major metropolitan core of its own (granted, Newark and the urban core that is Hudson County both have light rail).

* 11 commuter lines from New York (North Jersey Coast Line, NorthEast Corridor, Gladstone Branch, Pascack Valley Line, Bergen Line, Main Line, Montclair-Boontown Line, Morristown Line, Raritan Valley Line) from NJ Transit (with transfers at the Frank R. Lautenberg Station in Secaucus and at the Newark Rail Station), as well as the 2 PATH train lines from New York to Jersey City&Newark.
* 4 commuter lines from Philadelphia (Atlantic City Line via NJ Transit, line to Trenton and West Trenton/Ewing via SEPTA, and the PATCO line), with the River Line from Trenton to Camden acting as an extension and as its own line to either one.
* 2 light rail lines in Hudson County
* 2 light rail lines in Newark
* A few hundred bus lines

Unsurprisingly, New Jerseyans are the second most likely after New Yorkers (26.1% of New York state residents take public transit to work, but only 6.4% of those not in New York City) to take public transit to work.

In 2006, 10.3% of New Jersey residents commuted via public transit, and that number has likely increased and will likely continue to increase.

Moreover, transit funding is about the only area in which New Jersey residents make out decently in terms of federal funding.

The right-wing but state-neutral (i.e. it doesn't favor any particular state so it's numbers should be good for this comparison) Tax Foundation numbers have New Jersey ranking 50th in 17 of the 25 years from 1981-2005 in spending received per tax dollar paid (we were in the mid-30's in spending received per capita, 2-4 in taxes paid) and got above 49th (to 48th) just once in those years.

But we were #4 in transit funds received per capita [which, again, makes sense].

Now, I understand why Hillary, despite representing New York, doesn't care.

Of the states left in the primary, only Oregon (4%) [and Puerto Rico(3.7%) had over 1% of people commuting via public transit in 2006 (although North Carolina's new light rail in Charlotte may have increased it's numbers, and they need more for capital expansions to increase them further), so while it's still bad for them, it's less bad (or seems that way); granted, Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota (0.4% take public transit to work) has stated his opposition to the holiday.

But Menendez? It's just crazy.

Give him a call to express your own outrage:
317 Senate Hart Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
202.228.2197 fax

One Gateway Center,
Suite 1100
Newark, New Jersey 07102
973.645.0502 fax

208 White Horse Pike, Suite 18
Barrington, New Jersey 08007
856.546.1526 fax

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