Commentary Magazine


Topic: public transportation

NYT Accidentally Vindicates Chris Christie

Today on a popular blog about New York City on the New York Times‘ website, the history of recent public transportation projects was rehashed in light of a recent announcement on the extension of the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal. Every single project, from this project to the longest standing joke in New York City, the 2nd Avenue subway, had one thing in common: They consistently run over budget and behind schedule.

Tucked in the end of the post the Times’ Clyde Haberman lists the trans-Hudson rail tunnel as one of the projects that has faced a “construction delay.” What was the delay? There was none. The project has been nixed because New Jersey Governor Chris Christie refused to fund a project that he believed would run over budget and behind schedule. Christie explained that even according to the most recent cost projections for the project the state would be unable to pay, and given the tri-state area’s history of mismanaged public transportation construction projects, the state would go bankrupt before finding the true cost, which would inevitably come to light millions of dollars and years later. Read More

Today on a popular blog about New York City on the New York Times‘ website, the history of recent public transportation projects was rehashed in light of a recent announcement on the extension of the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal. Every single project, from this project to the longest standing joke in New York City, the 2nd Avenue subway, had one thing in common: They consistently run over budget and behind schedule.

Tucked in the end of the post the Times’ Clyde Haberman lists the trans-Hudson rail tunnel as one of the projects that has faced a “construction delay.” What was the delay? There was none. The project has been nixed because New Jersey Governor Chris Christie refused to fund a project that he believed would run over budget and behind schedule. Christie explained that even according to the most recent cost projections for the project the state would be unable to pay, and given the tri-state area’s history of mismanaged public transportation construction projects, the state would go bankrupt before finding the true cost, which would inevitably come to light millions of dollars and years later.

I found it amusing that Haberman, albeit accidentally, vindicated Christie’s decision on the tunnel with his piece chronicling the sorry history of public works projects in and around the New York area. The New York Times has a list of articles on the tunnel here and from the headlines you can surmise staff opinions on the dispute. Here are a few headlines: “Cannibalize the Future“, “In Christie’s Policies, Pain for Commuters“, “Report Disputes Christie’s Reason for Halting Tunnel Project in 2010.”

The last article cited begins by saying:

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey exaggerated when he declared that unforeseen costs to the state were forcing him to cancel the new train tunnel planned to relieve congested routes across the Hudson River, according to a long-awaited report by independent congressional investigators.

Did Christie exaggerate? Haberman’s piece makes it clear that unless one is in possession of a time machine, it is impossible to know just how much any given public works project will eventually cost.

Many on the Left, clearly including the New York Times, harpooned Christie’s decision, claiming the pro-business governor was playing politics by denying a project that would bring a much needed infusion of business into the state. Despite the Times‘ clear bias against Christie on this issue (and many others), they have, 19 months later and quite unintentionally, vindicated the New Jersey governor’s axing of the project.

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The French Emissions Debacle

The French constitutional council may have blocked the president’s carbon tax for the wrong reasons late last night, but the message France unintentionally relayed about emissions-curbing taxes is still worth noting, especially as the United States may consider similar ones.

In an eleventh-hour decision, the court ruled the 17-euros charge for each ton of carbon emissions violated “the principle of tax equality” because it excluded 93 percent of industrial emissions.

Notably, exemptions would have been extended to the core of French industry, including power plants, steel factories, airlines, and public transportation. These very industries helped the great Charles de Gaulle restore France as a functional world power. They also helped him mitigate the appeal of communism. So crucial have these industries been to French standing that it is no wonder they were completely or partially excluded from the planned emissions tax.

The council’s decision is even more notable considering just who Sarkozy’s taxes would have hit: the average French citizen. The most taxed items would have been gasoline and heating fuel. To allay what certainly would have been inevitable popular angst, Nicolas Sarkozy intended to offer tax reductions or “green cheques” to low-income families.

Now, members of Sarkozy’s party have put themselves in an awkward position as they rework the proposal for mid-January. If they pursue the same measures but with more equal application, they will burden essential industries; and if they don’t harangue industry, their emissions efforts will be feebler — especially embarrassing in the context of France’s pre-Copenhagen posturing.

But de Gaulle would caution Sarkozy and his followers that a weakened industrial sector means a weakened France. And as the United States considers similar measures, lawmakers should remember that principle doesn’t apply to France alone.

The French constitutional council may have blocked the president’s carbon tax for the wrong reasons late last night, but the message France unintentionally relayed about emissions-curbing taxes is still worth noting, especially as the United States may consider similar ones.

In an eleventh-hour decision, the court ruled the 17-euros charge for each ton of carbon emissions violated “the principle of tax equality” because it excluded 93 percent of industrial emissions.

Notably, exemptions would have been extended to the core of French industry, including power plants, steel factories, airlines, and public transportation. These very industries helped the great Charles de Gaulle restore France as a functional world power. They also helped him mitigate the appeal of communism. So crucial have these industries been to French standing that it is no wonder they were completely or partially excluded from the planned emissions tax.

The council’s decision is even more notable considering just who Sarkozy’s taxes would have hit: the average French citizen. The most taxed items would have been gasoline and heating fuel. To allay what certainly would have been inevitable popular angst, Nicolas Sarkozy intended to offer tax reductions or “green cheques” to low-income families.

Now, members of Sarkozy’s party have put themselves in an awkward position as they rework the proposal for mid-January. If they pursue the same measures but with more equal application, they will burden essential industries; and if they don’t harangue industry, their emissions efforts will be feebler — especially embarrassing in the context of France’s pre-Copenhagen posturing.

But de Gaulle would caution Sarkozy and his followers that a weakened industrial sector means a weakened France. And as the United States considers similar measures, lawmakers should remember that principle doesn’t apply to France alone.

Read Less