Home PANYNJ On Cuomo & Christie’s Saturday night veto and the threat to overnight PATH service

On Cuomo & Christie’s Saturday night veto and the threat to overnight PATH service

by Benjamin Kabak

It is a page out of the politician’s playbook to release bad news at 5 p.m. on a Friday. It’s something else entirely to drop it at 11 p.m. on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s, but that’s just what Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo did this weekend with regards to their vetoes of a two-state, bipartisan Port Authority reform bill. To make matters worse, the two governors also endorsed a controversial reform plan that includes a proposal to limit or eliminate 24-hour PATH service. Merry Christmas indeed.

The basis for the veto came out of the need for Cuomo to act. Had he done nothing, the measure — which passed both states unanimously — would have become law. As The Times summarized, “The legislation vetoed on Saturday would have remade the authority’s daily operations, providing a raft of new financial, ethical and administrative rules, including opening all of its meetings to the public and asking its 12 commissioners to acknowledge that they have a ‘fiduciary duty’ to the Port Authority.”

The measures approved by the state legislatures also included calls for a single-leader CEO model, and this consolidated power is something both Christie and Cuomo have pushed to avoid. For Christie, the reasons are obvious. He or his operatives have repeatedly used the Port Authority for political gain, and at points, it has seemed as though the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal could derail Christie’s dreams of higher office. Cuomo has generally resisted ceding any power, and losing the ability to appoint half of the Port Authority leadership would be a blow to his entrenchment.

In announcing their vetoes, Christie and Cuomo released just the thing you want to read near midnight on a Saturday after spending the holiday weekend with your family: a wordy statement and pages upon pages of reform recommendations. These recommendations came out of a panel that Christie and Cuomo jointly appointed back in May. It wasn’t called the Port Authority Reinvention Commission, but it might as well have been. It’s critics, such as Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, have called it “nothing more than a mere power grab.”

If you’d like to read the whole thing, it’s available here as a PDF. Some of the proposals overlap with the state bills and include legitimate reform initiatives. Some of it is lip service. Others though are terrible, no-good, very bad ideas including one to eliminate overnight PATH service. Here’s this summary:

PATH is one of only four heavy-rail systems in America to provide service 24 hours a day for seven days a week; the others are MTA, CTA (which runs only limited service overnight), and the Pennsylvania Port Authority (“PATCO”), which operates a single line from Philadelphia to New Jersey. The PATH’s ridership falls substantially overnight, especially on weeknights, when overnight riders between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. constitute less than 1% of daily riders. The cost of providing this service per passenger rises substantially, from $0.01 to $0.02 per passenger during weekday peak hours to an average of $1.15 per rider overnight.

Eliminating overnight service during weekends (i.e., eliminating service on Friday night/early Saturday and Saturday night/early Sunday) would produce operational and capital expense savings. Operational savings would include savings on energy, labor, and station operations; and capital savings would result from allowing capital improvements to be conducted without train interruption. Currently, the PATH shuts down one of the two tracks in each direction during the overnight hours to allow for capital maintenance. This reduces service so that trains come every 35 minutes in each direction. PATH could achieve operational and capital savings estimated to be at least $10 million per year from stopping service altogether between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. on weeknights.

The impact of a service reduction would be limited. Assuming that some riders slightly alter their travel plans to ride the last train before operations cease or the first train after they recommence, approximately one-half of one percent of PATH riders during the time period (just under 1,500) would be affected. If PATH decided to offer riders an alternative, bus service for these customers at the cost of $4 per passenger would cost approximately $1.5 million per year.

These are somewhat optimistic projections from the reform commission and do not delve into the real benefits of having ready 24-hour service. As mayors from the New Jersey communities along the Hudson were quick to note this weekend, access to PATH has been a major driver of recent population growth, and those people most affected by an elimination of late-night service don’t have the means to find another way home. The Port Authority — which is spending $4 billion on the World Trade Center PATH station — is looking to save $8.5 million by seriously inconveniencing service and creating the feeling of isolation from communities that have grown to rely on late-night service. It is a typical Cuomo/Christie response to a transportation problem.

Other PATH proposals create interesting hypothetical. One involves asking for an alternative regulatory oversight scheme that would free PATH from onerous and expensive FRA guidelines, but that’s a very “inside baseball” idea. The other proposes pursuing “the possibility of partnering with a third-party operator, public or private, that manages urban transit or commuter rail service in order to improve the PATH’s operational effectiveness and financial efficiency.” If that isn’t a challenge to New Jersey and New York to figure out some way to transfer PATH operations to New York City Transit, I don’t know what is. That idea, if implemented properly, may be a better long-term solution for the region, but it shouldn’t come with service cuts.

Despite Christie and Cuomo’s best efforts, this clearly isn’t the last we’ll hear of Port Authority reform or proposals for PATH. Those behind the vetoed reform bill will continue to push for change, and as Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer vowed, she and many others will “vigorously oppose any efforts to cut PATH service.” As we need a new trans-Hudson tunnel and a better bus terminal, Port Authority needs former, but cutting off its nose to spite its face while working to hide the announcement from as many eyes as possible is no way to go about achieving lasting change.

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lop December 29, 2014 - 4:58 am

Is $1.15 per rider supposed to be a lot? Sounds cheaper than $4 per passenger.

tacony December 29, 2014 - 10:26 am

Uh yeah and “only” 1,500 passengers is undoubtedly more ridership than many other transit services in New Jersey get in an entire day that cost far more subsidy per passenger. Can we get some comparisons here? How much per rider is the Staten Island Ferry? How about an NJ Transit train to Montclair?

Running existing services more often should be cheaper than constantly building new infrastructure, yet we keep seeing this pattern where we spend inordinate amounts of money on new services while we starve what we have. PATH reform proposals should identify how to provide more service on the existing rail lines. PATH trains on weekends during the evening for instance are sometimes packed to the point of dangerous platform situations and it’s been unclear to me why they can’t through-run trains from Newark to 33rd Street when the WTC tube is out instead of having everyone change at Journal Square. Weekend riders to Newark and JC already have to detour through Hoboken.

An additional problem with the way the PATH is viewed politically is that while it has always essentially operated as an urban subway which just happens to cross a state border, it’s confused with a commuter rail service by a lot of people on both sides of the river. I’ve had people who’ve never taken it before confuse it with NJ Transit rail. Otherwise intelligent people have made this mistake! Do we think Christie or Cuomo know the difference?

Do we know who actually wrote this report? PATCO stands for “Port Authority Transit COrporation,” and there is no entity known as the “Pennsylvania Port Authority” — it’s run by the Delaware River Port Authority, which is the bi-state agency in the Philly area much the way the Port Authority is in NYC. One would think that the people writing this report would know the name of their South Jersey bi-state port managing counterpart.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 10:37 am

1,500 people over 4 hours is less than 400 people per hour. That demand can easily be accommodated by 10 buses. The buses themselves can likely be sourced from NJT buses idled at night.

Note that there are existing bus routes that connect Hoboken with Manhattan. Not sure about Jersey City/Newark.

I’m not aware of any fixed rail system in NJ that has fewer than 1,500 passengers per day!

Bolwerk December 29, 2014 - 11:00 am

You’ve got to be kidding. That’s 150 people per bus. I’m not even sure if NJT has articulateds, but even those don’t typically carry more than 120 people or so.

Then, even accepting the notion that “train demand” = “bus demand,” how do you figure riders would like going from comfortably empty trains to crush load buses?

The sane thing to do would be to run PATH trains OPTO. Of course, the sane thing is probably either illegal or violates longstanding work rules.

lop December 29, 2014 - 11:16 am

You can run each bus more than once in four hours.

adirondacker12800 December 29, 2014 - 11:23 am

It doesn’t take four hours to drive from Herald Square to Newark. Ten buses can go back and forth more than once. If both the Lincoln and the Holland are open and there is no traffic, a bus would be coming past every 20 minutes or so. Not so often when the Holland is closed or there’s lots of traffic in the Lincoln. Which can happen easily if the Holland is closed.

Bolwerk December 29, 2014 - 12:04 pm

I took “bus” to be a synecdoche for “bus run,” which comes to about 2.5 BPH. You seem to be assuming a run from Manhattan to Newark making local stops would be possible in about an hour. Maybe, but I’d guess longer, plus traffic can still be variant.

You still need enough buses to meet peak load (probably departing Manhattan), so 10 buses is likely still ridiculous. Also, ten buses already more than doubles the labor cost two trains.

lop December 29, 2014 - 12:29 pm

$4/rider, 1500 rides = 6k per weekday (*250 weekdays is their 1.5 mil per year)

Figure $150 per bus revenue hour, gives you forty bus hours. 10 buses running around during that four hour overnight is in the right ballpark for what the PA figures they would run.

Not sure why they’re quoting 1.15 per rider on path in that period, then the next paragraph says 10 mil in savings.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 12:57 pm

“Manhattan to Newark making local stops”

All you’d do is replicate the PATH stops. There’s not many stops. WTC to Newark has 4 interim stops.

Bolwerk December 29, 2014 - 1:18 pm

It would seem to be pretty time-consuming. No neatly parallel roadway with access to the stations.

That’s why bustitution usually is a last resort.

adirondacker12800 December 29, 2014 - 4:35 pm

100 people an hour on the downtown line that’s two buses an hour. WTC,Holland Tunnel, Hoboken, Newport, Exchange Place, Grove, Journal Square, Harrison and Newark. 300 an hour from the uptown line that’s every 20 minutes 33rd, 23rd, 14th, 9th, Christopher, Hoboken and every 20 minutes 33rd, 23rd, 14th, 9th, Christopher, Newport, Grove, Journal Square, Harrison and Newark. Unless the Holland Tunnel is closed. Then they need 20 buses because the trip would be longer and traffic might be worse.

How many years were the World Trade Center and Exchange Place closed? We survived.

It could just be to shut up the people who say “close it down at night and save money!!!!!” It doesn’t save much.

Bolwerk December 29, 2014 - 11:16 pm

It seems likely to result in a negative savings, not to mention the route is incredibly roundabout. The assumption that it wouldn’t lose ridership is probably absurd. The only economic rationale I can come up with is closing down at night makes capital work easier.

Bolwerk December 29, 2014 - 1:16 pm

Not really sure what to make of that. PATH services average out to pretty high per-vehicle revenue hour operating costs ($576/operating hr. vs. $199 for MTA). But that doesn’t say anything about the marginal cost of overnight service.

BenS December 29, 2014 - 2:14 pm

There are less than two trains per hour late at night on the PATH. ~250 people per train is a significant number.

adirondacker12800 December 29, 2014 - 4:48 pm

A bit less than two trains uptown and two trains downtown. They have to run at least four to maintain that schedule.

BenS December 30, 2014 - 12:35 pm

Traffic is unidirectional that late at night.

Eric December 29, 2014 - 5:55 am

“The cost of providing this service per passenger rises substantially, from $0.01 to $0.02 per passenger during weekday peak hours to an average of $1.15 per rider overnight.”

If this is true, given that PATH fare is $2.75, wouldn’t this mean PATH is making a giant profit even overnight? Something is wrong here.

Marc Shepherd December 29, 2014 - 7:53 am

PATH doesn’t earn a profit on anything, even mid-day service. It is a subsidized railroad. Without government assistance, it would be a dead railroad.

The cost per passenger referred to above is only the variable costs that are incurred when trains are running. PATH also has many fixed costs. When those are considered, it loses money on every ride.

(P.S. Of course, Ben is right that it would be an idiotic idea to end overnight service.)

lop December 29, 2014 - 11:18 am

But it looks like the bus substitute would cost $4 per rider. Isn’t that more than $1.15? Did they miss a decimal place or something?

Tower18 December 29, 2014 - 4:03 pm

I -THINK- they might be saying they’d charge $4 for the overnight bus. Using “cost” in two ways in the same sentence makes that confusing.

Bolwerk December 29, 2014 - 11:27 pm

They seem to be taking some (arbitrary?) op. ex. numbers and dividing them by passenger counts at times. $4/rider doesn’t even really mean anything either without knowing what these riders are doing. Without seeing more explanation for either, you can probably safely ignore the numbers they provide.

Consider the source too. Christie and Cuomo both obfuscate, if not lie, about financial matters incessantly. Pensions, MTA raids, TZB, ARC?

Peter Laws December 30, 2014 - 9:08 pm

These numbers are just wrong. Even if it’s just cost of operations and not the capital cost of maintenance, replacing trains, etc, there’s no way it costs a penny/rider. No way. There are what? 250k riders/day? And it costs $2500 each day? Riiiiiigggghhhhhht.

SEAN December 29, 2014 - 8:10 am

P.S. Of course, Ben is right that it would be an idiotic idea to end overnight service.)

That’s why the idea was on the table in the first place.

Alex C December 29, 2014 - 8:18 am

Given an option of either opening up on how they’re using the PA as a slush fund or screwing over commuters, the two mob bosses decide to screw over commuters.

Is there really nothing DAs can find on these two jerks two throw them in prison already? I feel like no two politicians have been as in-your-face with outright corruption as these two, and yet nothing sticks to them.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 9:15 am

It seems to me like imprisoning elected officials for receiving a report on reforming the Port Authority is somewhat extreme.

By the way, the report is 99 pages. There’s a lot of stuff in there on the various Port operations and ideas to make the PA work better.

Alex C December 29, 2014 - 9:40 pm

They’ve done a lot more than put out a crappy report during their tenures as governors…

Nathanael December 30, 2014 - 12:59 am

Christie appears to have “plausible deniability” regarding the rampant and proven criminality of everyone he appoints.

Cuomo always stays on the good side of “criminal”, but his behavior has been very inappropriate. Nothing compared to the Bruno/Skelos gang in the State Senate, though.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 9:01 am

This board has been crackling with calls to reduce PATH subsidies. Then a report comes out that discusses how to reduce PATH subsidies, and everyone is outraged. I think that’s par for the course, but just noting it.

PATH has a fairly large ridership overnight on weekends, especially on the Hoboken line, but the ridership on weekday nights is very small. The report (as noted above) notes that the overnight weekday ridership is only in the neighborhood of 1,500 people. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to eliminate overnight service on weekdays, especially if the shutdown is used to take care of the endless signal project that has been underway since the Truman Administration.

tacony December 29, 2014 - 11:03 am

But there is no “Hoboken line” during late night hours — the weekend/late night service already combines them so that all uptown tube trips involve a detour into Hoboken even if you’re going to Jersey City. They used to run the full services all the time way back when the H&M tubes were king but they’ve already cut back to bare bones service off-peak to save money over the past couple decades. The 30 minute overnight headways were already cut back to 35 minutes.

Let’s not forget that you can’t just take an affordable cab ride from Manhattan to Jersey City the way you can to Brooklyn despite similar distances. The PATH is indispensable for most travel during late night hours between the city and Hoboken and Jersey City, even more so than the subway is to the outer boroughs.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 12:58 pm

Exactly. A cab could run $50 easily. That’s why running a Hoboken to 33rd St. shuttle at $5 a pop would be a great deal for all concerned.

Josh December 30, 2014 - 3:27 pm

It wouldn’t be a great deal for riders previously paying the $2.75 base fare, to say nothing of those paying discounted fares.

Phillip Roncoroni December 29, 2014 - 9:19 am

Perhaps my civics class knowledge is a bit rusty, but considering the reform bill passed both the NY and NJ legislatures with near unanimous support, can’t the veto be overridden with a 2/3rd vote in both states? Or is a special circumstance, and if so, how?

Kevin December 29, 2014 - 9:38 am

Some of my more knowledgeable (in the subject) friends tell me that unless they get a revote (to override the veto) by Dec 31st (more or less impossible), they have to start all over again. Sometimes you just have to admire a politicians courage to be corrupt. Well played Cuomo & Christie. Well played.

P.S. I’m not holding my breath for it to be put on the docket next year.

Chris C December 29, 2014 - 1:43 pm

In a NY Times article I read on this some GOP legislators are reluctant to over ride a veto.

Guess they don’t want any traffic problems to appear overnight in their districts

Nathanael December 30, 2014 - 1:00 am

Legislators in NJ or NY? What’s the pressure point here?

Dan December 29, 2014 - 9:31 am

The veto can be overridden by a 2/3 vote of each house (Assembly & Senate). I’m not sure why the papers aren’t reporting this possibility. Maybe, although the vote was unanimous, some legislators would hesitate to override a veto even though they voted for the bill originally.

David December 29, 2014 - 9:35 am

My guess is that because it’s the end of the of the 2014 legislative session, there’s basically no time for the another vote on the measure. Once the 2014 ends, the bill would have to reintroduced and work its way through the pipeline again–not a fast process even if it enjoys substantial support.

Nathanael December 30, 2014 - 1:01 am

In New York, with our *remarkably corrupt* legislature, the bill could be reintroduced and passed in under a week… assuming Skelos and Silver wanted it done.

New Jersey, maybe not.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 9:37 am

Are the legislatures even in session? Probably not. Likely the Guvs’ own parties would sustain the vetoes anyway.

The current system to my eyes really isn’t all that bad. The very fact that CC and AC get knocked around when the PA does something people don’t like is a marker that the system works fairly well. If you wind up with a PA not responsive to the one elected official most people have heard of, you’ll likely see things get much worse.

Bolwerk December 29, 2014 - 1:27 pm

I’m surprised to see that from you. Almost any legitimate complaint about MTA cost-effectiveness I can think of applies even more to PA.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 1:42 pm

The PA is highly cost ineffective. However, at least people mad at it can find a target in the two governors. I know that there’s a progressive notion that removing organizations from political officials’ control makes them better, but I think it’s shown that the opposite is the case. I see this with inner city boards of education. The mayors — the one guy/girl that everyone is town pretty much knows — have power stripped and given to boards voted on by 2-3% of the population, and the result has been very poor, very unaccountable school systems.

There is no reason why someone can’t run for governor saying that when I’m elected the PA will do X, Y and Z. And perhaps, such will be the case in future elections given the higher profile it has recently received. Certainly Cuomo has made prodding the PA to fix Laguardia something of an issue.

adirondacker12800 December 29, 2014 - 4:42 pm

Fairly often the schmuck running for governor in New Jersey says “I’m gonna reform the PA! How come our tolls are so high! How come Newark Airport is neglected! How come…. ” He or she can then whine that they introduced all these wonderful reforms but the governor of New York vetoed them. The one running for governor of New York usually runs on “How come we spend so much money in New Jersey! It’s New York’s money!” The governor of New Jersey vetoes any attempt to grab money for New York.

Bolwerk December 29, 2014 - 11:41 pm

Heh, you can blame one governor for the MTA’s problems just as much. This one even did his best to scuttle reform in an election year. Most PA “reforms” usually seem to come with rather vile quid quo pros.

I don’t see much parallel between transit and education. Education is a fairly research-based discipline; what works in one school system mostly works pretty well in peer school systems, and what constitutes an educated person mostly doesn’t change from one place to the next. At the primary/secondary level, it may not even change much from person to person. I agree elected school boards are usually horrible, but mayors rarely have much of a grip on it either.

Transit and transportation, on the other hand, depend heavily on a lot of democratic input. I guess the MTA and PA alike are oblivious to that.

Nathanael December 30, 2014 - 1:01 am

” Likely the Guvs’ own parties would sustain the vetoes anyway.”

Yeah, Christie’s Republicans in New Jersey and Cuomo’s Republicans in New York. (Ba-dum-ching.)

Os December 29, 2014 - 9:36 am

As a Hoboken resident and daily PATH rider, I can attest that trains in the wee-morning hours between 1-5am (albeit mainly on weekends) are FAR more crowded than typical crowding on trains on weekdays between 9am and 3pm.

They’re frequently packed to the brim.

The leadership is obviously disengaged from the situation on the ground. I am not surprised.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 9:54 am

Totally agree. If anything, a better place to wind up would be to eliminate weekday overnight service, and reduce head-ways on late night weekend trains to 15 minutes.

In a more rational world, the PA could simply increase fares on overnight trips, maybe to $5, on the view that those trips are really discretionary. But that would probably be more politically unpalatable than simply taking away service.

Roy December 29, 2014 - 10:18 am

In principle it isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but good luck selling it to people who pay for a monthly unlimited pass.

Tower18 December 29, 2014 - 10:20 am

That is the wrong incentive. Overnight weekend trips are “discretionary” in that they’re probably riders returning from dinners, bars, parties, etc., but riding transit is not a discretionary behavior you want to curb. Cutting this “discretionary” overnight service robs NYC, Hoboken, and JC businesses of customers (in either direction), would likely decrease property values in Hoboken at least, and for those who choose to go out anyway, could lead to an increase in drunk driving (see Boston’s introduction of weekend overnight T service to curb Boston’s late-night transit problem).

We shouldn’t discourage transit use just because “those damn kids” are using it for purposes other than going to work.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 10:32 am

“Overnight weekend trips are “discretionary” in that they’re probably riders returning from dinners, bars, parties, etc., but riding transit is not a discretionary behavior you want to curb.”

I’m a big fan of transit, and as noted above, I’d like to see more frequent service on weekend nights, not less. The demand is there. The fact is that nearly all of that traffic is people going out or returning from bars where drinks are on the order of $6-$10 each. Charging a higher fare to facilitate increased service shouldn’t discourage those trips, and shorter head-ways would probably have the opposite effect. The problem is that I’m sure the overnight weekend shift is likely an expensive one for the PA to staff and it would be nice to make these runs worth the PA’s while. Instead, because the PATH is a subsidy sink, the PA is incentivized to provide as little service as possible. Every decision becomes motivated by politics rather than by $.

Nathanael December 30, 2014 - 1:02 am

Actually there’s a heck of a lot of service workers taking transit on the weekends in the middle of the night.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 4:19 am

400 hundred of them an hour on the PATH system. Assuming there aren’t any party goers or people whose car broke down or got towed or people who were gettin’ some in Manhattan or..

tacony December 29, 2014 - 11:36 am

Not all overnight transit trips are “discretionary.” Next time you’re out having drinks at a bar in the West Village, ask somebody where the barback or the kitchen staff live. A lot live in places like Jersey City or Newark. They might be heading home at 3:30 too, but they probably wouldn’t consider it a discretionary trip. Of course they could take a long, circuitous bus ride home instead. It’s a lot of fun cobbling together a bunch of bus and subway rides in the dark when you’re tired and just want to go home.

I think there’s a danger in professionals who work cushy 9 to 5 jobs sometimes veering into a comfortable blindness about the way the other half earn a living. If I’m 15 minutes late to work ’cause of the train I thankfully don’t get docked pay. And I get to commute during the hours of the most convenient, frequent service! I’m reminded of the calls from electeds to “just stay home” as transit is shut down during storms. That’s easy for me to say ’cause I just email my boss that I’m working from home due to weather. A lot of people don’t get paid if they don’t show up. Overnight transit isn’t just for 20-somethings in Hoboken. It’s integral to the economy.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 1:01 pm

I don’t disagree that an elimination of service would severely inconvenience some subset of the 1,500 weeknight users. The report advocates elimination in favor of bus substitution, so I think it’s being taken into account.

By the way, I’m not a huge fan of the idea, but the report is trying to package a bunch of concepts to reduce service costs. This is the least desirable of the bunch, but it’s hardly a crazy idea.

lawhawk December 29, 2014 - 9:37 am

The Port Authority proposes a $1.5 billion extension to EWR, which would mirror existing service to a significant extent, but somehow thinks that a $8.5 million cost savings by ending overnight service will save PATH from fiscal ruin?

Let’s count the ways how this doesn’t make any sense.

1) How many additional trips that are projected by the agency from the extension would come in the overnight hours, when airport workers and passengers are trying to get to-from the airport for red-eyes?

2) One idea floated is to replace overnight PATH with bus service, even though that’d mean higher personnel costs, plus the need to purchase buses to run the routes, which would quickly eat away whatever cost savings while providing far worse service.

3) The fact that the agency restored weekend service, including overnight service on the weekend shows that they understood the need for the service to be there in the first place. Many living in Hoboken, Newark, Harrison, Journal Square, and Jersey City rely on PATH to get to/from their jobs and to get to the city. The value of these communities is greatly enhanced by PATH’s presence, and eliminating the overnight runs would be a direct economic hit to these communities; the agency’s core mission is to provide service to the region. Cutting this service runs directly against that.

It’s tough to take the agency at its word on saving money here is necessary, when they had no problem spending billions on a station that provides no additional capacity to the system.

One of the recommendations by the governors is to divest the agency of its WTC holdings, but that’s exactly what they did back in 2000 – providing a 99 year lease to Silverstein. For his part, Silverstein went and paid his portion of the lease for years, even though the buildings were destroyed and the agency was actively seeking to push him out of the reconstruction process.

In the end, the agency’s decisions led to the most expensive outcome, whether it was finishing the memorial in time for the 10th anniversary at the expense of having to do all other work in a more expensive and time consuming manner underground, continuing to use Calatrava’s extravagant design even though the cost estimates continued soaring to more than double the original estimates, and yet the entire site still isn’t built out (and wont be for years).

Much of that blame rests on Gov. Pataki too, who pushed the agency into a design competition and selecting Libeskind, even though he had no experience with a project of the size and scope. That poor decision led to many other poor decisions, and we’re still suffering the outcome of those.

Yet, there’s one thing that might make sense with PATH – moving the agency to partner/merge with either NJ Transit or MTA (a far more logical move IMO). Merging with the MTA would lead to a better rationalization of service, sharing of services, contracts, and potentially equipment purchases. But because that would make too much sense, watch for NJ Transit to get PATH, even though there’s no real benefit in cost savings there.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 9:44 am

“The Port Authority proposes a $1.5 billion extension to EWR”

People keep throwing around 1.5 billion. The rough estimate of 1.5 includes 500 million in non-PA investment in facilities at the EWR terminus (garage, hotel). The cost of the extension is 1 billion. Maybe it’s a bad deal at a billion, but using 1.5 billion is just incorrect.

Joe Steindam December 29, 2014 - 10:53 am

I understand that the $1.5 billion includes some ancillary facilities, but $500 million seems like a high estimate for a hotel and a garage. It’s not a great analogue, but the New Brunswick Development Corporation built a hotel (in 2007) and a multi-story parking garage (in 2012) for $120 million and $106 million respectively in New Brunswick, NJ (links: http://www.devco.org/projects/.....0FINAL.pdf and http://www.devco.org/projects/.....0FINAL.pdf)
Understandably costs have risen especially since the construction of the Heldrich, and even allowing for the added complexity of building in/around industrial facilities and possibly wetlands, this seems like a high estimate for those structures. Also, neither of these facilities necessarily need to wait for the PATH extension, at least the parking garage should be built sooner than later, allowing for an alternative to parking in Downtown Newark to use Newark Penn.

As for the actual cost of the extension, I’m not surprised by the high quote, because the elevated right of way carrying trains between EWR Station and Newark Penn Station is already built out with all the tracks it can carry, and they are all used by NJ Transit and Amtrak. The PATH will need an entirely separate guideway, built above or along the existing right of way. Building above or along an active right of way will need exhaustive coordination to ensure worker safety and minimize disruptions to existing service. New layup tracks will be needed. This project is certainly not as simple as it may sound.

adirondacker12800 December 29, 2014 - 11:36 am

If they want to run ten cars trains on the Newark- World Trade Center line they need to buy more cars. They need a place to store them. To get them from Penn Station to Newark Airport, the closest space with room for them, they have to get rid of all the storage they have between Market Street and South Street. It would be nice if they had a place by the time Grove Street gets extended to ten cars. The last station that needs to be done.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 1:03 pm

I’m using a shorthand. I believe the 500 million envisions a commercial complex at the PATH EWR terminus more like a park and ride facility with a hotel with convention center capability. If I’m an official in Newark, I would love to get my hands on a half billion in ratabales. That would be a huge win for the city.

adirondacker12800 December 29, 2014 - 4:08 pm

It’s Port Authority land or Amtrak land and the only taxes they pay to the city, whether it’s Newark, Elizabeth, Jersey City, New York or anyplace else they own property, their payment is what they feel like. I’m sure they would finagle tax incentives if they did pay property taxes.

Eric F December 29, 2014 - 9:51 am

I think there’s a lot of PA reports floating around, so I lose track of what is doing what. I think the current report is designed to winnow down the PA to core operations. There’s a lot in there about selling real estate. There’s also a lot about augmenting the PA’s bus operations and concerning the PA taking the lead on a new train tunnel.

The report takes the view that the PATH bleeds $300mm out of the PA every year. Can the PATH be taken off the PA’s hands? To NJT? To operate on its own? Basically, what I see here are ideas to reduce PATH’s cost structure to allow another entity to come in and take it. In that context, anything done to wring out costs increases the possibility that the system can be transferred. I don’t recall if the EWR extension was mentioned in this report, but getting the system improvements attendant to the extension along with the new passengers it would bring in, would probably further enhance the transferability of the system.

lawhawk December 29, 2014 - 1:34 pm

If they want to talk about wringing down the costs to get back to core assets, then they better be discussing wrapping the PAPD into the police departments in the region; NYPD can absorb PAPD officers and responsibilities, and it would end the turf fights that surround the WTC security situation.

adirondacker12800 December 29, 2014 - 4:37 pm

NY police officers can’t arrest people in NJ and vice versa. Or write tickets. That comes in handy now and then.

Andres December 29, 2014 - 10:47 am

PA does not need to buy new buses or hire new people in order to provide substitute bus service. They merely have to turn to the companies NJT already outsources some of its services to (cough! Academy cough!) …and that may well be who’s supporting this move.

adirondacker12800 December 29, 2014 - 11:41 am

They could use the buses they own that are used by NJTransit. The MTA probably has some too.

Nathanael December 30, 2014 - 1:05 am

In reality, the MTA, PATH, NJT, and SEPTA should all be one operation.

(We could call it the “Pennsylvania Railroad”.)

But good luck trying to get that back. 🙁

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 4:27 am

Why not VRE, MARC, the WMATA and the MBTA too? Sometime soon you’ll be able to take a commuter train from the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border to Virginia, with a short subway ride in Boston. Why stop there? How about the CDTA in Albany and Centro? You want someone in Philadelphia telling you TCAT doesn’t really need more buses?

Josh December 30, 2014 - 3:39 pm

HA! First time I’ve heard TCAT mentioned in SAS, I’m pretty sure. Got a lot of use out of that #92 bus.

Peter Laws December 30, 2014 - 9:13 pm

There are only two gaps now – South of MBTA service in RI to the start of SLE in CT and from the end of SEPTA in DE to the start of MARC in MD. Been like that for a long time.

Gap in Boston, too, but it’s apparently in the Massachusetts Constitution that North and South Stations shall never be linked so long as the Commonwealth endures.

(Yeah, yeah, Orange Line from North Station to Back Bay – whatever).

Larry Littlefield December 29, 2014 - 3:38 pm

Did they mention the Port Authority police? The cost of those police is sky-high relative to other police. And some have said that cost is shifted onto the PATH budget. How about partnering with some other entity, public or private, for policing?

Tsuyoshi December 29, 2014 - 3:41 pm

Here in Philadelphia we now have 24-hour service on the SEPTA subway/el too, but only on weekends. They had a trial period, where they found that the ridership on the subway/el was much higher than the buses (and the buses were crush-loaded at night). It does not seem like anyone is clamoring for 24-hour service during the rest of the week.

SEPTA and PATH actually have similar ridership levels, so maybe similar service patterns make sense. But Center City is somewhat dead late at night in a way that Manhattan is not, so maybe not.

It is curious that PATCO is running 24 hours, as the ridership (36,300) is pitiful compared to SEPTA (333,600) or PATH (248,100).

Eric December 29, 2014 - 5:26 pm

PATCO is entirely automated. When you don’t have labor costs, why not run at all hours of the night?

adirondacker12800 December 29, 2014 - 9:22 pm

It’s not driverless.

Stewart Clamen January 6, 2015 - 11:31 am

No staff in any of the stations, though.

I don’t know how many people are involved behind the scenes, but the overnight operation involves two trains on a 45-minute schedule. Two drivers, one or two security staff (who ride with the train part of the way) and at least one dispatcher.

tacony December 30, 2014 - 12:28 pm

A better comparison with SEPTA would be when SEPTA ended 24 hour service on the subway/el and started the bustitution in 1991. (See: http://articles.philly.com/199.....ted-system) Remember that the subway in Philadelphia was built around the same era as what is today the PATH and the MTA subway and of course it was a 24 hour/365 day operation, as most big city transit was.

When SEPTA originally did away with overnight subway operation in 1991, most of the few people still using it started to abandon the Night Owl buses and overnight ridership fell. I’m sure many late shift workers got sick of the bus and made the decision to buy that car, or the 2nd car in the household, or changed jobs or shifts, etc etc, and the same would happen with PATH.

Blaise Dupuy December 30, 2014 - 5:59 am

This kind of mindset at the PA is what is dooming Hudson and Essex to 2nd or 3rd class status in todays world. North Jersey has the potential to become a thriving 21st century metropolis, but it will never happen with basically 19th century infrastructure and a suburban, anti-transit mindset that still infects NJ. For the 12 years that I recently lived in JC before moving to Brooklyn, I relied on the PATH, and spent many a night on overcrowded trains, and many a day complaining about the lack of service where there was clearly demand.From Thursday through Saturday, from 11pm to 4am trains run on 30 minute headways and were at crush load departing 33rd St! I even joined the PATH “advisory committee” that in actuality was some sort of crumb to the plebes to replace any real rider advocacy group. Any and all real input from the riders was patronizingly dismissed by the managers, and we were given a nice tour of the system and maintenance facilities and then sent on our way. The lack of any real advocates for the riders of NJ is one reason this threat to shut down night service may not be so idle. I wish Fulop and Zimmer good luck, and hope this might motivate some to reframe the entire outlook regarding PATH and transit in North Jersey. Why isn’t the recommendation to ADD service and try to boost ridership with other incentives like co-ordinated bus service to extend the reach of PATH and NJT? This is where I almost think private enterprise would be a better manager in the right hands, but then I remember that they had there chance, went bankrupt and thats how the PA ended up with this troublesome stepchild it never wanted.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 8:37 am

They went bankrupt because the government didn’t allow them to charge enough to cover their costs. New York wanted the H&M’s downtown terminal to build the World Trade Center. New Jersey wanted train service so they wouldn’t have to build more roads. The PA wanted it so they wouldn’t have to build more automobile tunnels. If the World Trade Center had been built Wall Street would have become downtown Brooklyn with taller buildings.

Scoop January 2, 2015 - 11:22 am

For those who were wondering, a 2% cut to the PA’s police budget would seem to save as much as eliminating overnight PATH service. In all, the Port Authority seems to spend at least $500 million per year on its 1,800 police.


My gut says you could cut the PAPD by 75% without any decline in public safety, but I’d like actual information. Does anyone here know where I could find how many felony arrests the PAPD makes per year so I can create a felony arrests per cop per year comparison between the PAPD and the NYPD?

Perhaps if we could do some of the research and present it to one of the papers, we could get a few articles written.

adirondacker12800 January 2, 2015 - 4:09 pm

they aren’t all patrolling PATH and the bus terminals.


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