Pondering PATH and the Christie/Cuomo Port Authority vetoBy
I’m still marveling over Gov. Christie’s and Cuomo’s dual veto of the Port Authority reform measure. From its timing late on a Saturday night between Christmas and New Year’s to the fact that their counter-proposal contained a brazen plan to curtail overnight PATH service between Manhattan and New Jersey, this thing reeks of politics. Despite their wishes too, this story hasn’t gone away.
As the first real full-time workday dawns since the veto, New Jersey legislators are threatening to an override vote while New York representatives, and in particular the embattled Sheldon Silver, have been mum on their intentions in the new legislative session. Furthermore, although the Governors’ report featured 90 pages of recommendations, the PATH proposal is still drawing headlines. Matt Chaban spoke with late-night PATH riders for an article that appears in today’s Times, and they are uniformly against the move.
Many riders spoke about the convenience of the trip and how it drove their decisions to move to New Jersey’s waterfront cities. Others note that it allows them to work in certain sectors — particularly service jobs — while paying rent. As one said, “If there was no PATH train, that would change everything. I guess I’d have to buy a car, or move to the city, neither of which I want to do.”
Late last week, the editorial page director of The Record penned a signed opinion column speaking out against the PATH cuts. It included a gem of a line: “Christie and Cuomo know more than I do about many things, but commuting on a budget isn’t one of them. I expect that holds true for the members of the governors’ special panel.”
Doblin makes many good points regarding subsidized fares; affordable commutes; the inability of New Jersey Transit to run its own house, let alone someone else; and Port Authority priorities. He also drops a few good zingers: “And if the Port Authority wants to reduce PATH expenses, why is it building a $4 billion station at the World Trade Center where even the platforms at track level are marble? Before someone asks me to pay five bucks for a subway ride, I would like someone to explain marble train platforms.”
But what if we’re focused on the wrong thing? What if this isn’t really about the PATH train cutbacks at all? Even current Port Authority commissioners have been quick to point out that the elimination of overnight PATH service would be “a last resort.” Still, it’s garnered a lot of headlines while the real story has almost — but not quite — been forgotten.
So before we forget entirely, let’s revisit the real story: After a bipartisan, two-state push to reform Port Authority through legislative mandates, Governors Christie and Cuomo both vetoed their respective state measures at 11 p.m. on the Saturday night after Christmas. In its place, they proposed non-binding reform measures that wouldn’t have the weight of law or the bite of legislative oversight or legal enforcement. As Doblin ultimately concludes, “The process will not change unless laws change. Christie and Cuomo do not want that to happen. Unchecked authority at the Port Authority was how a $4 billion subway station resembling a gigantic gull in flight was approved and constructed. When it comes to the Port Authority, the governors of New Jersey and New York will do what they want while the public, well, they get the bird.” That — and not a misguided two paragraphs regarding 24/7 PATH service — is the real takeaway. The PATH train is just a ruse.