- Jul 9, 2014
My point about efficiency is based upon the totality of the issue, including cost allocation, equipment issues and service issues. But if you wish to address them separately, we can do that as well.While I agree with your point that run through trains can cause even larger cascading issues, I have to argue against this being any sort of "inefficiency" of such that would make something not worth doing. Cost allocations are political problems, not technical, and often it's better for the end user to have cost allocations dealt with on the agency end than for the end user to have to pay numerous disjointed fares to get from point A to point B. NYC, while maybe not the epitome of numerous non-coordinated (at least farewise) transit agencies, definitely has quite a bit of it (what reason is there, other than political, that PATH is completely separate from the NYC subway, at that neither of those have free transfers with LIRR, Metro North, or NJ Transit (nor are any of those cross-compatible, despite the NYC subway, LIRR, and Metro North all being part of the MTA.)Then, there is the whole cost allocation aspect. That's hardly efficient.
While it is political, the main reason for the politics is the financial investments required by the interested parties. This is not uncommon. Who will pay for this? What will "we" get for "our" money? Are "our" interests properly served? PATH is propped up by some of the busiest river crossings and airports in the country. MTA is propped up by taxes, fees and funding from various counties and the state. NJ is funded by fees and state contributions. A common refrain is "what am I getting for our input? and "why we should we pay" When one entity controlled all of this (multiple times), the results ended up bringing us the commuter agencies that we have today. That way, they could be responsible for their costs and operations, which brings us to your second point:
I've never been to MSP so I'm not familiar with their operation. One thing I that jumps out is it seems be largely a regional operation, with one commuter rail line, that stretches 40 miles. With the exception of the NYC subway system and LIRR, the commuter services around the tri-state (and SEPTA) region all operate across state lines. Indeed, Septa has stations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.For the end customer, simplicity should be key, even if more accounting work has to be done on the back end. While there's a lot I can gripe about with our local transit system here in MSP, one thing that's amazing about it is that literally every transit agency that charges a fare is completely standardized not only on fare medium but passes, transfers, etc. I can go from commuter rail to light rail to city bus to suburban bus all on the same fare, with seamless transfers despite them being different modes and (at least for the suburban buses) different agencies. In my opinion, it should be like that everywhere.
It is much easier from a financial point of view to chart a path if your hand is the only one involved. Your regional operation can make that claim. The New York mega region can not and since funding is based upon the formula instituted by the state, it will always be an "us and them" mentality that your region can only have on a county level.
To tie this to Amtrak, I've said it for years. Amtrak doesn't really need Gateway, could "survive" without Portal or any upgrades to the East River Tunnels. It is NJT and LIRR that really need and will benefit from these improvements. NJ transit added roughly 150 trains in the last 16 years. LIRR added another 100 trains. Amtrak has actually LOST a few trains in the same time period. So, who should ante up? Who benefits the most? How should the costs be allocated and how will the interests of those who contribute be served? Does LIRR and their high taxed counties really care about someone in New Jersey? They don't even care about financing the NYC subway system, which a lot of them use.
Until there is a consistent form of funding and delivery of services (which is difficult when you have multiple hands in the pot), you will continue to have these issues.