PATH Train Takes ‘Craigslist Approach’ and More On Transportation Funding

Last week, ratpag stumbled upon this post from the New York Daily News discussing the decaying state of mass transportation in the U.S.  Uninterested, we disregarded it and proceeded to wrap up the week’s posts as quickly as possible before leaving town for a long weekend.

Well, here we are today and, wouldn’t you know it, that really was an interesting post!  It talks of the PATH train, which connects New York City and New Jersey, and how its circuit breakers were irreparably damaged after Hurricane Sandy.  NBD right?  Why not just connect the wires directly and avoid all the hassle of interrupted electrical flow?  You guessed it:  out-of-control government regulation.

The alleged flooding that caused the destruction of circuit breakers.

The alleged flooding that caused the destruction of circuit breakers.

PATH was in a bit of a quandary, though, as they were flat out of circuit breakers and the company that had manufactured them closed up shop.  No more circuit breakers.  So PATH started calling around in what was referred to as the “Craigslist approach to dealing with mass transit needs.”

The Chicago Transit Authority, operating a similarly-old system, happened to have two of the 500-pound circuit breakers laying around in a warehouse and shipped them by truck to New Jersey.  Problem solved (kind of).  The CTA wants their circuit breakers back for when their obsolete breakers, well, break and so the PATH has to “self-manufacture new circuit breakers to replace the old ones.”

So why all of this wackiness?  Why are we reverse-engineering antiquated technology to replace the antiquated technology that was borrowed from someone else (because they need their antiquated technology back for when their currently-used antiquated technology stops working, as antiquated technology is wont to do)?  Because, as Streetsblog mentioned the other day,

the backlog for transit maintenance and replacement stands “conservatively” at $86 billion, according to the Federal Transit Administration.  That backlog is expected to keep growing at a rate $2.5 billion each year without a significant infusion of funds.

The post details a meeting of the Banking Committee called and chaired by New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez where he asks various transit officials from around the country whether they “believe that current funding levels are enough to help you achieve a state of good repair.”  Responses ranged from “no sir” to “woefully insufficient.”

So why is funding likely to remain flat when so much catching up needs to be done?  That’s a question ratpag can’t figure a reasonable answer to.  We’re happy to see people out there rallying for transit funding, from bus drivers in Maine to hundreds of miscellaneous people in Washington, DC.  Keep up the good work, ratpaggers!  Rest assured that we here at ratpag HQ will continue working tirelessly through the night to bring this country the transit that it needs.

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