Perspectives

My social interactions and associations are often with like-minded people.  My friends and acquaintances tend to espouse liberal views and shun conservatism, libertarianism, tea party-isms and other conservative fringe elements.  That’s just the way it is.  If my television remote ever stumbles upon a station where Glenn Beck is holding forth or where Sarah Palin and her clan are “refudiating” this or that and talking about a future White House residency then I would probably have to cleanse and purify my erring remote, rinse it clean, make it a “born-again” remote.

Many of my co-workers and friends live in New Jersey and commute to New York City.   We wouldn’t be exaggerating if we were to characterize our commutes as horrendous or as a major drag on the quality of our lives.  The distance between my home and my place of work is approximately 54 miles but it has taken up to 3 hours on certain days, certain conditions to traverse this distance.  The plan for a trans-Hudson Commuter Rail Tunnel was welcome news for those of us who share in this misery.  There was a promise for shorter, more efficient commuting.  Some studies even indicated higher property values.  Those of us who rest our heads on pillows in New Jersey care about higher NJ property values and property taxes that are held down as a result of higher property values.  But NJ Governor Christie shot down the idea for the moment.  Nearly half of all the NJ voters supported his decision.  It was a matter of not being able to afford the $9 billion price tag plus potential overruns on the costs for the construction of this tunnel.  The latest news is that other financing options are being explored and that NJ voters want New York City to contribute to the costs. 

I am pleased to learn that other financing options are being considered for this project, that it isn’t necessarily dead in the water yet.  But I doubt Governor Christie’s willingness to explore and exhaust every option.  Politicians like Governor Christie don’t strike me as visionaries who would rather find better ways of doing things than slashing health care, education and policing budgets to make ends meet.  They really don’t come to office with long term goals or a plan of action.  They just stand at a podium and tell people they are against taxation and often in states like New Jersey that’s enough to get them elected to a gubernatorial office.  Slashing requires no vision and no further action.

But that just shows my bias and my perspective.  The disappointment and anger at the block on the trans-Hudson tunnel also reflects my bias, my perspective. 

A few days ago I was in conversation with the parents of Anoushka’s classmate.  They have jobs in New Jersey, not too far from where they live.  They appeared sympathetic to my commuting plight and this led to my mistaken feeling of comfort in sharing my chagrin at the Christie decision.  My comments generated instant heat and anger and a valiant defense of the governor.  In earlier conversations it had seemed as though they missed their former state of residence, a state where it is so easy to get around if one lives in the Bay area or in San Francisco.  The BART is unmatched in convenience.  New Jersey, by contrast, is all cars and clogged highways with poor signage no matter where in the state you are.  So I had assumed they would be in favor of mass transit options.  But, as I said, I was mistaken.  A non-confrontational person like me had finally gone and broached a controversial subject with people who weren’t like-minded.

They loved Christie’s decision and supported it because a tunnel to NYC was meaningless for them.  Why pay for something that was meaningless to them at the moment?  Perhaps they had already decided that they would never seek employment in New York City.  Perhaps there are no long term costs attached to the gas 302,500 New Jersey residents burn in commuting to New York City.  Perhaps these NY commuters are not the ones who contribute to the New Jersey boast about of annual income of $70,000 being the second highest median income in the country.  And I say this without sarcasm – perhaps these things are significantly less important than an increase in our New Jersey taxes and a more efficient means of getting to and from the city.

It is all a matter of perspective.

Two other things did come up during the discussion.  One was whether New Jersey’s economy was in the worst shape of all other states.  I was sure it wasn’t-was sure we were ahead of California, Michigan and Nevada.  But they thought New Jersey was the worst.  I had to research that assertion and it turns out NJ might be in the bottom five based on the budget deficit and unemployment numbers (around 9.4%) but  it certainly isn’t the worst.  The states I thought were worse off really are – CA unemployment 12.4%.

The other was an implied assertion that the number of NJ residents working in NYC wasn’t a significant number.  From my skewed perspective this number was more than significant.  Why else would I face a 3 hour commute every morning and night with Lincoln Tunnel being the narrowest bottleneck? So I had to dig into the numbers.

I collected some information from these sites:

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/34000.html
http://www.us-places.com/New-Jersey/population-by-County.htm
http://www.newgeography.com/content/001721-new-york-commuting-profile-from-monocentrism-edgeless-city

Did some rather liberal extrapolation, such as assuming that only 56.6% of the 6.4 million people, who lived in the counties from which commutes to NYC originated, worked.  Since 43.4% of them were either under 18 or over 65.  Further assumed that the 9.4% state unemployment percent applied to all these counties evenly (probably faulty) and then determined that about 302,500 people commute daily to NYC from NJ.

Hmm…so in a state as densely populated as New Jersey, 8.7 million people living in 7,417 square miles, is this number significant? Is it enough to justify an expensive tunnel? What do three hundred thousand of us contribute to our state’s budget even if we labor across the Hudson? Do we deserve a tunnel to bring a modicum of comfort to our lives?

Don’t really have any of the answers.  Just know that I want my tunnel and don’t mind eating a little humble pie when it comes to respecting another perspective.

1 Comment

  1. Brilliantly argued, brilliantly (as always) written. If I ever, inshallah, visit NJ again I hope you'll be able to show off your NJ-NYC Tunnel!


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