Friday, September 26, 2014

What Should the Raise in NJ Gas Taxes Pay For?

Not just roads, roads, roads - that's for sure. The Transportation Trust Fund, created by the NJ Legislature decades ago to be a funding and spending mechanism for building roads only, is at $950 million a year, grossly out of whack it would seem to me. What roads do we have or need that require expenditures of $950 million -- every year?  The debt we'll be paying for generations is staggering, with bonds floated EVERY YEAR, that now each have a 21 year year debt service. Yet every modern planner, environmentalists, urban planners and others all recognize the need for planned communities with fewer roads and intermodal transportation like light rail, modern trolley systems, parks, greenways, bike lanes, buses, and paths and other community, non-car and truck spaces.

I remember the sleek modern electric trolley (no hanging wires), my mother and I rode from our 3-star hotel on the outskirts of the city to Dublin Ireland's hip new walking shops and city blocks full of sights. Minute by minute green bus tours with open tops full of passengers ambled by, dropping and picking up their passengers all around the city, even at its largest park (with free-roaming deer!), Museum of History, Museum of Art and other wonderful places we visited. 

The downtown park was also redolent with flowers and other plantings, statues like the famous and fictitious Molly Malone , a fishmonger and her bronze cart, and more. And the "trolley" was a block from our hotel, an easy memorable, short walk. We waited less than ten minutes for the next one to appear, and its passengers were commuters and tourists, and city travelers as well.

We have the fantastic River LINE (light rail), here in NJ, following the curvy Delaware River on our west coast from Trenton to Camden, stopping at the Battleship NJ, the State Aquarium, and the ferry to south street in Philadelphia. Cost? Last time I rode its full length, it was $1.10 for the day, one way. Janet and I rode it one fine day to the middle of Burlington City, disembarked, toured the town, ate lunch, then strolled its park by the river. Now visit New York City, with its newly opened additional High Line walking portion covering old elevated railways, or the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, a gorgeous 1/3 mile stretch on the East River for strolling and seating and small parks -- we've enjoyed both with our son's sketch group.

What about the future when we can eliminate thousands of cars with monorails throughout our cities and between towns? Too expensive still, but that would be an ideal way to reclaim all the land and property taken up by empty parking lots on weekends.

So the Motor fuels Tax, TTF monies etc, should partially be reserved, at least a third, to actually promote all forms of PUBLIC  MASS - transportation, eliminate the need of roads by building light rail lines as well, and lines for walking, biking, busing, and eventually monorail and other less damaging systems than roads.

Tomorrow's blog: Why DO we drive?

Best wishes, Rod

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Copyright Rodney Richards 2014

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