Planet Princeton

Op-Ed: What Can 23 Cents Buy?

peter kasabachBy Peter Kasabach

The state Legislature is poised to approve a 23-cent gas tax increase along with a host of tax cuts. The increase in the gas tax revenue should enable a number of positive things to happen in New Jersey, but only if state leaders commit to the following:

Manage the Transportation Trust Fund Responsibly. Past management practices of the fund have allowed excessive borrowing and borrowing for short-term improvements. This has had the unfortunate result that all of the revenue going into the fund is now being used to pay debt service on projects that have already happened, leaving no funds for future projects. The Legislature and executive branch must resist the urge to approve a flurry of new-capacity projects funded by new debt, and instead ensure that a majority of the new funding go toward a pay-as-you-go system for maintenance and repairs.

Increase Funding for Transit. Transit-oriented development is one of the biggest economic drivers in the state. Companies across the country are increasingly interested in locating near transit stations and New Jersey is well positioned to take advantage of this trend. In addition, thousands of riders use NJ Transit every day and demand is increasing, which means less wear and tear on our roads and reduced traffic congestion. The state must increase the capital funding that goes to transit projects, including figuring out how to pay our share of the cross-Hudson rail tunnel.

Fund Transit Operations Permanently. The state contributes approximately $300 million per year from the general fund toward NJ Transit operations, since Transportation Trust Fund money cannot be used for this purpose. Given the large tax cuts that are part of the gas tax compromise legislation, it is unclear where the state will make spending cuts to offset the reduced revenue. The state must ensure that NJ Transit operating dollars are preserved in the annual budget and identify a dedicated funding source for ongoing operations.

Target Road Funds for Biggest Benefit. Aside from transit projects, the state needs very few new-capacity infrastructure projects. The backlog of maintenance and repair projects should be the state’s singular priority. In order to prioritize these projects further, the state should look at supporting projects that will enjoy the highest per-capita use. The state must re-commit to a “fix-it-first” approach and incorporate per-capita use when making difficult decisions.

Does New Jersey need a gas tax? Yes. Is the current size of the gas tax increase appropriate? It’s a good start. Will this gas tax create a truly sustainable Transportation Trust Fund? We don’t know. We need to know how this money is going to be spent, that the tax cuts won’t have unintended consequences and that the financial structure of the trust fund will be sustainable, so that the state’s residents and businesses aren’t asked for another increase in a few years to pay down the state’s credit-card balance.

Peter Kasabach is the executive director of New Jersey Future, a not-for-profit that promotes responsible land-use policies, including expanding transportation options.

Community Contributor

Submit your photos, news, blog post, news tip, document, request for coverage or letter to the editor to editor @ planetprinceton.com. Please include your contact information. Letters should be between 200 and 750 words. Add events to our community calendar by following the "add event" link on our navigation menu. Thank you for reading and contributing to Planet Princeton.

  • FreshAir

    Big buses are present, not future, solutions for the suburbs. And the suburbs aren’t going to vanish anytime soon. Young families still want to live in them,.. really LiVE in them.

  • Blake Cash

    I have yet to see any other numbers, just these and those published by Septa.

    Bus ridership in Princeton may be low, for many reasons, but in urban areas such as Philadelphia, where a bus shows up at the stop every twenty minutes, is high enough you might wait an hour for a bus that isn’t packed. Nothing is universal, and the transit company makes a profit based on the entire service area, not a single route or stop.

    Buses are clearly not a complete solution, but they are a present and possible solution.

  • FreshAir

    We generally agree, so I will only add to your report that scientific analyses/ independent laboratory calculations will be more accurate than your numbers from a commuter service hoping to spur ridership on fossil fueled vehicles. So, I encourage you to use unbiased sources. Emission of greenhouse gases is another critical consideration, when evaluating choices. Solar & wind sourced energies don’t require fossil fuel to provide power. Those choices are cheaper per kWh. Bus ridership is pretty low in our suburbs. For what it’s worth.. a distinct view on Nassau street in the daylight PM hours allows me to see that there are often only five or less people in the enormous buses going by… that’s lots of fuel burning to move buses that could be a fraction of the size and still get the job done.

  • Blake Cash

    I equation your numbers. A commuter service in Santa Barbara, California, USA, found average diesel bus efficiency of 6.0 mpg-US (39 L/100 km; 7.2 mpg-imp) (using MCI 102DL3 buses). With all 55 seats filled this equates to 330 passenger mpg; with 70% filled, 231 passenger mpg.

  • FreshAir

    “These people don’t care about this state or the people who live in it”. So true.

  • FreshAir

    Transit buses use more energy per passenger mile than cars. Small, clean, naturally electric powered vehicles are the only smart solution for the suburbs.

  • FreshAir

    Hard numbers would scare everyone away from mass transit, when the funding costs for mass transit systems, the fares one pays, & the parking fees are calculated. Even worse, hard numbers will never include acknowledgement of the loss of your valuable time, everyone’s time, wasted in transit systems. Transit buses use more energy per passenger mile than cars…which is another fact never discussed. The city of London has installed 700 electric car chargers. That city is smart enough to support the health benefits of cleanly sourced, electric vehicles, easy mobility, & human productivity. Solar & wind power are cheaper per kwh over time than fossil fueled energy generation systems. That means this approach is cheaper. So, there’s real wisdom in allowing people to be cleanly mobile. There’s wisdom in allowing for the fact that not everyone can live near mass transit. The only smart thing to do to preserve the health & beauty of our planet & population is to supply natural, clean sourced electric power & vehicles (& yes, parking,…compact car parking spaces) for those living in expansive suburban areas. These things aren’t discussed here by wealthy planners who don’t care about your/our quality of life.

  • Susan M. Barbey

    NJ Legislators (press) (10/5/16)

    For all of you with morals, intelligence, courage and conviction: thank you for stopping this today.

    Once again, you succeeded and STOPPED bill S2411/A11 (estate)—S2412/A10 (gas) to protect the residents of the state of New Jersey.

    The Sarlo/Oroho bills have been DOOMED from the start.

    To pair a regressive gas tax (people with the least are the least able to pay it) with one of the largest tax cuts in NJ history for NJ’s wealthiest residents: [1. the repeal of the NJ estate tax and 2. an income tax pass of up to $100,000]-is the work of people chiefly concerned with their own financial profit. It’s so evil it’s makes the hair on my arms stand up.

    These people don’t care about this state or the people who live in it. They only care about themselves. (Those “little” tax cuts for the poor, vets, scintilla sales tax cut—are an insult to the NJ public when measured against the HUGE cuts for NJ’s wealthiest).

    Gov Christie has been confident that he will succeed in DUPING the NJ public. That he can rob the future of this state; ALL with this bill that he says he’ll sign in the name of “tax-fairness”. The legislators who support this bill are despicable Yesterday (based on what the press said), I was despairing that NJ legislators were going to sell the people of New Jersey OUT, increase the gas tax by $.23 cents —— and pay Gov Christie $1.4 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy to fund the TTF.

    If NJ needs money and a tax hike is the only solution (I don’t know that it is)–increase a tax that we all pay but a tax that proportionally impacts people WITH money vs on a commodity we ALL must use–weather we can afford it or not (like gas).

    Does NJ need death tax reform (inheritance and estate)? YES. NOT THIS WAY. I’ve spent the past 2 1/2 years of my life working on this. But to tie such reform to a gas tax increase or to ANY tax increase is INSANITY. IT’S AN ASSAULT ON THE STATE OF NJ and its people.

    I didn’t spend these last 2 1/2 years of my life on NJ death tax reform to: 1) witness the NJ Gov and vocal legislators purposely BURY the NJ inheritance tax (regressive and discriminatory) from the NJ public when BOTH death taxes need to be addressed 2) witness the bulldozing of the NJ public to get the estate tax repealed (and other tax breaks for NJ’s wealthiest)–tied to funding the TTF.

    Do the right thing.

    STOP bill S2411/A11 (estate)—S2412/A10 (gas)

  • Think you’re right Khürt, at the very least the municipalities and employers would need to establish robust shuttle service for each end of the commute. It used to confound me that there was no convenient bus from my old home in Princeton Jct. just off 571 to my PU office on Washington Rd. in town, basically a straight shot.

  • Increase Funding for Transit. Transit-oriented development is one of the biggest economic drivers in the state. Companies across the country are increasingly interested in locating near transit stations and New Jersey is well positioned to take advantage of this trend. In addition, thousands of riders use NJ Transit every day and demand is increasing, which means less wear and tear on our roads and reduced traffic congestion. The state must increase the capital funding that goes to transit projects, including figuring out how to pay our share of the cross-Hudson rail tunnel.

    I don’t have any hard numbers but it seems to me that the majority of people working in New Jersey don’t live or work near public transportation. I worked out how long it would take me to grab a bus from a local street corner in Skillman (Montgomery Township) to the Dinky in Princeton, Dinky to Princeton Junction, and then take a train from into Trenton, and then another bus ride to my destination. My 15 mile commute takes about 30 minutes by car in the AM. It would take almost 2 hours using mass transportation. Longer if you include the 20 minute walk to/from the bus stop.

    So … this future of which you speak is not a near future. It’s very much in the far future.

Events Calendar

« August 2017 » loading...
M T W T F S S
31
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
1
2
3

Instagram

  • The book sale at the Princeton Public Library is in full swing. So crowded it's hard to move around. Sale today and tomorrow.#princeton #books

Follow Us

Events Calendar

« August 2017 » loading...
M T W T F S S
31
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
%d bloggers like this: