Friday, February 01, 2008

Not with a bang

Last night I hustled to catch the 5:16 back to Princeton, having missed seeing my kids 2 nights out of 3. Scheduled to arrive at 6:12 or something, it came in at 7:05 because a broken down train next to the platform Hamilton made everything run on the middle tracks.* This morning, the 7:03 express into Manhattan – already running one car short – made an unscheduled stop at Metro Park and picked up a mess of people, arriving 8 minutes late to Penn Station.

What does the decline of an empire look like? Those of us who were around in the 70s have some recollection of this foreboding. I remember as well being in Britain in the early 80s, after a band as morbid as Joy Division briefly topped the charts, and I can tell you nobody had a clue what was gonna happen next.

After storms ravaged the towpaths along the Pennsylvania side canals along the Delaware River, the state of Pennsylvania hasn’t laid out dollars to fix them, rendering great 90s-era public parkland almost useless. NJ Transit is, obviously, having serious problems making things run on time. New Jersey is facing a massive pension funding deficit and Corzine is floating a plan to privatize the toll highways, which would jack up tolls. A bridge collapses in Twin Cities. Felix Rohatyn is trying to make the decay of public infrastructure a national priority, which is difficult in the context of a short-term spend spend spend stimulus package because it's too indirect.

Over time, the decline of our public finances will manifest itself in the degradation of public infrastructure and services, which will in turn negatively impact peoples’ ability to consume. Which, from a sustainability perspective, is perhaps good.

Addendum: For no good reason, the 5:43 express from New York this evening arrived 1 minute before it was supposed to leave, five cars short. It was packed, hot and miserable. It got to Princeton 16 minutes late. No explanation was offered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thursday night was nasty. As is the start of every holiday weekend, and every day the temperature is below 15 degrees F.

You need to take the 6:14 am with me, clean and fast and efficient. I have a theory that its the peon trains that have issues.