Op-Ed: Four Ways to Reinvent Our Transportation Network

‘What this pandemic has laid bare is that competence matters, and we must demand organizations and leadership that will give us a world-class transportation infrastructure’
Phil Logrippo

These are unprecedented times, and in these times, we must rethink our solutions. New Jersey is supporting our heroes in the health care field by reducing restrictions on immigrant and foreign-trained doctors practicing, as well as calling on retirees and recent graduates in these dire times.

Every person is being affected by this pandemic in one way or another, but state and local governments and institutions have also been affected. What do New Jersey Transit, the MTA and Port Authority all have in common? Besides poor reliability and woeful consumer satisfaction, they all need bailouts. Congress is already in discussions about a Phase 4 CARES Act. However, before taxpayers open their wallets and give these transportation institutions a blank check, we must restructure them to give the NYC metro area the transportation infrastructure it deserves. What this pandemic has laid bare is that competence matters, and we must demand organizations and leadership that will provide us with a world-class transportation infrastructure.

Each of these bodies has its own leadership structure and its own priorities and often these can lead to competing interests rather than being aligned and working toward a common goal. Even when lockdowns end, remote work will be here to stay, and this will change the commuting patterns of millions of individuals. Transportation infrastructure lasts for many decades, but due to our constantly changing world, flexibility is essential. It is time to look beyond the existing institutions and imagine how we would structure our transportation without these imaginary boundaries.

The region’s governors have shown they can work together during this pandemic, and regional transportation is another problem that requires a coordinated solution. A regional approach will better align with the needs of the public. This will require us to make significant changes and make some hard choices. Why not now?

  • Combine the institutions into one metro-area transportation organization with less bureaucracy and a single focus on the needs of the customer. A combined institution will have greater negotiating power for procurement of equipment and contracts.
  • Re-evaluate the capital plan for each organization and ensure efficient capital allocation for a combined organization that provides the greatest customer impact.
  • Share resources, staffing (engineers, maintenance, and the like), employee training, equipment (trains, buses, vehicles, and so on). With a combined structure resources can flow as our world changes, as one neighborhood grows or as travel patterns change.
  •  Ensure efficiency with one train from New Jersey to Long Island or Westchester and allow one ticketing application for all train/bus/subway systems in the metro area. Share best practices, design/reduce soaring construction costs.

This tragedy will transform all aspects of our lives. We must be proactive and use this opportunity to develop a transportation system that will make our region thrive in the years and decades to come. In order to do so, we must question our ingrained assumptions and build for the future.