It Takes a Transit Village to Create a Crisis: The Fort Lee Phenomenon

Some Democrat was taking advantage of the Fort Lee traffic crisis to pounce on N.J. Gov. Chris Christie.  He asked in exasperation how the governor of a state could not know what was going on in his own state or what his assistants and nominees to bureaucratic office were doing about what, to him, seemed like a major crisis – a traffic jam.

The answer is simple:  this is New Jersey.  And the answer to why our governor would “ignore” a traffic jam crisis in Fort Lee, on the George Washington Bridge approach:  that’s just Fort Lee for you.

Not being from the state, whoever this legislator is can be excused for ignorance.  Traffic in Fort Lee is a mess just about every workday.  A traffic jam in that town or at the GW is not news; it’s a fact of life.  If some aide came to the governor and told him there was a traffic jam problem in Fort Lee, he may well have shrugged it off – he’s a Jersey guy.  He only became alarmed when he discovered one of his aides was responsible for creating it.

Right here in this column, we challenged the Media to do something besides join in the Christie Crushing and get to the heart of the real problem in Fort Lee:  the over-building, over-crowding, one-way traffic-unfriendly schematic of the town and its neighbors who must go through Fort Lee to reach the bridge.

The Record (of North Jersey) finally came through and published an investigate article in this past Sunday’s edition, by staff writer Linh Tat, detailing Fort Lee’s many woes.

Traffic is a challenge in Fort Lee everyday

http://www.northjersey.com/fortlee/fort_lee_traffic_george_washington_bridge.html

Linh Tat writes about the soon-to-be traffic nightmare that will plague Fort Lee once a half-dozen more high-rise apartments are built there and in neighboring towns.  Fort Lee only comprises 2.5 square miles.  The newest pair of high rises – each 47 storeys – will tower over the bridge.  And all those tenants will have cars.  Two cars if a couple occupies a unit and possibly.

In 2008, Gov. Christie turned down a proposal to build a new rail tunnel from North Bergen to Midtown Manhattan.  The proposal included a light rail service running from Fort Lee to Weehawken, or wherever the tunnel would actually begin.  We were in the midst of the financial crisis and the governor didn’t want to put the state into more debt by adopting such a costly project.

He acted precisely the way the environmentalists hoped he would, because he inadvertently set the stage for the crisis that will probably cost him his presidential bid and will allow them to carry out their transit village plan.  Without the crisis, their plan wouldn’t have worked.

Anyone who heard about Fort Lee’s ambitious residential projects would have thought the town council was out of its collective mind.  The current residents thought so.  The town was already too crowded.  Where were all these cars going to go?  As far as the Sustainable Community crowd is concerned, to the junk heap.  And if they can keep a popular Republican governor from claiming the presidency in 2016, so much the better.

The town went ahead and allowed the developers to build their high-rises.  So did the other communities.  Call it The Chaos-Theory-on-the-Hudson.  Too many people and too many cars on too small a parcel of land.  Pile them all on top of the Palisades and eventually you’d have a theoretical landslide right into the laps of the Sustainable Communities activists.

Now that the high-rises were up, it was just a matter of demanding that the state, under the auspices of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, “do” something about it.  So, the state agreed to do a traffic study to find out what the problem was.

The traffic study and its resultant traffic jam is small potatoes compared to the governor’s vetoing the rail tunnel.  But a traffic snarl, common as they are on the GW, with commuters weeping and wailing and cursing the governor, would play well before the cameras.  Then New Jersey’s Democrat legislature could demand an “investigation.”  Republican heads would roll.

As for New Jersey’s Gold Coast, these wealthy urbanites will eventually get their rail tunnel.  There’s just one catch:  they’ll have to get rid of their cars.  My personal prediction will be that ordinances will be passed dictating that anyone living in a building of so many units and so many storeys – say, 40 storeys – will not be allowed to keep cars.  The residents of these buildings will be like freshman on a college campus:  you don’t need your cars; you’ll have to stay on campus (for the most part) and use the college transit system.  If you do need to go anywhere in a car, rent one.

Gov. Christie’s aide was right in his or her comment, snarky though it may sound:  Bergen County is mainly Democrat.  They’ve asked for this.  Worse still, these are transplanted New Yorkers, either from the city or Long Island.  One of the attractions of those high-rise units was their parking garages.  The tenants (or condo owners) could keep their cars.

But now the crisis is upon them.  Fort Lee has reached that catastrophic peak where the wave starts to curl, the mountain of snow begins to crumble, the forewarning of an avalanche.  The 12-lane bridge can only handle just so much traffic before it begins to regularly back up.  Six lanes into the city, the top three commandeered by the truck traffic.  That means commuters from Bergen County must share those three lower lanes with the commuters approaching the bridge from farther west.  Three lanes; that’s all there are.

So Gold Coast residents – mainly all good Democrats – must decide:  surrender their automobiles or condemn the entire area to daily, hours-long commutes to a city that, under “normal” traffic conditions, is a mere three minutes away – once you’re on the bridge.

Sustainable Communities will lull them into the notion that, with mass transit, everything they need or want is just a walk or a short train-ride away.  What do they need a car for?  Think of all the expenses they would save:  no more car insurance, maintenance, car tolls ($12 on the GW), parking fees in the garage.  Let the government get you where you want to go.

At least until the electricity goes out.  Or the transit union goes on strike.  Or another hurricane floods the city.  Well, none of that is any worse than an accident on the Cross Bronx on the other side of the river.  Or a suicide jumper.  Or monstrous icicles hanging from the bridge’s towers.  There are always downsides to everything.

High-rise residents will naturally protest and point out that if they have the mass transit for commuting, there’s no reason for them to get rid of their cars. Even Bergen County Democrats still have a remnant of that love of freedom so dear to most Americans, the independence to decide when they’re going to go someplace (on the weekends) and where they can go (like the Garden State Plaza Mall or to visit some relative in western New Jersey lucky enough to have a home with some acreage).

The answer to that will be even more mass transit, and consequently, even higher taxes for the remaining, though dwindling, property owners in New Jersey.  As businesses flee the state, there will be more jobs lost, replaced by lower-paying jobs.  Homeowners will be unable to pay their mortgages or their taxes, and those homes, too, will be lost, to be replaced by more human warehouses.

We will all be squashed into small, uncomfortable, crime-breeding, frustrating compartments unable to move or breathe.  Which means we will all be “equal,” according to Sustainable Community standards.  We must make this sacrifice, they will tell us, for Mother Earth.

To that silly, out-of-state Democrat legislator expressing his frustration with New Jersey:  welcome to the “Garden State,” pal.

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Published in: on February 18, 2014 at 10:35 am  Leave a Comment  

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