January 22, 2014

LESSON FROM BRIDGEGATE? Abolish The Port Authority.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s office has taken most of the heat for screwing citizens by playing dirty politics, but there’s another party responsible that has so far evaded most of the blame. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the government agency that directly caused the gridlock, is an enormously powerful bastion of patronage that violates all commuters every day of the year.

It would be easy to discount the George Washington Bridge scandal as a case of a few bad apples abusing their power. But it’s actually just one example of how an organization that was supposed to rise above politics became a tool for politicians to act out their worst impulses. The episode is an indictment of the very concept of the Port Authority—and the Progressive-Era ethos that good public policy is all about entrusting smart people to run things.

A bi-state agency that controls a good share of the transportation infrastructure around New York City and North Jersey, the Port Authority squanders its wealth and mismanages its assets; it charges high tolls and puts off necessary maintenance work; and it’s a cesspool of dirty politics.

Give politicians power, and they’ll abuse it. The obvious solution is to give them less power to abuse.

Plus: “A major reason New York’s three major airports provide such a lousy experience for travelers is that they’re all operated by the Port Authority, so they don’t have any reason to compete for customers.”