Comparing Christie With Other Governors: Public Transit

MLewyn's picture

In view of the recent scandal involving the politically-motivated closing of some bridge lanes in New Jersey, I thought I would start to take a look at how New Jersey Gov Christie's record compares with those of some other governors who might be running for President.  But rather than going program-by-program, I thought I would look at actual transit ridership.  (Statistics here). 

Two other Republican governors are, I think, reasonably likely to run for President: Rick Perry of Texas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.  Walker has a reputation of being pro-highway and anti-transit.  Has this been reflected in transit ridership?  Gov. Walker took office at the start of 2011.  Between the first three quarters of 2011 and the first three quarters of 2013, transit ridership in Milwaukee (the state's largest city)  went down from 33.6 million trips to 32.3 million trips. 

During the same period, ridership on New Jersey Transit (the state's main travel agency) went up from 190 million trips to 198.6 million trips, despite the disruptive effects of Superstorm Sandy on New Jersey transit.  Advantage: Christie.  Gov. Christie has not been a leader on transit issues (except for his opposition to a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River), but his inaction has allowed New Jersey transit to follow the same trends as that of other states.  Nationally, ridership increased from 7.7 billion trips to 7.9 billion, a level of increase slightly lower that of New Jersey Transit. 

How does Perry's Texas compare?  Because Texas has several large cities, it is somewhat difficult to compare it with New Jersey or Wisconsin. However, ridership rose in the state's two largest transit systems: by about 3 percent in Houston (from 61.2 to 63 million trips) and by about 10 percent in Dallas (from 45.6 million to 50.7 million trips).  Like Gov. Christie, Gov.Perry has not been a leader on public transit, but has not been aggressively harmful either.  

I note that several possible Republican candidates are legislators rather than governors; thus, it is difficult to imagine how their records as chief executives would be.  Marco Rubio supports Orlando's Sunrail commuter train system, and Rick Santorum often supported transit funding when he was in the Senate. On the other hand, Paul Ryan generally does not have a pro-transit voting record, and Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are too new to have much of a record (though Sen. Paul is hostile to federal bicycle/pedestrian funding). 



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