Now the off year election is over, I think that even you have finally begun to realize the extent of voter dissatisfaction in the state. To salvage the election in 1993 you are going to have to start generating effects perceived as positive on the voters. I will propose four such projects of varying impact that will cost relatively little to the voters and taxpayers but will go a long way to salvaging your image.
I propose you give the management of Newark Airport the right to levy a "passenger and freight takeoff fee" that would be dedicated to capital improvements only. No revenues raised by that mechanism could used for any other purpose, especially not operating costs nor projects unrelated to the airport.
Major capital improvements are necessary if New Jersey is to stay competitive in the projected doubling of air travel in the next decade.
Establishing a capital improvement fund financed by dedicated fees creates a favorable financing environment for new or extended runways to handle more traffic, moving walkways (or other people moving mechanisms,) better aircraft handling facilities that allow airlines a quicker turnaround time, maybe another terminal, the latest in air traffic control technology, ......
Dedicating the fee to capital improvements only insures a steady updating of facilities rather than a "status quo" situation where facilities become quickly obselete and noncompetitive.
Allowing the airport management the latitude to establish the fee base and rate (subject to state review) lets it do what, in its expert estimation, needs to be done to remain competitive with the New York airports. It can do what it needs to attract carriers, and the associated jobs, to New Jersey.
Tying the fee to to takeoff (or landing) capacities places the burden for improvements on those who directly benefit. No passenger will complain about a small increase in fare (probably less than 1%) if he feels certain (as a fee dedicated to capital improvements only would indicate) the money was being used to improve facilities and traffic flow.
Here is a way to kill (or at least aim at) two birds with one stone. The New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia air corridor is one of the busiest in the world. Further it supports a land use and population density like few other equivalent land areas in the world. A life blood of the population is transportation and with air transportation estimated to easily double in the next decade, airport facilities are can only get busier and more overburdened.
The first bird keeps and increases jobs in New Jersey with no tax increase. You have to get our congressional delegation, particularly our two Senators, to get together behind a movement to convert Fort Dix to an international airport, primarily for freight movement. The efficient movement of freight is a lifeline to any civilized society.
Fort Dix is one of the few land masses left in the metropolitan area large enough to contain a large airport without dislocating population or environment. Converting it to an airport would generate many times the jobs it now supports and its proximity to the Turnpike and other large traffic arteries makes it easily accessible to the industrial base in both the North Jersey and Philadelphia areas.
Focusing on freight allows the airport to target facilites specializing in freight movement and would reduce a significant load on Newark, leaving Newark to specialize on people movement so it can attract people traffic from New York. Further, a freight focus can revitalize a decaying industrial base.
The second bird would reduce the defense budget by removing Fort Dix from the payroll and placing it in the private sector. Of course Uncle Sam is going to have to help us do this, probably by lending NJ the half billion or so (20,000 direct jobs and probably another 40,000 indirect jobs created) necessary to make the conversion. Overnight Fort Dix is turned from a balance sheet liability (a federal deficit contributor) to an asset (a federal deficit reducer) secured by airport bonds (backed by Uncle, of course). The entire country would shown by a little state how to handle both the defense and the deficit problems.
Air pollution by cars is well documented and everyone agrees mass transit can be a major alleviator of the problem. Everyone, that is, except the people who are proposed to leave their cars and use mass transit, a fine idea that doesn't work. It seems few people will leave their cars to go to mass transit. So how about taking the mass transit to their cars?
What I propose is to set up a "subway type" bus system along the major commuter arteries. The easiest way to describe it is to use the Parkway as an example, but it can be made applicable with appropriate modifications to any of the major automobile commuter routes (Routes 80, 280, 46, etc.), especially limited access highways.
The Parkway would set aside, or utilize existing, parking areas every few miles (preferably not more than five). Commuters would park and board Florio Flyers specifically designed (described later) for commuters. They would travel to a stop nearest their workplace where they would catch a company shuttle to work. At night, the process is reversed.
The key is to provide comfortable, dependable and frequent service. The Florio Flyers (actually bus type vehicles) would go from parking lot to parking lot, picking up and discharging as needed. They would be roomy, air conditioned/heated, have comfortable reclining seats, pull down trays (desk tops), cellular pay phones, jacks to plug in portable computers, ear phone jacks, maybe even tv's, more amenities than could be expected in a car. The comfort level is important to attract people who may spend up to 20 hours a week in cars and won't give them up easily. Decent facilities would even allow the more ambitious to use the Flyer as an office extension.
The Flyers would travel on dedicated lanes (not unlike the ill fated "commuter lanes" of a few years ago) assuring timely unhindered schedules. Because the Flyers would be specifically built for commuter use on designated roads only (like the Parkway), they could be could be under/oversized (to a point) for comfort and efficiency, designed for quick easy in/egress (maybe like a subway type platform), have a suspension system that doesn't have to accommodate varying road surfaces and therefore be more friendly. Keeping them to the generally well maintained limited access highways should go a long way to keeping maintenance costs down (a major component in mass transit).
It shouldn't be difficult for NJDOT to come up with incentives for enployers to provide a shuttle service between state parking areas and factories, office buildings, etc. It's in their interest if only in freeing up valuable land now dedicated to parking. Further it takes little imagination to see shopping centers and the like setting up jitney services (you remember them, Governor, don't you) between parking areas and malls to attract shoppers.
The Florio Flyer capital costs could be financed by Uncle Sam (if you can get the Senators away from their special interests long enough to return some of the taxes we pay to Washington that now go to General Dynamics or Boeing in other states) and operating costs anchored by a fare system subsidized by gasoline taxes.
The beauty in using Flyers is that a "subway" type system could be set up with "expresses" and "locals" that is far more flexible than a railroad. They can be easily routed to heavy use areas when needed (i.e. inbound during mornings, outbound in the evening). And it's not an overwhelming capital outlay, such as a railroad or subway. It utilizes readily accessible "stations" along already identified heavy usage areas and doesn't take any existing land out of production (such as a railroad right of way or a new highway would.).
A key to the success of the operation is frequent dependable service. No less than 15-30 minute intervals during the day and probably 5 minute intervals during "rush" hours in the densest travel areas.
While such a plan would require several hundred Florio Flyers, it would reduce (or make room for more) hundreds of thousands of automobile miles every weekday. It seems an attractive payoff in pollution, efficiency and utilization.
Starting with 1992 purchases, the Governor should mandate all State agencies purchase only vehicles that are propane (or natural gas) powered. Certainly there will have to be exceptions (like State Police chase vehicles, heavy trucks, etc.), but most state vehicles could be converted to a less air polluting propulsion.
While initial conversion costs raise purchase prices, the cost is returned in something under three years in lower maintenance and operating costs. It is not a new technology and is in wide use in Japan, for example. All Japanese taxis must be propane powered by law.
In addition to being a significant contributor to air pollution reduction, it works toward reducing US reliance on foriegn oil (remember Saddam). It will set an example to companies in the state to convert their fleets also. Even more far-reaching, it may just provide the critical mass necessary (via refueling stations) and start a movement away from absolute gasoline reliance to more environmentally acceptable energy sources.
In closing Governor, the above are four relatively cheap, doable projects that will go a long way to making (and keeping) New Jersey a better place to live. Should you want elaboration on them, or want more ideas, let me know and I will be only to happy to tell you what to do