Built Environment, Demographics

Chris Christie would rather you just die on the side of the road

I usually don’t comment on what New Jersey governor Chris Christie does. I don’t need to; enough has been said by commentators more thoughtful and knowledgeable than I about how his policies have done harm to this state that will take decades to undo. But last night I saw something that upset me so much that I had to say something. It was a tweet from Bike Jersey City announcing that Christie had pocket vetoed a bill that would have created a state-level panel to recommend improvements to pedestrian and bicycle safety. The panel would have, in the words of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition:

“…examined issues related to pedestrian and bicycle safety and would advise the governor, legislature, NJ Department of Transportation and other state agencies on solutions that will make New Jersey communities safer and friendlier for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

To be clear, I have skin in this game. Or really, a whole body. I ride a bike in South Jersey, mostly in parts of Camden and Gloucester counties, extremely often. I live in a town where it’s easier to get around by walking or riding a bike than it is by car. I regularly travel an hour away from home on my bike, mostly on county roads with shoulders that provide a modicum of separation from cars by becoming de facto bike lanes when I and others use them (and I do quite often see other people on bikes when I’m traveling).

So what does a pocket veto mean for the bill? It essentially means that Christie did nothing with the bill on his desk. He simply let it die, ignoring the hard work of legislators who worked to get an entire government, except for one man, to agree to something. That he would insult his colleagues by ignoring that feat alone is horrible, but to do so on a bill that would help save lives and make our communities safer and more livable is a disgrace. I’m sure there are some who think our state government is big and convoluted enough, and who might say “good for Christie for not creating more big government.” I wish we didn’t have to create a board to examine bicycle and pedestrian safety either. But New Jersey has spent the last 60 years creating an environment hostile to anybody not in a car. It’s not just a problem in New Jersey, but in most of post-war America, as studies like Smart Growth America’s Dangerous by Design illustrate. But New Jersey does suffer to a very high degree when it comes to the safety of non-driving road users, having built up most of its congested suburbs for use by car. Simply put, the people who designed our roadways barely considered that anyone would use them who didn’t drive. And when they did, they were laughably inadequate.

A typical New Jersey intersection. Can you spot the crosswalk?

A typical New Jersey intersection. Can you spot the crosswalk?

This isn’t just a personal issue for me, but one that speaks to where New Jersey sees itself in the future. The state has been put on notice that its mid-20th century suburban advantage is now a 21st century disadvantage, with headlines like “Diamonds to dinosaurs: NJ towns struggle under weight of massive office park vacancies” and Sprawl withdrawal: Young NJ residents push toward cities and away from suburbia.” I’ve publicly worried here in the past that the state’s leaders will allow it to become irrelevant in a world where young people just aren’t buying into the distant, drive-only suburbia their parents built. Some communities close to Philadelphia and New York understand what’s happening and have pivoted toward walkability and thriving downtown activity. But there are those in Trenton with the mindset that it’s still 1970 and that everyone wants the big house on a big plot of land with a two car garage where you can’t see your neighbors. Some people might want that, but the prevailing winds have changed direction in a big way.

Sadly, Chris Christie will not be the one to help usher a new direction into the statehouse. Yesterday, in addition to his veto of this safety bill, he also vetoed legislation that would have required twenty minutes of recess for children and that would have raised the smoking age to 21. These vetos show that the distractions of running for president trump the welfare of the children of New Jersey in Christie’s mind. It’s a disgusting thing to do, and this state will be a much better place once this self-serving and hateful man is gone from our lives.

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Camden, Transit

Ghosts of City Hall: The PATCO station you’ve never seen

If you’ve ever used PATCO’s City Hall station in downtown Camden, you might think it’s pretty simple. A red stairwell on the southwest corner of 5th & Market takes you down to a small concourse with fare machines, turnstiles, and a platform. If you’ve looked a little closer, you might’ve noticed a few interesting things, like the big steel doors that block off a passageway marked with a “TO COOPER ST” sign, or a gate that stops you from going anywhere but immediately through the turnstiles. Even if you could imagine that through those doorways lies a few extra parts of the station closed off over the past few decades, you might not have ever realized just how large a station City Hall really is.

Map of downtown Camden and the City Hall station.

Map of downtown Camden and the City Hall station, including my estimate for the reaches of the closed off pedestrian tunnels.

Before this morning, I definitely hadn’t. But thanks to a generous offer from PATCO General Manager John Rink to take a few curious PATCO fans on a tour of these closed off parts of the station, I finally got a chance to see how extensive these unseen parts really are. What follows is a tour starting from the current station open to the public and leading to both the northern and southern reaches of its underground pedestrian tunnels.

Closed off walkway to Cooper Street as seen from the stairs leading from the platforms.

Closed off walkway to Cooper Street as seen from the stairs leading from the platforms.

Stairway leading from the platform to the closed off north side of the station.

Stairway leading from the platform to the closed off north side of the station.

Do you have your ticket?

Do you have your ticket?

north side - stairs

Original stairway detail.

Extra paneling for PATCO stations.

Extra paneling for PATCO stations.

This is the northern station entrance area where the turnstiles used to be. You can see the now-closed off stairway on the northeastern corner of 5th & Market Streets In the background.

This is the northern station entrance area where the turnstiles used to be. You can see the now-closed off stairway on the northeastern corner of 5th & Market Streets In the background.

Old instructions for how to ride PATCO.

Old instructions for how to ride PATCO.

Looking back toward the open end of the station. This is what's behind the big gray door your saw in the first photo.

Looking back toward the open end of the station. This is what’s behind the big gray door your saw in the first photo.

Steps leading to the currently-closed off stairs on the northeastern corner of 5th & Market Streets.

Steps leading to the currently-closed off stairs on the northeastern corner of 5th & Market Streets.

Old storage room door.

Old storage room door.

Old empty storage room.

Old empty storage room.

Walkway back to the open end of the station.

Walkway back to the open end of the station.

The stations' beautiful old tiling remains impressively intact.

The station’s beautiful old tiling remains impressively intact.

These are the old trash cans that used to be on the platforms before the Department of Homeland Security required DRPA to install clear plastic trash cans.

These are the old trash cans that used to be on the platforms before the Department of Homeland Security required DRPA to install clear plastic trash cans.

Another view of the closed off entrance and turnstile area.

Another view of the closed off entrance and turnstile area.

Extra station signage.

Extra station signage.

Just a storage room full of old meters from station parking lots.

Storage room full of old meters from station parking lots.

Looking back after continuing north toward Cooper Street.

Looking back after continuing north toward Cooper Street.

Like a few other stations, City Hall had a public bathroom.

Like a few other stations, City Hall had a public bathroom.

Signage to Cooper Street.

Signage to Cooper Street.

Long pedestrian tunnel to Cooper Street.

Pedestrian tunnel to Cooper Street.

It's a pretty long tunnel.

It’s a pretty long tunnel.

Caution-taped transformer room door.

Caution-taped transformer room door.

Still heading north to Cooper Street.

Still heading north to Cooper Street.

Just like at other PATCO stations, the end of the pedestrian concourse area gives you a choice of corners to exit from.

Just like at other PATCO stations, the end of the pedestrian concourse area gives you a choice of corners to exit from.

Stairway to one of the exits.

Stairway to one of the exits.

Closed off.

Closed off.

Crossing under Cooper Street to get to the other corner's exit.

Crossing under Cooper Street to get to the other corner’s exit.

Old gate and stairwell.

Old gate and stairwell.

Also closed off.

Also closed off.

Heading back south down the pedestrian tunnel from Cooper Street.

Heading back south down the pedestrian tunnel from Cooper Street.

Dust graffiti on the tiles.

Dust graffiti on the tiles.

Heading back to the open part of the station.

Heading back to the open part of the station.

This is the gate you see just before going through the present day turnstiles.

This is the gate you see just before going through the present day turnstiles. Going through it takes you south toward Arch Street.

Among other things, this area holds some storage.

Among other things, this area holds some storage.

Signage toward Market Street and Arch Street.

Signage toward Market Street and Arch Street.

More old doors.

More old doors.

This short tunnel leads to a stairway that took people across the street to the old Parkade building.

This short tunnel leads to a stairway that took people across the street to the old Parkade building, where Roosevelt Plaza Park currently sits.

This stairwell is the only remaining part of the Parkade building.

This stairwell is the only remaining part of the Parkade building.

Heading back down the tunnel.

Heading back down the tunnel.

Where the tunnel meets back up with the station.

Where the tunnel meets back up with the station.

Arch Street tiling continuing south and some old parking lot gates.

Arch Street tiling continuing south and some old parking lot gates.

Stairwell down to the tunnel to Arch Street.

Stairwell down to the tunnel to Arch Street.

Tunnel continuing south to Arch Street.

Tunnel continuing south to Arch Street.

Closed off exit.

Closed off exit.

 

Update: General Manager John Rink just sent me this original, February 1934 plan for City Hall station, which shows the sidewalk plan where the exits where to be located as well as the layout of the station itself.

Original, 1934 City Hall station plan.

Original, 1934 City Hall station plan. (Click to view larger.)

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