New Jersey Transit – which has faced criticism for storing trains in flood-prone areas during Sandy – suffered $400 million in storm-related damages, including $100 million in rolling stock, the executive director testified today.
The staggering losses include heavily damaged dual-powered locomotive engines – which were brand new – and dozens of multi-level rail cars that need repairs, NJ Transit head James Weinstein said at a US Senate commerce sub-committee hearing on the storm’s impact.
Weinstein, however, defended the agency’s decision to place trains in Hoboken and Kearney, two flood-prone areas that were completely inundated in the storm of the century.
“Based on the information that we had … there was a likelihood in the 80 to 90 percent range that no flooding would happen there,” he said. “And that combined with the history that the Meadowlands [Kearney] … has never flooded in the history of our railroad led us to conclude that that was the appropriate place to put the equipment.”
“Obviously we’re informed by this storm and we’ll make adjustments in the future,” he said.
US Senator Frank Lautenberg – who chaired the sub-committee – said that it seemed the agency did the best it could.
“It doesn’t sound like there were other choices,” he said.
Would you risk $400 million on 5-to-1 odds, with no up side? Only if it were other people’s money.
And this is all complete bullshit, of course – the management was warned way ahead of the storm not to do what they did and they did it anyway.. Reuters, Nov. 17th:
The Garden State’s commuter railway parked critical equipment – including much of its newest and most expensive stock – at its low-lying main rail yard in Kearny just before the hurricane. It did so even though forecasters had released maps showing the wetland-surrounded area likely would be under water when Sandy’s expected record storm surge hit. Other equipment was parked at its Hoboken terminal and rail yard, where flooding also was predicted and which has flooded before.
Among the damaged equipment: nine dual-powered locomotive engines and 84 multi-level rail cars purchased over the past six years at a cost of about $385 million.
“If there’s a predicted 13-foot or 10-foot storm surge, you don’t leave your equipment in a low-lying area,” said David Schanoes, a railroad consultant and former deputy chief of field operations for Metro North Railroad, a sister railway serving New York State. “It’s just basic railroading. You don’t leave your equipment where it can be damaged.”
My father used to delight in recounting the story of the operators of the Long Island Railroad who, after three winters without snow, decided that it would never snow again and sold off all of the railroad’s track clearing equipment. The following winter a blizzard hit, of course, and the island was paralyzed for weeks until the sun cleared the tracks for them.
Anyone who works for the government is free to engage in this sort of idiocy, and there are no repercussions. Just this past June, the Army wrote off $7 billion of camouflage uniforms it has researched, designed and deployed over the decade, only to discover – duh – it didn’t work.
After eight years and billions of dollars, the Army has given up on an ambitious effort to clothe its soldiers in a “universal camouflage pattern.” The grey uniform, widely issued and widely loathed, was supposed to blend in equally well in all environments, from desert sand to green forest to city streets. It just didn’t. Now the Army’s going back to the old, obvious approach of having different designs for different places.
So here’s the trillion-dollar question: why does anyone think that a government agency can improve on a service or product currently provided by private enterprise? Not just match that level – private enterprise can screw things up too – but actually do better, because after all, ObamaKare is premised on the belief that private health care isn’t working, so merely expanding that failure is no solution at all. Railroads, public education, national defense, airline security, the Connecticut DMV – which of these provide an example of the government’s capability of delivering goods and services efficiently and well?