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Hubris in New Jersey

New Jersey Transit is currently dealing with a number of major financial problems.  They just had about thirty million dollars cut from their state subsidy by Gov. Chris “Awesome Like A Rock Star” Christie, and there’s talk of more cuts in next year’s budget.

(Personally I hope Christie gets them started on the road to privatization sooner rather than later, but that’s just me)

And what exactly is going on, according to this press release, on March 20 at 2 PM in the NJ Transit Concourse of New York City Pennsylvania Station?

Big party!  Big celebration!  It’s the one year anniversary of the launch of the only express train from New York City to Atlantic City, ACES.  From the release:

The celebration will feature music, giveaways and a cake from Charm City Cakes (featured company of the Food Network’s ACE of Cakes) as a way to say thank you to ACES’ riders.

Now I’m pretty sure this had to be planned well in advance – if you’ve ever watched Ace of Cakes, you know they’re usually very busy and spend a great deal of time on multiple projects with ridiculous amounts of planning.  I’m personally a fan of theirs, having been won over by last season’s finale involving the 100th Episode cake they did for ABC’s hit series, “Lost”.  Their cakes are masterpieces of design and delicacy, and I’ve got to say, I’m fairly certain they don’t usually include a price tag.  In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to find an episode where they mention prices.  Any casual viewer of the show can tell, though, it’s got to be a dang high price tag with the sorts of things they’re willing to do.  These are pieces of art, art that is obviously too rich for most people.

My question is, then: who paid for this?  Who thought that doing something like this would be a good idea in a recession and when the threat of service cuts and fare increases is looming closer every day?  Only NJ Transit could have such hubris as to assume the taxpayer would eat the cost of this.

Granted, the ACES train is not strictly funded by NJ Transit – the funding comes from three major casinos in Atlantic City and NJ Transit, along with the use of Amtrak’s reservation system (NJ Transit does not have a reservation system, nor did they think it prudent to build one for such cases – probably the only good idea they’ve had in the past several years).  The fact is, though, people will look at this and say, NJ Transit is using our money for THIS?  Throwing a party, buying showpiece cakes?  Really?

I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding here – my rage isn’t towards Charm City Cakes at all, I don’t begrudge them making money off of what they do.  They’re very good at it and deserve the ability to charge whatever they want for the beautiful work they do.  I know I certainly couldn’t ever do what they do, and I happily and strongly encourage the free market to continue providing them with the ability to make as much money as they can doing the wonderful things they do week in and week out.

I’m exceedingly upset with the appearance of hubris or the lack of foresight on the part of NJ Transit in allowing this to continue with the controversy over fares and a tendency to spend without limits that has characterized the organization for years and has placed them squarely in the situation they are in right now.

Hope it tastes good, guys.

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