States are outdated constructions, when we need a better system for governing metro areas that span multiple states.
In two recent cases, one with the Metro in Washington, D.C. and the other with the train tunnel in N.J./N.Y., state governments have proven themselves wholly unable to manage structural infrastructure projects for their general regions. A hilarious excerpt from the approval process in D.C.:
As the Washington region begins an important effort to fix Metro’s outdated, unwieldy governing apparatus, here’s a way to appreciate the scale of the challenge: The task requires eight separate governmental bodies representing 12 distinct political jurisdictions to agree to rearrange how they oversee a ninth body, the transit system itself…
If that’s not daunting enough, consider that the biggest changes would require four entities – Maryland, Virginia, the District and Congress – to agree unanimously on identical wording to change the 44-year-old regional compact that created Metro.
Yes, Washington is a uniquely screwed-up corner of American government, and yes, transit systems are unique in their need for interstate cooperation. Nevertheless, the byzantine process to approve such measures helps to demonstrate the difficulty of mass infrastructure improvements in the U.S.
Many states follow the New York or Illinois model of big cities surrounded by suburbs surrounded by vast, mostly empty rural areas. Today, such a model seems simply foolish, considering the differences in the needs of these different zones. China, for instance, has administrative zones defined by historical boundaries and political expediency (Shanghai, Beijing and Chongqing have their own province-level governments under the federal government).
A metro area government for, say, the Washington, D.C. area would be much more able to handle everything from school reform (Washington’s metro area has the highest rate of college graduates, yet D.C. Public Schools are among the worst in the country) to urban zoning reform (better parking management, say).