Tag Archives: New York City Department of Sanitation

Infrastructure Other Than Transportation: 2017 Census of Governments Data

Generally when you hear about infrastructure in the media it is transportation infrastructure, the subject of the previous post, that is being referred to.  That, however, is not the only type of infrastructure there is, and that is not what New York City has invested the most in over the past 40 years.  Under the streets there are water, sewer and gas pipes. There are electric wires and telecommunication wires there, or on poles.  And the distribution infrastructure that brings new goods into an area is matched by a Solid Waste Management infrastructure that moves used up goods out.

As anyone who can’t get Verizon Fios and now has multiple people working at home knows, a substantial share of this infrastructure is privately owned and operated – especially in so-called Blue States and in cities.  Rural areas and so-called Red States have more publicly-owned utilities, just as they have more transportation expenditures, on roads.   In addition to public and private infrastructure, moreover, there are on-site services that people provide for themselves.


In 1990, the last Census that asked these questions, 24.1% of U.S. housing units had an on-site septic tank or cesspool to remove liquid waste, not a connection to a sewer in the street.  That included 20.2% of housing units in New York State, but just 11.6% in New Jersey.   And 14.8% of U.S. housing units got their water from individual wells, including 11.4% of those in New York and 10.2% of those in New Jersey.  The trend for water and sewer has been for more and more households to connect to the infrastructure, but with solar panels and 5G, the trend for wired services may shift in the other direction.

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Infrastructure: Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data for 2017

This series of posts based on Census of Governments state and local government employment and payroll data for March 2017 (and 2007 and 1997) continues with a post on infrastructure functions:  highways and streets, mass transit, air transportation, water transportation, government-run electric and gas utilities, water supply, sewerage, and solid waste management.  Along with related private sector activity.  When I joined New York City Transit out of graduate school in 1986, I was told it was the largest industrial/blue collar employer in New York City.  It probably still is, with the other functions described adding as many blue collar jobs, and jobs with contractors many more.

In the past 10 years or so, subway riders have experienced a drastic decrease in their quality of life despite rising fares, relative to the very low inflation of the period.  This is something I have attributed to costs from the past – the big pension increase in 2000, with huge costs deferred until later, and decades of zero state and city funding for the MTA capital plan, with money borrowed instead.  But after reviewing the data for these functions, I have begun to wonder if even worse is coming. And not just at the MTA. But we will have water!

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