This Week: Community Planning Workshop for Queens’ First Select Bus Service Route

At long last, SBS is set to descend on dangerous Woodhaven Boulevard. Image: nyc.gov

At long last, SBS is set to descend on dangerous Woodhaven Boulevard. Image: nyc.gov

Since its initial launch in 2008, Select Bus Service (SBS) routes have been increasing the speed of bus service in all boroughs except for Queens.

That’s about to change.

The community engagement process for Queens’ first SBS route, which will run along Woodhaven Boulevard, is now underway. The New York City Department of Transportation and the MTA will be holding a series of public workshops, the first of which is scheduled for Wednesday, April 23 at 6 p.m. at JHS 210 Elizabeth Blackwell, 93-11 101st Avenue in Jamaica, Queens.

This project focuses on converting the limited-stop Q52/53 bus routes that travel along the Woodhaven/Cross Bay Boulevard corridor to SBS. The corridor’s massive width – six central lanes and four service lanes – allows for the potential to employ full-featured bus rapid transit (BRT), complete with exclusive bus lanes in the center median, that could help decrease travel time by 30 percent.

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Camden Night Garden Demonstrates how Public Spaces Can Help Revitalize and Connect Neighborhoods

The Camden Night Garden transformed a vacant plot of land on the Delaware River into a festival of art, music, food and bicycling.

The Camden Night Garden transformed a vacant plot of land on the Delaware River into a festival of art, music, food and bicycling. | Photo: Courier-Post Online

Over 3,000 local residents and visitors came out to bike, dance, eat and celebrate at the Camden Night Garden on the Delaware River waterfront in Camden (NJ) last night. The event, which was sponsored by Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and Nuit Blanche New York, with funding from the William Penn Foundation, highlighted the power of transforming abandoned or underutilized spaces into places where people can walk, bicycle and spend time outdoors.

A BMX biker from Bulldog Bikes performs tricks with the Philadelphia skyline in the background.

A BMX biker from Bulldog Bikes performs tricks with the Philadelphia skyline in the background. | Photo: Cooper’s Ferry Partnership

The site of the event, which was previously home to the New Jersey Riverfront State Prison, has sat vacant since the prison was demolished in 2010. The 15-acre plot of land is directly adjacent to the Ben Franklin Bridge in North Camden and includes a section of trail that will eventually become part of the Circuit regional trail network, connecting the North Camden waterfront to downtown Camden, Philadelphia and beyond.

Public spaces that are designed to reflect the needs and desires of local residents don’t just provide recreational opportunities; they can also help to revitalize neighborhoods and improve public safety. While long-term plans for the site have yet to be decided, the Camden Night Garden allowed local residents to envision a future North Camden where waterfront trails connect residents to new public spaces, including Pyne Poynt Park, which is currently being rehabilitated. With the City’s commitment to complete streets and plans for new bike lanes throughout the area, residents will soon find improved access to the Delaware River Waterfront, which has been largely inaccessible to the public for more than half a century.

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Nassau County: Ready for Speed Cameras

The Nassau County Legislature unanimously approved a home rule message in support of speed camera enforcement yesterday. The home rule message serves to formally endorse a New York State bill that would authorize 56 speed cameras for Nassau County (one for each of Nassau County’s school districts).

speed-camera

Nassau County took a critical step toward getting speed enforcement cameras yesterday. | Photo: CBS 2

Nassau County is home to some of the deadliest roads to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in the region. According to a TSTC analysis of federal data, 88 pedestrians were killed along roads in Nassau County between 2010 and 2012. According to Governor Cuomo’s Traffic Safety Committee, 185 motorists and passengers, and 13 cyclists were killed during the same time period.

There were over 100,000 crashes from 2010-2012, roughly 70 percent of which the Nassau County Police Department was the lead investigating agency. Yet speeding tickets made up only 11 percent of all tickets issued during the same time period, a number that is shockingly low to anyone who has driven Nassau County’s roadways, where drivers often speed without consequence.

Nassau County has taken significant steps to combat dangerous driving with better enforcement. In 2009, the New York State Legislature, at the County’s request, authorized red light cameras for 50 intersections in Nassau County, and in 2013, the County adopted a Complete Streets policy.

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Metro-North Survey Provides Insight into Westchester’s Emerging Mobility Needs

The Harlem Line's third track is part of the reason why Westchester job centers have had success in attracting reverse commuters. | Photo: Peter Ehrlich

The Harlem Line’s third track is part of the reason why Westchester job centers have had success in attracting reverse commuters. | Photo: Peter Ehrlich

Starting in 2007, the MTA undertook customer surveys on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, as well as in New York City (for New York City Transit). As MTR previously reported, the MTA’s New York City survey showed large income and age differences between bus and subway riders.

The 2007 Metro-North on-board survey — the railroad’s first origins and destinations survey — highlights the differences between those traveling from Westchester County to Manhattan (for both work and non-work purposes) and those traveling to and within Westchester. The survey had a 45 percent response rate, with 206,000 surveys distributed and 93,000 returned. The survey asked riders about the trips they were taking at the time surveyed, and riders’ planned return trips.

While work travel from Westchester to Manhattan comprised the largest share of the railroad’s passengers — 60 percent — more than one in five Metro-North passengers surveyed were either traveling from New York City into Westchester or traveling within Westchester (what the survey calls “Intermediate Travel”).

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

Photo: nyc.gov

NYC Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg | Photo: nyc.gov

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

WINNERS

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto – With the state’s Transportation Trust Fund “run dry, starved of revenue for close to 20 years”, Assembly Speaker Prieto has joined Tri-State and other advocates in calling for a “modernization” of the state’s gas tax, which is currently the second lowest in the country.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone – As the benefits of sustainable, transit-oriented development are becoming more widely acknowledged on Long Island and with success stories such as the rebirth of previously downtrodden downtown Patchogue Village, it’s no surprise that County Executive Bellone would double the amount of funding available for downtown revitalization projects from $250,000 in 2013 to $500,000 for 2014.

New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg – Commissioner Trottenberg made a strong leap from rhetoric into action last week as she announced Atlantic Avenue is to became the first arterial slow zone in New York – “We’re going to be demonstrating our commitment today to Vision Zero and declaring once again the de Blasio administration wants to reduce fatalities across New York City.” Though the speed limit reduction is slight, officials say that New York City police officers will also zero in on traffic violations in the area, and there is still hope for speed cameras to be added to the project.

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Highway Expansion Must Not Supplant Connecticut’s Multi-Modal Progress

Governor Malloy in Waterbury yesterday. | Photo: Waterbury Republican-American

Governor Dan Malloy in Waterbury yesterday. | Photo: Waterbury Republican-American

Governor Dan Malloy announced Connecticut’s five-year transportation capital infrastructure plan for federal fiscal years 2014-2018 yesterday. The plan allocates roughly $4.825 billion for roads and bridges over the five-year period, and $1.565 billion for transit. (Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects are included in the road and bridge category). In fiscal year 2014, $1.8 billion in capital funding will be available for all transportation modes ($1.4 billion for road and bridge projects, and $345 million for transit), an increase over the state’s 2013 Capital Program, which provided a total of approximately $1.6 billion.

The plan lists several pages of transportation investments, including a few high-profile projects like the replacement of the I-84 viaduct in Hartford, the rehabilitation of the Merritt Parkway in Stamford, and upgrades to the New Haven commuter rail line and the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail corridor.

The governor made the announcement at a park-and-ride lot in Waterbury, a setting that was meant to highlight a major component of the infrastructure plan: the widening of 2.7-miles of Interstate 84. The project, which ConnDOT first announced in 2013, adds a lane in each direction to Interstate 84 between Exit 23 and 25A in Waterbury, and is expected to cost $400 to $450 million – almost as much as the total amount of federal highway funding Connecticut receives in a single year.

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NYSDOT’s Complete Streets Report: Positive Steps but Some Sidesteps, Too

nysdot cs reportThe New York State Department of Transportation released a report last week detailing how the Department has gone about implementing New York’s 2011 Complete Streets Act. The report, which NYSDOT is required by law to produce, elaborates on best practices and demonstrates the degree to which complete streets have been institutionalized and incorporated into all phases of transportation projects across the state.

Perhaps the best news coming out of the report is the forthcoming Complete Streets Checklist, a potentially useful tool for institutionalizing complete streets design into the decision-making process. Its success will depend, however, on how pervasively it is used. At a minimum, to be compliant with the state complete streets law, all projects receiving state and federal funding would need to use the checklist, a fact not mentioned in the report.

The report does state, however, that “many Complete Streets improvements, such as lane striping, are relatively inexpensive but effective” techniques to improve accessibility for all users of the roadways. If NYSDOT mandates these basic improvements, which would reflect NYSDOT going above and beyond what the law requires, the checklist would then be required for all projects, including resurfacing, restoring and rehabilitation projects —which could easily incorporate complete streets elements with almost no additional costs. If NYSDOT opts out of this strategy, a bill on the table in Albany would require them to do so by amending the complete streets law to require inclusion of “complete street design features in resurfacing, maintenance and pavement recycling projects and further enable safe access to public roads for all users.”

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Mayor de Blasio’s Next 100 Days (and Beyond)

Mayor Bill de Blasio | Photo: cooper.edu

Mayor Bill de Blasio | Photo: cooper.edu

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio mentioned the Vision Zero initiative early in last week’s address marking 100 days since taking office, citing a 26 percent decrease in traffic fatalities during the first quarter of 2014. He also pointed out that his administration has filled nearly 289,000 potholes this year – more than double the potholes filled last year – saying of the new record, “that’s something to be proud of.”

While he has made strides in implementing the Vision Zero program so far, much remains to be done, including identifying how he will fund the implementation of the program. Beyond Vision Zero, here are a few more transportation issues that Tri-State hopes to see tackled in the next 100 days:

Will he make good on his plan for “world class bus rapid transit?” Faster and more efficient bus service is an issue that has been gaining momentum, and better buses were a highlight of candidate de Blasio’s policy book in 2013. In it, he called for allocating funds from the city’s capital budget to “create a citywide Bus Rapid Transit network with more than 20 bus lines… at a fraction of the cost of major subway projects.” Six Select Bus Service routes have been implemented in four boroughs, but to achieve the mayor’s goal, his administration will have to devote considerable resources to the task. In addition, the mayor has yet to outline how he will go beyond SBS, or BRT-lite, and implement full BRT in New York City.

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NYC Bus Riders Tend To Be Older and Poorer than Subway Riders

mta-bus-stop

Photo: James Estrin/The New York Times

If you ride the subway, bus or train every day, you’re surrounded by others. But just what do you know about your fellow transit riders?

Turns out, the MTA was wondering this too. Starting in 2007 and continuing through 2014, the MTA undertook surveys of Metro-North customers (2007), New York City residents (2008, for NYCT) and Long Island Rail Road customers (2012-2014 – results forthcoming). The surveys shed some light on the demographics of the region’s transit riders, including why they’re using it and where they’re going.

The New York City survey was conducted from May through November 2008 and covers all respondents’ travels “for a 24-hour period, regardless of what mode was used.” The MTA’s results provide data for over 16,000 residents and more than 13,000 households. While it’s true that the survey is a little less than six years old, unlike more recent data available through the Census or American Community Survey (as well as related Census Transportation Planning Products, which use Census and ACS data), the MTA’s survey is especially useful in that it includes all travel, not just travel for work.

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Federal Transportation Funding Part 1: Need(less)-based Funding?

As the Federal Highway Trust Fund inches closer to bankruptcy and the Obama Administration’s transportation funding plan remains a work in progress with MAP-21 expiring at the end of FY 2014, the reality remains that the nation’s infrastructure is in pretty bad shape.

With money tight and needs large, prioritization is key. But, unfortunately, that’s not how things get done in Washington. Once the gas tax and other funds are collected by the federal government, they are deposited in the Highway Trust Fund. The Fund is then split into the Highway Account and Mass Transit Account.

Source: National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, Final Report - Volume III: Section 4 - Public Sessions and Outreach Meetings

Source: National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, Final Report – Volume III: Section 4 – Public Sessions and Outreach Meetings/ transportationfortomorrow.com

This funding breakdown highlights that only a small percentage of the two largest transportation funding pots go to mass transit funding, a key component of mobility in large metro areas. Even less goes toward infrastructure for walking and biking — the kind of infrastructure that’s integral for creating livable cities where people want to live – even though recent data show that these transportation modes are gaining users while vehicle miles traveled declines or is steady. Once the funds are generated, they are then seemingly arbitrarily distributed throughout the country, with distribution breakdowns based on apparent but not actual need based criteria.

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