Camden’s Large Carless Population Deserves Priority

Parking lots dominate some areas of the Camden waterfront. Image Source: www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com

Parking lots dominate some areas of the Camden waterfront. Image Source: www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com

Spend any time at all in Camden, New Jersey and you’ll notice people getting around without cars. Rutgers students flood out of PATCO and RiverLINE stations in the mornings and afternoons. Residents walk to work, transit hubs and local restaurants and shops. Whether by choice or out of necessity, locals rely on travel modes other than driving. To serve this large population, funding for transportation networks that accommodate Camden’s non-drivers must be prioritized by state and local agencies, and must be reflected in New Jersey’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for the region.

recent study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group showed that millennials accross the country are choosing to live and work in places where they don’t have to drive. This is also true in Camden, where students who either commute to Rutgers University-Camden or live nearby are shunning cars in favor of commuting by public transit, on foot or by bicycle. According to the US Census, just 4.9 percent of workers nationwide aged sixteen and older commute by public transit and 2.5 percent walk to work. Compare that to Camden, where nearly 16 percent of workers aged sixteen and older take public transportation to work, and 6.5 percent commute on foot.

Nearly 35 percent of occupied housing units in Camden do not own a motor vehicle–a rate nearly four times higher than the national average of 8.9 percent. This largely carless culture is due in part to factors like the high cost of owning and maintaining a motor vehicle. Regardless of the reasons behind low car use, these numbers clearly show that additional investments in transit, sidewalks, bike lanes and trails will improve the safety and convenience of getting around Camden for all residents, and will surely help convince more people to ditch their cars.

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All Aboard the “Hartford Line”

hartford-line-logo

Central Connecticut’s forthcoming commuter rail system, until today known as the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Program, is being branded as the “Hartford Line” according to a press release from Governor Malloy’s office today.

This is the second time Connecticut officials have rebranded a transportation service in the years prior to launching. In 2012, the State officially renamed the “Hartford-New Britain Busway” CTfastrak.

The Hartford Line will  bring “faster, frequent and more reliable passenger service,” but its benefits don’t stop there. It will also help decongest highways around Greater Hartford, where more than 80 percent of commuters currently drive alone. The rail line is also expected to bring transit-oriented development to areas near stations, not just in Knowledge Corridor’s major cities, but also in the smaller towns in between.

Construction on new and improved rail stations in Wallingford, Meriden and Berlin — which are currently served only by six daily Amtrak trains — will begin this fall and will be completed by late 2016, when Hartford Line service is scheduled to begin.

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Cuomo Must Act Regarding Port Authority Transparency

Two key bills that would vastly improve public disclosure and accountability at the beleaguered Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are currently awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature. Unfortunately, in a recently-released Citizens Union candidate questionnaire, the Governor fails to answer a direct question asking if he supports the bills. Instead, his response appears to punt leadership on the decision to yet another “Special Panel.”

As part of a longer question, the Citizens Union questionnaire directly asks “Do you support S. 6718-C/A.8785-C of 2014…” and “S.7721/A.3944-C”? The Governor’s response includes no mention of these bills:

It is vital that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey fulfill its regional mission. In 2011, at the direction of Governor Christie and myself, the Port Authority undertook a comprehensive review that led to improvements in operations, capital planning, and financial controls. However, it is clear that more remains to be done—as result [sic], in May of this year, we created a bi-state Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority. We charged the panel to review and evaluate reforms of the Port Authority’s mission, structure, management, operations and governance. The panel has already presented an initial status report, and will return to us with a set of comprehensive recommendations for reform by the end of this year.

Given that the Port Authority is a bi-state agency, identical legislation needs to be passed and signed in both New York and New Jersey. This spring, the New York legislature played their part by passing the two New York bills. The two New Jersey bills are now scheduled for the upcoming Assembly State & Local Government Committee hearing, after hitting a roadblock in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Governor Cuomo’s signature on these bills would be a strong show of leadership, and send a clear message to New Jersey and the Port Authority that the time is now to step out in front of this mess.

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Revitalizing Sunrise Highway: WALC Recommendations

sunrisehwySunrise Highway has long been a safety concern for residents of Nassau County, and the news that the New York State Department of Transportation was to focus on safety improvements along the notoriously dangerous roadway — which saw eight pedestrian deaths, 94 collisions involving motorists and pedestrians and 32 collisions involving motorists and bicyclists between 2010 and 2012 — was well-received. However, NYSDOT had undertaken the planning process for a $3.8 million pedestrian safety plan for Sunrise Highway without any local community input.

AARP New York, in partnership with Vision Long Island and Tri-State, reached out to the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (WALC) to conduct three walking audits with community members along the highway. In June, internationally-renowned traffic safety expert Dan Burden led Nassau County elected officials, planners, advocates and residents through Valley Stream, Baldwin and Freeport, guiding the group through an in-depth examination of how design directly impacts behavior on roadways and discussing ideas to make Sunrise Highway safe for all users. WALC then gathered the input, along with Dan Burden’s observations, and generated a series of recommendations for how to transform the corridor into a Complete Street.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

Albany Councilwoman Leah Golby | Photo: albanyny.gov

Albany Councilwoman Leah Golby | Photo: albanyny.gov

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

WINNERS

Councilwoman Leah Golby and the Albany Common Council  – Councilwoman Leah Golby was successful in securing Common Council approval of a red light camera ordinance which stipulates that “All funds in excess of the budgeted revenue… shall be transferred to a Traffic Safety Fund.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – The mayor signed off on a transit tax benefit bill this week, which will save employers and employees beaucoup bucks each year while also encouraging greater use of public transit.

Hoboken, NJ Mayor Dawn Zimmer – In a move to ease the issues associated with free parking, the City is moving to add more parking meters, the revenue from which would contribute to transportation infrastructure funding.

The Harbor Ring – The advocacy organization’s rally for a bike/ped path across the Verrazano Bridge saw an impressive turn-out of elected officials, local organizations, advocates and residents.

Berlin, CT - After a long wait, the completion of the Depot Crossing transit oriented development project was celebrated this week.

Hudson/Bergen Light Rail Commission – The coalition of 12 mayors from Hudson and eastern Bergen counties came together to support an extension of the HBLR to Englewood.

Montclair, NJ bicyclists – The city has unveiled its first bike depot with 24 protected spaces for bikes at the Bay Street train station.

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What You Missed at America Answers: Fix My Commute

The Washington Post today launched America Answers, a new live event series which brings together a variety of innovators to discuss major national issues. The first in the series, “Fix My Commute,” focused on transportation issues. There were a wide range of topics discussed, from bike lanes and ride-sharing to high speed rail and flying cars. Mobilizing the Region wasn’t able to attend in person, but we were able to watch live online and follow along on Twitter. If you weren’t able to tune in, here’s some of what you missed:

Flying cars

 

Bike lanes

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With Investments in Traffic Calming and Street Redesigns, Bridgeport’s Safety Campaign Shows Promise

Enforcement is a key tool in boosting safety, but should be combined with physical street improvements to have a lasting impact. | Photo: Brian A. Pounds/ CTPost.com

Enforcement is crucial for boosting safety, but should be combined with traffic calming to have a lasting impact. | Photo: Brian A. Pounds/ Connecticut Post

Bridgeport will make infrastructure changes, including curb extensions. | Image: NACTO

Bridgeport officials are considering infrastructure changes, such as roundabouts and curb extensions, like the one seen here. | Image: NACTO

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch announced this week that the city is launching a comprehensive safe streets initiative. Seven pedestrians have been killed by drivers in Bridgeport since 2010. Bridgeport is the second Connecticut city to announce a street safety campaign in as many months. In September, Stamford Mayor David Martin unveiled the Stamford Street Smart campaign.

At first blush, the two efforts appear to have a lot in common. Mayor Finch — who participated in a walking audit with Tri-State in 2013 — described Bridgeport’s campaign as a “multipronged approach” focused on education, enforcement and investment, while Mayor Martin called Stamford Street Smart a “multi-faceted approach” that focuses on education, enforcement and engineering. Both campaigns began with crackdowns on distracted driving, and both include efforts to curb so-called “jaywalking.”

Both Bridgeport and Stamford also plan to address the physical condition of their streets, but how they’ll go about doing so is where there’s a more distinct difference between the two initiatives.

The engineering component of Stamford Street Smart is somewhat limited. Making sure signs are visible at intersections, re-painting crosswalks and synchronizing traffic signals are certainly good ideas, but not something to brag about. In other cities, these measures would be considered part of regular maintenance.

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Gov. Christie Says “Everything Is on the Table,” But NJ’s Transportation Trust Fund Is Still Starving

New Jersey Chris Christie | Photo: AWR Hawkins, Brietbart

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie | Photo: AWR Hawkins, Brietbart

Everything is on the table” is what Governor Christie has repeatedly said about his plan to secure funding for New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) after his current five-year plan failed pretty much right out of the gate. But what exactly has the legislature put on the table so far? Here is a list of the current bills in Trenton:

A1558 (DeCroce): Authorizes development of public-private partnership transportation demonstration projects.
It would permit the New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner to select transportation projects as “demonstration projects” using public-private partnership agreements. Public-private partnerships (P3’s) are generally used to help finance large-scale projects to free up money for other projects.  Pennsylvania is looking to P3’s as part of a larger transportation funding strategy to help reduce the number of its structurally deficient bridges.

A1865 (Lesniak): Increases the motor fuels tax by five cents per year for three years for a total increase of 15 cents.
Currently, the gas tax brings in $520 million to the TTF and the total debt service for FY 2105 was approximately $1.2 billion. This increase would generate approximately $750 million. Citing the NJDOT’s 2013-2022 Statewide Capital Investment Strategy, Assemblyman Rumana recently stated that even an effort to triple the state’s already low gas tax would fall short of the state’s needs.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

Bridgeport, CT Mayor Bill Finch | Photo: bridgeportct.gov

Bridgeport, CT Mayor Bill Finch | Photo: bridgeportct.gov

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

WINNERS

Bridgeport, CT Mayor Bill Finch – The mayor unveiled a comprehensive safe streets campaign in the city which include short and long-term infrastructure improvements and increased enforcement.

NYPD 78th Precinct – The Park Slope precinct replaced a parking spot in front of the building’s entrance with a bike corral.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams – After seven years with Tri-State, our Associate Director Ryan Lynch will now serve as Policy Director to Borough President Adams.

New York City Department of City Planning – After three years with Tri-State, our Staff Analyst Kathi Ko will now serve as a planner for the Queens Department of Planning.

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Save the Dates: Shaping Our Region’s Future

RPA CT ForumsRegional Plan Association is in the process of developing its Fourth Regional Plan, which is a “multiyear initiative to create a blueprint for our region’s growth, sustainability, good governance and economic opportunity for the next 25 years.” As part of this process, RPA has partnered with Partnership for Strong Communities, Siemens and the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association to host two Connecticut forums to solicit input for the Fourth Regional Plan.

These forums, led by a panel of Connecticut experts and specialists, hope to spur a comprehensive discussion of issues impacting economic, environmental and community development across the tri-state region, including transportation, housing, climate change and land use. In order to make the forums accessible and convenient for those who wish to attend, there are two forums held in two locations on two separate dates:

Wednesday, October 29
The Lyceum, Hartford, CT
10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 20
Pequot Library, Southport, CT
10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Because of capacity constraints at each location, we recommend that you register early for the event you would like to attend.

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