Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

Englewood, NJ Mayor Frank Huttle III | Photo: City of Englewood

Englewood, NJ Mayor Frank Huttle III | Photo: City of Englewood

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

WINNERS

New Haven, CT  New Haven Transportation, Traffic & Parking Director Doug Hausladen and other local leaders are coming up with some low-cost traffic calming solutions.

Flushing Commons developer Michael Meyer  The developer who is replacing a municipal parking lot with a major mixed-used development in Flushing, Queens, is calling on agencies to implement pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and ease up on parking requirements to spur future development.

Englewood, NJ  The City of Englewood voiced support for NJ Transit’s Bergen County Bus Rapid Transit plan earlier this month, which officials say “will fill a tremendous void” in Englewood’s transit network.

LOSERS

New York City Councilmember David Greenfield  Well-known for his tendency to defend parking in the city, it isn’t surprising to learn that Councilmember Greenfield is now fighting a request to reduce the required parking for a new mega-development.

2 and C train riders  The 2 train was ranked last in Straphangers’ State of the Subways Report Card, and MTA officials said that the 1960s-era trainsets used for C train service won’t be replaced for at least another three years.

NY State Senator Andrew Lanza and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis  After their request to discontinue the use of a bus lane camera on Staten Island’s Hylan Boulevard was denied, Lanza and Malliotakis “slammed the city’s use of the Bus Lane Camera Program on Staten Island,” and called it “New York City’s latest get-rich-quick scheme.”

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Deadline to Contribute to Vision Zero Map is Thursday

vz-mapDo drivers speed, run red lights, or double-park in your neighborhood? Do pedestrian signals provide enough time to cross the street safely?

If you live or work in New York City and face traffic safety challenges like these, speak up!

As part of the Vision Zero campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities, the City is seeking information from the users of its streets (that’s you) about particularly hazardous locations. Add your safety issues to the map here.

The deadline to add to the map is this Thursday.

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An Open Letter to the People of Nassau County

TSTC recently received an email with the attached letter from Westbury, Long Island resident Kevin Lucas, along with a note informing us that it had been sent to “a number of public officials, interest groups, and media organizations” with the hope of creating an opportunity for dialogue on the subject.

Though local leaders are pursuing policies to increase road safety across Nassau County, the true challenge is how to bring about cultural change. While Complete Streets policies are a politically visible means of demonstrating commitment to the cause, they are not as visible to motorists as the installation of dedicated infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians, which serve to convey to drivers the message that the roadway is for sharing. It’s time for the state and local governments to hit the pavement and start walking their Complete Streets talk.

A couple of weeks ago my wife began joining me on my daily runs, except she follows along on her bicycle. And even though the run is only a mile, and is over in less than ten minutes, it has been a fulfilling and fun bonding experience for us. The runs instantly stopped feeling like a daily chore, and I looked forward to them. The way she encouraged me every day made me feel like we were Rocky and Mickey. This was going to be our daily routine. That is until July 12, 2014, at 8AM, when a man pulled up beside my wife in his car to tell her she was stupid for riding her bike in the street.

We moved to Long Island, Westbury to be exact, in February and for the most part we’ve enjoyed it here. We do not drive, by choice, and we knew that the area was suburban in nature before arriving. And although this has proved somewhat difficult we enjoy walking and the increased distances between necessities has not deterred us from walking to them. In fact, we’ve found certain stretches to be enjoyable on foot, despite being poorly designed for pedestrians. Mostly, the only consistent issues we’ve faced are lawn sprinklers spraying directly onto the sidewalks, pushing us into the street; and inattentive drivers failing to yield, particularly when turning right.

With this in mind I thought it would be nice for us to get bikes. Neither of us are cyclists, and only I had ever even really used a bike to get around before at any point in my life. She was nervous, but I assured her that it would be fine, that in a way it was safer than walking because drivers can see you better in the road. After all, everyone who drives learned how to properly give way to bicycles and pedestrians, to properly and safely pass, and to share the road. Plus, we would keep to the neighborhood streets. There would be no braving the traffic on Old Country Road. We just wanted to get around a little quicker, not make a statement. The busiest road on which we would travel was Maple/Westbury Avenue. Anything more than that and we would get off and walk our bikes. Once we got our bikes the apprehension quickly gave way to excitement. This was going to be fun, or so we thought.
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Premature, or Too Little Too Late? Port Authority Reallocates $90 Million for “Obsolete” Bus Terminal

Port Authority Bus Terminal | Photo: Allix Rogers/Flickr (via WNYC)

Port Authority Bus Terminal | Photo: Allix Rogers/flickr via WNYC

Trans-Hudson bus commuters received some promising news about the outdated Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) Wednesday: the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution officially reallocating $90 million from its current 10-year Capital Program to a (nonspecific) plan for improvements under the working title “Quality of Commute.” A detailed plan on how the Port Authority will spend that money is slated to be presented at the September 17 Board meeting.

Port Authority Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Scott Rechler called the PABT “obsolete in every way you can imagine” and expressed concern that none of the commissioners had made the PABT a top priority while the most recent 10- year capital program was being developed.

“I was a little dismayed that we spent two years going through this capital plan and getting input from all the commissioners who were taking feedback from the community and it didn’t reach that level, and I’m not exactly sure why,” Rechler said at Wednesday’s meeting.

» Continue reading…

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

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

U.S. Representative Joe Crowley | Photo: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880

U.S. Representative Joe Crowley | Photo: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880

WINNERS

Jersey City, NJ Mayor Steve Fulop - Testifying before Congress this week, Mayor Fulop used the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail as an example of a successful transportation investment that has revitalized Jersey City.

U.S. Representative Joe Crowley - Congressman Crowley, who represents Queens and the Bronx, announced his national “Bike to Work Act,” which would allow commuters to pay for bike share memberships with pre-tax income.

U.S. Representative Jim Himes - The Representative from Connecticut called on Congress to find a long-term solution to the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Douglaston, Queens - City agencies have come together to reverse the deteriorating conditions in the neighborhood surrounding the Douglaston LIRR station, initiating the creation of a new pedestrian plaza. The activity has already attracted several new businesses to the area.

Perth Amboy, NJ - NJ Transit has allocated $9.6 million for the renovation of Perth Amboy station, which will be the cornerstone project of plans to create a transit village in the city.
» Continue reading…

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Land Banking: A Tool to Facilitate Equitable TOD

Vacant and abandoned properties present a variety of challenges to municipalities: they degrade the aesthetic appeal of neighborhoods, pose safety risks and lower the value of surrounding properties. Communities burdened by vacant property also miss out on considerable revenue — while local governments face increased maintenance costs. And more often than not, attempts to redevelop these properties are thwarted by complicated tax foreclosure processes.

To help alleviate these headaches, some communities are enacting legislation to create land banks, which would acquire and manage abandoned properties so they can be saved for development and returned to productive uses.

One such productive use that land banks can help cities achieve is equitable transit-oriented development (ETOD). When municipalities establish land banks with the goal of creating ETOD, they’re not simply collecting underutilized land; they’re taking the first steps toward improving access to economic opportunity and housing choice for low-income people.

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NJDOT’s 2015 Proposed Transportation Capital Program: A Better Future in Sight?

NJ-cap-prog-14-15

It appears as if NJDOT will dedicate less funding for road and bridge expansion projects than in previous years. But will this shift in priorities be short-lived?

The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s 2015 draft Transportation Capital Program, which lays out the agency’s planned transportation investments for all roads, bridges and transit in the state, dedicates a lot less funding for road and bridge expansion projects than in previous years. But will this shift in priorities be short-lived?

Two of 2014’s largest expansion projects—the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge, which received $36 million in the 2014 capital program* and Route 295/42 Direct Connect, which received almost $79 million in the 2014 program—are not in the 2015 proposed document, but will be in future capital programs.

TSTC reached out to NJDOT regarding the Direct Connect project and learned that because the agency funded earlier contracts in their entirety, the next contract is scheduled for 2016. In addition, according to the draft capital program, contracts for the Manahawkin bridge project will resume in 2016 at $22 million, with plans to spend nearly $145 million on the project from 2016-2024.

The silver lining is that the 2015 draft capital program shows what future capital programs could look like if NJDOT were to focus on maintaining existing assets and cut back on large-scale expansion projects. According to TSTC’s analysis**, there are nine road or bridge expansion projects comprising about 3 percent (approximately $54 million) of this year’s proposed capital program funds, as compared to nearly 10 percent ($185 million) of the 2014 program funds.

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Advocates Tour CTfastrak Bus Rapid Transit System

ctfastrak-tour-6

Representatives from transportation and environmental advocacy organizations (including Tri-State) joined the Connecticut Department of Transportation for a tour of the CTfastrak bus rapid transit (BRT) system on Thursday. The tour was organized by Transit for Connecticut and led by ConnDOT’s Mike Sanders and Maureen Lawrence.

Here are a few photos from Thursday’s tour:

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Tappan Zee Bridge Financial Details Finally Released to the Public

FOIA-TZB

Tappan Zee Bridge Project TIFIA-Eligible Costs, Sources and Uses of Funds, as provided to TSTC on July 17, 2014 by the Federal Highway Administration in response to appeal of Tappan Zee Bridge Financial Plan Freedom of Information Act request.

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Controversial Clean Water Loan Proceeds, in the Dark

“Is this any way to execute a major infrastructure project?”

So concludes today’s editorial from the Syracuse Post, hometown paper to State Senator John DeFrancisco, one of three sitting members on the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) who, yesterday, rubber-stamped a raid of clean water funds to pay for the New New York Bridge construction projects.

Only a few weeks ago, DeFrancisco offered fighting words that provided hope to the advocacy community that has been shut out of the decision-making process on this controversial loan. In an interview with Capital Tonight’s Liz Benjamin, the Senator stated: “I have no compunction at all about voting ‘no’ if it’s not the proper use of money or there’s not a full financing plan, because the people should know how they’re paying for this thing.” And yet, the PACB—including Senator DeFrancisco—unanimously approved the first installment of $511 million in low-interest loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, despite the fact that a full financing plan was not provided either to the PACB or the public.

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