Where’s NYSDOT’s List of Projects?

We are days away from a final budget in Albany, and yet no one has seen the list of road, bridge and transit projects that NYSDOT will tackle next year, to be funded by the budget currently being negotiated. No one has seen the proposed five-year capital plan, either.

And by “no one,” of course, we mean: the public, the advocates, the legislators, the transportation staff. In other words, everyone outside of the “four men-in-a-room”, and perhaps their respective staff members. Back in January, both were promised to be imminently forthcoming. And this isn’t the first time lists like these haven’t been forthcoming.

Why would we want a list?

  1. Albany has a checkered past of slipping pet transportation projects in without a democratic process—Senator Smith being a prime example of a short-circuited process.
  2. Advocates, the public and legislators would like to have some say in the development of project lists to be built, an opportunity to make the case for why some projects should be funded before others.
  3. This project list impacts not just NYSDOT, but the MTA. Historically, negotiations on the MTA and NYSDOT five-year capital plans have been coupled in the interest of assuring “parity” between upstate and down. We’ve had months to review the MTA’s Capital Plan because they have a statutory requirement to submit it on a certain date; NYSDOT has no comparable requirement.
  4. And advocates in Albany have been told point blank: no NYSDOT capital plan on the table, no discussion of the MTA’s capital plan.

Why keep this list in the dark?
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A New Port Authority Bus Terminal: One Small Piece of the Larger Cross-Hudson Capacity Conversation

Source: PANYNJ

Last week the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released preliminary proposals for a new bus terminal. There were five proposals in total, estimated to take anywhere from 11 to 15 years to complete, with some estimated to cost as much as $10.5 billion. And while it’s very encouraging to see the Port Authority finally acknowledge the bus terminal’s real long-term needs, a new terminal is not a slam-dunk solution to the cross-Hudson capacity dilemma. There has been a serious dearth of vision for managing cross-Hudson capacity, which is poised to become a true crisis for all public transit modes if solutions and funding are not prioritized.

Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT)

The PABT was built in 1950 at a cost of $24 million (approximately $233 million in today’s dollars), but quickly reached operating capacity by 1966, necessitating subsequent expansions. Today, the terminal is again operating above capacity, handling over 230,000 riders per day, with demand projected to grow to 330,000 by 2040. This is not a new issue. In fact, Tri-State has been sounding the alarm about cross-Hudson bus capacity since last decade.

PATH Train

Riding trains across the Hudson is also an increasingly daunting experience. Jump on any rush hour PATH train and you are sure to be far from alone. PATH ridership stands at roughly 250,000 passengers per day, an increase of nearly 50,000 passengers per day since 1994, and with even more development slated for Hoboken and Jersey City planned or under construction, capacity is and will continue to be a real problem.

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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.

NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez join other City electeds in breaking ground on the Plaza de Las Americas. | Photo: NYC DOT Flickr

The groundbreaking of the Plaza de Las Americas. | Photo: NYC DOT Flickr

WINNERS

Washington Heights residents After seven years of planning, the City has finally broken ground on the Plaza de Las Americas, a big win for local vendors and businesses as well as for pedestrians, who will enjoy increased traffic safety once the project is complete.

Queens residents —  In addition to the great news of permanent Q103 weekend service, the City DOT unveiled its design for a ‘super’ bus route along Woodhaven Boulevard, where buses would run in their own lane separated from local traffic with a concrete median.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Cities of Opportunities Task Force, de Blasio called on fellow mayors across the country to raise the call for greater federal investment in mass transit and infrastructure, saying “the failure to invest in transportation, the failure to invest in infrastructure is holding us back.” Does this mean there will be an increase in city funding to the MTA’s capital plan to match the call for increased federal funding?

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal & acting Federal Railway Administrator Sarah Feinberg — The Northeast Corridor high speed rail study that has been irking Connecticut officials for weeks has been declared “dead on arrival,” with the Connecticut Senator vowing to fight the bill until the study includes a stop in Connecticut.

Connecticut commuters and residents — In an effort to woo residents of the Land of Steady Habits, there are several promotional offers for passengers who try CTfastrak, launching this Saturday, March 28, including local business discounts and nine full days of free rides for all passengers statewide.

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Will the Land of Steady Habits Get on Board with BRT?

Is Connecticut ready to get on board with bus rapid transit? We'll soon find out. | Image: New Britain Herald

Is Connecticut ready to get on board with bus rapid transit? We’ll soon find out. | Image: New Britain Herald

CTfastrak, Metro Hartford’s new bus rapid transit system, will officially begin service this Saturday with nine days of free rides. The BRT system has been the topic of much conversation in Connecticut over the last few years, with more than its fair share of detractors. CTfastrak has been known to some as the “busway boondoggle” and the “busway to nowhere,” while others have wondered why the State didn’t build a light rail line on the corridor instead.

But state and local officials have been bullish on the busway, predicting that CTfastrak would spur economic development. And they were right: public and private investments have kick-started the revitalization of downtown New Britain, Newington cleaned up the former National Welding site to make way for transit-oriented development, and in Hartford, downtown buildings are being converted into apartments.

Connecticut is known as “The Land of Steady Habits,” so skepticism about a road designed solely for buses in a metro area where 81 percent of commuters drive alone shouldn’t be unexpected. But the opening of the busway will be an historic moment for Connecticut. CTfastrak is only the nation’s eighth full-fledged BRT system, and the only example of true BRT in the tri-state region.

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New Jersey’s Pile of Transportation Troubles in 500 Words or Less

greetings-from-njA quick update on some of the Garden State’s transportation issues:

Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) 

The state’s TTF will run dry on July 1, one year earlier than initially thought. Legislative leadership had been working with Governor Christie to devise a plan to restore solvency to the fund, insisting “everything is on the table.” But after denying the existence of any “crisis,” the Governor announced a new plan to borrow $600 million to meet the state’s FY2016 transportation needs. To put it simply: any hope of honestly addressing this issue appears to be dead.

Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT)

While the terminal’s $90 million “Quality of Commute” program is underway, the improvements do not address the underlying problems plaguing the 65-year-old facility. After months of pressing the Authority to address the growing demand for cross-Hudson bus service, the Board announced this week that a new terminal would cost as much as $10 billiona price tag that many find suspect.

Gateway

Amtrak announced several months ago that damage to the rail tunnels under the Hudson from Superstorm Sandy was worse than initially perceived, and to repair it would require that one tunnel be taken out of service for at least a yearwhich could happen as early as this year. Given that NJ Transit ridership is steadily increasing, the work would cause major disruption to service. Last week, Senate President Sweeney announced a funding proposal for the Gateway Tunnel Project, which would include a $3 billion Port Authority contribution from the sale of non transportation-related real estate.

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It’s Not Always Sunny in Albany

sunshine weekDiscussions on ethics and transparency have exploded over the last couple of weeks, just in time for Sunshine Week. We thought we’d provide this handy list of choice tid-bits, in case you’ve lost track:

The next week or two is Albany’s annual scrum of black box budgeting, where advocates and concerned citizens tend to be left outside the process, hoping for the best. Bets are on as to whether the final tale from the sausage factory will include much-needed reforms.

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Tolls Aren’t as Controversial or Politically-Risky as Some Connecticut Politicians Would Like You to Believe

The Connecticut State legislature’s Transportation Committee voted this week to advance a bill which would bring the state one step closer to reinstating highway tolls. The vote followed party lines, with 18 Democrats voting in favor, and 13 Republicans voting against.

State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) spoke against the bill, but her argument falls apart when you look at the facts.

Transportation Committee Chairman Representative Antonio Guerrera and ranking member State Senator Toni Boucher.  | Image: SRO/Flickr

Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Tony Guerrera and ranking member State Senator Toni Boucher. | Image: SRO/Flickr

Boucher said “People uniformly have an opinion on [tolls],” but that would only be true if you look at the results of a poll which was conducted by Boucher’s office, which only surveyed voters in her district.

An independent Quinnipiac University poll conducted earlier this month, however, shows that 58 percent of Nutmeg State Republicans (and 62 percent of Democrats) support tolls as long as the revenue raised goes toward transportation purposes. Without that provision, 61 percent of voters oppose tolls. But it’s highly unlikely that tolls would be implemented until the State puts a “lockbox” on the Special Transportation Fund.

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Two More Pedestrians Struck on New Jersey’s Most Dangerous Road

Route 130 in Delran. | Photo: Nancy Rokos/Burlington County Times

Route 130 in Delran. | Photo: Nancy Rokos/Burlington County Times

Two pedestrians have been struckone fatallyby cars while walking on Route 130 in Burlington County just since the March 5 release of Tri-State’s annual Most Dangerous Roads for Walking report, which named Route 130 the most dangerous road in New Jersey for the fifth year in a row. Now more than ever, it is clear that Route 130 must be transformed to allow all road users to travel without putting their lives at riskand it needs to happen as soon as possible.

Both sides of Route 130 are home to many places of work, restaurants, shops and transit stops. But like many of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the region, Route 130 is a multi-lane arterial road with as many as six lanes of fast-moving traffic, few sidewalks, and even fewer crosswalks. Pedestrians often have to walk more than a half-mile out of their way just to reach a crosswalk.

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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.

New York State Senator Jose Peralta | Photo: nysenate.gov

New York State Senator Jose Peralta | Photo: nysenate.gov

WINNERS

New York State Senator Jose Peralta — Despite loud opposition in recent weeks from other Queens electeds, State Senator Jose Peralta of Queens became the first state senator to outright support the Move New York toll reform plan.

U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) — The Senators have reintroduced their Innovation in Surface Transportation plan, a bipartisan bill that “would give local officials more control over the transportation planning process in their states and communities.”

New York Legislative transit champions  The State Senate has released their budget resolutions, which like the Assembly also include increases to statewide transit spending. The Assembly has also updated its resolutions to include $100 million for Bus Rapid Transit projects, a portion of which will help support Staten Island’s North Shore BRT, thanks to Assemblymembers Michael Cusick and Matthew Titone.

State Farm Insurance — The firm is aligning its future planning at three major sites to concentrate its employees near transit to create a “live-work-play environment that will give employees easy access to their work from the neighboring communities.”

Village of Hempstead, NY — Mayor Wayne Hall Sr. has attributed the village’s vitality to its proximity to a transit hub, which in turn spurred a major downtown revitalization project.

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“Bike Bill” Would Pave the Way for 21st Century Bike Infrastructure in Connecticut

Contraflow bike lanes, left-side bike lanes and parking-protected cycle tracks may soon be coming to Connecticut. | Photos: NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide

A law which would permit modern bicycle facilities such as contra-flow bike lanes, left-side bike lanes and parking-protected cycle tracks, recently advanced in the Connecticut General Assembly. | Photos: NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide

Connecticut has one of the nation’s best statewide Complete Streets laws, but Nutmeg State municipalities are limited in what kinds of bicycle infrastructure they can design and implement. You won’t find protected bike lanes, two-way cycle tracks, contra-flow lanes, or even bike lanes on the left side of one-way streets in Connecticut because, as advocates have heard over the years during conversations with engineers, they’re “illegal.”

What makes these context-sensitive bicycle facilities “illegal,” we learned, is that they contradict Section 14-286b of the state statutes, which says “Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable.” You can’t be “as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable” if you’re riding in a bike lane that’s been marked on the left side of a one-way or median-separated street. And more to the point, municipal engineers could find their livelihoods in jeopardy if someone were injured or killed using a bicycle facility which doesn’t jive with the state law.

The wording of Section 14-286b has stymied efforts to bring 21st century transportation infrastructure to cities and towns across Connecticut, including plans to install a two-way cycle track in New Haven. That prompted the City’s Transportation Director Doug Hausladen and advocates (including Tri-State), to push for state legislation that could free municipalities to build modern bicycle facilities.

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