“Due to the complexity of the request, and the volume of records which need to be identified and retrieved, it has taken longer than anticipated to respond.”
While transparent State government was a key point in Governor Cuomo’s “Clean Up Albany” manifesto, one tool that was supposed to be crucial for transparency, the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), has instead yielded less information lately.
Access to data from New York State has been an ongoing challenge. Nearly all of the FOIL requests Tri-State has made have been met with delays, most often in the form of (multiple) deadline extensions. Much of the information requested has been from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), including information on the Tappan Zee Bridge financing plan and environmental impact state/bus rapid transit cost estimates and the cancelled Strategic Transportation Enhancements Program (STEP). But these types of denial-through-delay tactics are not NYSDOT specific. In fact, a recent watchdog report by Gannett found that “Administration agencies have a pattern of multiple deadline extensions on [FOIL] requests. The extensions are routinely blamed — without specifics — on the large number of FOIL requests the state receives.”
The delay in production of the STEP records requested by Tri-State is an unfortunate — yet typical — example of how the delays happen. NYSDOT, through a STEP announcement, requested funding applications for high-priority transportation projects in each of NYSDOT’s 11 regions. The program, however, was abruptly cancelled, despite the fact that applications had already been submitted. To better understand transportation needs throughout the state, Tri-State sought to examine the applications and submitted a FOIL request in February 2013 for the applications, yet to date, NYSDOT has not produced the requested materials. The Department’s most recent request for extension came in November, making a total of five of extensions in a ten month period.
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NY State Senator Tim Kennedy announced a proposal to strengthen the state’s Complete Streets law and provide a dedicated fund for walking and bicycling infrastructure. | Photo: nysenate.gov
A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.
Hoboken, Jersey City and Weehawken – After a successful six-month pilot program in Hoboken, these three communities are partnering to launch a bike share system.
Manhattan Community Board 5 — CB 5 voted unanimously to ask the New York City Department of Transportation to study a redesign of Fifth and Sixth Avenues, which have seen more than their fair share of curb jumping drivers in recent months.
NY State Senator Tim Kennedy — Senator Kennedy is calling for the expansion of New York State’s Complete Streets law and the creation of a dedicated fund for pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure in the State budget.
Shore Line East — Ridership is up by 35 percent from a year ago on Shore Line East, “spurred partially by Governor Malloy’s decision last summer to institute weekend train service to southeastern Connecticut.”
NY State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymember David Weprin — This duo of Queens lawmakers have introduced legislation that would prohibit New York City from adding tolls to any city-owned bridges despite the fact that the vast majority of their constituents do not drive to Manhattan’s Central Business District for work, while more than a quarter of Queens residents use transit to do so.
NYC Councilmember Peter Vallone — Vallone presided over a ribbon cutting for a new parking lot at 29th Street and Astoria Boulevard in Queens, which is less than two blocks from the N and Q trains. That’s right. A parking lot.
Connecticut transit riders — Fares on CT Transit buses, Connecticut Metro-North and Shore Line East trains will increase by about 5 percent in January.
A first-of-its-kind report commissioned by Tri-State Transportation Campaign and conducted by Appleseed, Inc. and New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, found that investment in Westchester County’s Bee Line and the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) served as boons for each county’s economy in 2012.
The report, “Supporting Economic Growth and Opportunity: The Economic Impact of Suburban Bus Service in Westchester and Nassau Counties,” found that in 2012 alone, the Bee Line and NICE systems added a total of $208 million and $191.5 million, respectively, to each county’s economy.
The totals were derived from both direct and indirect economic impacts, measuring the systems as enterprises themselves, as well as the multiplier effects generated as a result of money spent locally by employees on things like food, housing and utilities. These effects added almost half a billion dollars in economic development to the regional economy and supported 2,750 jobs (1,260 in Westchester and 1,490 in Nassau).
The report also highlighted that both bus systems serve as key economic lifelines for the riders who use them. Over 80,000 people a day use the Bee Line and NICE systems to get to work, earning
an aggregate annual income of $1 billion in Westchester County and $840 million in Nassau County.
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the recipients of the 2013 Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) grants last week. This third round of grants included several TSTC-supported projects that advance smart transportation policy and sustainable development in the Downstate and Capital Regions. Here are the highlights:
Photo: Flickr/governorandrewcuomo Photo Stream
- Albany County Rail Trail – This $1 million project will construct 5.5 miles of a proposed 9.3 mile shared-use path along a former rail bed in Albany County. Funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Cleaner, Greener Communities (NYSERDA CGC) program will assist in the final design and construction of the path.
- Albany 2030 Sustainable Code Project – The $300,000 NYSERDA CGC grant will help update the Code of the City of Albany to allow for the incorporation of sustainable design and smart growth principles, with an emphasis on zoning and development regulations.
- Community Recovery Components: Design and Construction – The Town of Prattsville will receive a $807,000 grant from the Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (DOS LWRP) to help advance the Town’s community reconstruction plan to restore and revitalize Route 23 (Main Street), which was devastated by Hurricane Irene flooding. The project will include streetscape enhancements and the design and construction of a new waterfront trail.
- Long Island Park & Preserve Access Improvement Project – Nassau County will receive a $200,000 Department of Parks Rail-to-Trial Program grant that will initiate planning and design, as well as begin first phase of construction, of the first interconnected set of pathways for walking and cycling between the Long Island Sound to the Great South Bay and Jones Beach.
- The Glen Cove Waterfront Connector – The City of Glen Cove will receive a $2.5 million Empire State Development (ESD) grant to reconstruct the Waterfront Connector, which incorporates Complete Streets designs for biking and walking and will link to numerous transit modes. The project, long supported by Tri-State, will support the redevelopment of a brownfield into a mixed-use redevelopment supporting residential, commercial and retail space.
- Connect Long Island Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and East Farmingdale Redevelopment Study – Suffolk County was awarded a $1.5 million NYSERDA CGC grant to advance the creation of Long Island’s first BRT demonstration corridor. The funds will help retrofit and re-brand six buses, construct BRT stations, pedestrian infrastructure and other BRT technologies while the Town of Babylon received $500,000 in ESD funds to undertake a redevelopment study for a mixed-use application at a key site along the potential Route 110 BRT corridor. In October 2012, Tri-State held a BRT symposium in support of a potential Route 110 BRT project, especially if it was linked to smarter land use along the Route 110 corridor.
- Wyandanch Rising – The project, one of Tri-State and the One Region Funders’ Group initial Transit-Centered Development grants, continues to bear fruit as the Town of Babylon received additional funding for the high-profile mixed-use development. Babylon received $1 million in ESD funding to install an ice rink directly adjacent to the station’s intermodal plaza.
- Complete Streets projects in the City of Kingston – Grants totaling over $2.273 million were awarded to the City of Kingston for projects to help support the implementation of Kingston’s Complete Streets resolution, which Tri-State helped adopt in 2010. Projects supported by the grants include the establishment of a trail on a historic rail bed, the design of multi-modal connections along between the Hudson River and Rondout waterfronts to the core of Kingston in Midtown and the implementation of the Kingston Connectivity Project, a project that implements a rail trail network throughout the city.
- Transit Hub in White Plains – The City of White Plains received a $1 million NYSERDA CGC grant to plan and design for the redevelopment of an existing transit hub into a multi-modal transportation center that will support surrounding economic development and revitalization initiatives.
- Adriaens Way Downtown Yonkers Trail – The $160,244 Department of Parks, Planning and Acquisition grant will allow Groundwork Hudson Valley to to undertake a feasibility study for the design and construction of a TSTC-supported rail-to-trail project stretching from the Downtown Yonkers Waterfront to the 242nd Street subway station in the Bronx.
New York City:
- Bus Rapid Transit in Queens – The New York City Department of Transportation received over $2.1 million in a NYSERDA CGC grant to implement a Select Bus Service (SBS) project in Queens. It is unclear from the REDC documents where this project will be undertaken, but it is good news for incoming New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio who has committed to building 20 new SBS Routes during his administration.
Image: Sheridan Expressway-Hunts Point Land Use and Transportation Study (SEHP)
A broad coalition of elected officials, business owners and advocates gathered on Tuesday in the shadow of the Bruckner Expressway to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to move the Sheridan Expressway project forward. The coalition included Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, representatives from Hunts Point businesses Baldor, Jetro and Down East Seafood, plus The Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance and Tri-State.
Despite the snow and cold temperatures, the group came together in anticipation of the release of a final Sheridan Expressway-Hunts Point Study report from the outgoing Bloomberg administration. The report, The Sheridan Expressway Study: Reconnecting the Neighborhoods Around the Sheridan Expressway and Improving Access to Hunts Point, released last Tuesday, includes a long list of recommended improvements for the entire community, including:
- conversion of the at-grade Sheridan Expressway into a boulevard that includes three new crossing across the roadway that provide new access to the waterfront and
- construction of ramps that provide a direct connection from the elevated Bruckner Expressway directly into the Hunts Point peninsula.
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The House passed a two-year budget by a wide margin, but it doesn’t appear that transit commuter parity will be addressed until next year. | Image: C-SPAN via DailyKos
The two-year budget deal, unveiled earlier this week and passed by the House of Representatives last night, will curtail “sequestration” cuts to government spending planned for this year. Although it faced some opposition, it passed with a wide margin (332-94) and will move to the Senate for a vote next week. So what would the deal mean for transportation?
If the budget deal passes the Senate next week, House and Senate lawmakers would then write bills funding the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (as well as the rest of the government), and try to negotiate the differences. By adopting higher spending levels, the budget deal would provide more room for Congress to work with but would not change the fact that there are large philosophical differences between the different chambers of Congress. When the two houses tried writing appropriations bills earlier this year, the result was a Senate bill that boosted funding for transportation and a House bill that starved it.
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New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has released a report that raises concerns about how the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is handling their responsibility for inspecting rail bridges across the state.
“The gaps in the railroad bridge oversight program uncovered by my auditors are troubling,”DiNapoli said. “DOT needs to do a better job making sure it’s on the same page with the railroads and the federal government so the public can be assured it is not in danger.”
The report reveals a laundry list of red flags:
- outdated, or completely absent management plans
- no procedures for following up and requesting plans
- incomplete and inaccurate inventory of bridges
- no active monitoring of inspection certificates
- poor coordination with Federal Railroad Administration
Thirty-eight different railroads own or maintain the nearly 3,000 railroad bridges in New York. NYSDOT is responsible for inspecting 48 of these bridges, and their inspection program is largely administered by one person.
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Citi Bike, like New Yorkers in general, will not be deterred by the cold weather or snow. Photo: Stephen Nessen/WNYC
With its snow plan in place, Citi Bike is ensuring that New Yorkers can ride bikes pretty much all year round. In the city that never sleeps, could we expect anything less from our bike share program?
Citi Bike’s decision to stay open year round preserves a much-needed mobility choice for New Yorkers, which seems to be bucking conventional wisdom of a drop off in ridership from warm to cooler seasons. Citi Bike ridership increased by 5 percent from the end of summer and into fall.
While some North American bike share programs, including Nice Ride Minnesota, Bixi Montreal and Madison B-Cycle, cease operations in the winter, other systems are open year-round. TSTC looked at Boston’s Hubway, which is piloting its first winter operations (but only in Cambridge) this year, and Bixi Toronto, which has been operating year-round since its first year, to see how these systems will deal with inclement weather.
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The Montclair Center Business Improvement District received an award for its pedestrian wayfinding system from Downtown New Jersey. | Photo: Phil Cantor Photography
A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in tri-state transportation news.
Fairfield, Connecticut — The Town of Fairfield received a $1.2 million grant from the federal Transportation Alternatives Program which will be used to build new sidewalks, improved medians and bicycle parking along Kings Highway East.
Montclair Center BID — Downtown New Jersey, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to ensuring the vitality of New Jersey downtowns, recognized the Montclair Center Business Improvement District for its pedestrian wayfinding system.
Staten Island bus commuters — The MTA has installed two electronic BusTime signs at bus stops in Stapleton and New Dorp.
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