Pressure Mounts on New Jersey Legislature to Move Port Authority Public Disclosure Bills

NJLeg 9_22_2014

One man stands in the way of advancing the issue of transparency at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey: Assembly Transportation and Independent Authority Chairman John Wisniewski. And today, the New York Times editorial page joined advocate groups in calling upon the New Jersey legislature to act.

While Chairman Wisniewski’s Committee is set to hold a hearing on 11 bills regarding transparency and accountability at the bi-state agency this coming Monday, including the important Port Authority public disclosure bills, the effort falls disappointingly short. Chairman Wisniewski has listed these bills for “discussion only,” meaning that there will be no vote on the bills regardless of the discussion, and therefore they cannot be released from committee.

Monday’s “discussion only” agenda comes on the heels of this past Wednesday’s PANYNJ Board of Commissioners meeting, during which the commissioners unanimously passed a resolution calling for a proposal which would require PANYNJ, which currently has its own policy regarding public disclosure, to abide by the public-disclosure laws of both New York (FOIL) and New Jersey (OPRA). Chairman John Degnan stated that he anticipates the new policy to be in place by January 2015 absent any progress by the legislatures of both states.

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Join Us for the People’s Climate March This Sunday

pcm-id-1b-400-x-400On Sunday, Tri-State Transportation Campaign will be joining more than 1,400 organizations and hundreds of thousands of people in solidarity for a new approach to climate change: the People’s Climate March. It will be an unprecedented mass acknowledgement of the inequity of climate change around the world. And, this will be our collective moment to change the discourse and alter the outcome.

The environmental movement has progressed from protection of water resources to eradication of toxins to protection of air quality and endangered species to combating destruction of the ozone layer and the decimation of our rainforests. For the most part, people were the backdrop for these goals, seldom the lead actors in the story.

The People’s Climate March knits these goals into a shared narrative that puts people at the forefront of a new environmental movement. This March is foremost about the extreme vulnerabilities faced by some populations as a result of our climate inaction: poor and indigenous people who inhabit our waterfronts, live within forest societies and border our polluting industries. The inequity embedded in our consumption of fossil fuels and consumer goods must be addressed at the human level. With this March, we can alter this discourse and make this inequity the core of the climate change movement moving forward. It’s an opportunity to rebrand 21st century environmentalism around what matters: People.

What does this have to do with transportation?

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Four Ways to Improve Trans-East River Travel That Aren’t Gondolas

ERSWWhat does it take to get people talking about increasing travel options for people whose commutes take them across the East River?

A futuristic proposal spawned in the mind of a Manhattan real estate mogul, evidently.

The East River Skyway proposal aims to address congestion on the L train between Williamsburg and Manhattan by carrying passengers on aerial trams (like the Roosevelt Island tram). With rapid (and continuing) growth in North Brooklyn, the L train has become increasingly crowded in the last few years. But is a gondola the best way to accommodate demand for trans-East travel?

Benjamin Kabak at Second Avenue Sagas summarizes the issue nicely:

In a certain sense, this plan gets to problems with the current transit set-up including overcrowded L trains, a need to serve the southern part of Roosevelt Island, especially with the Cornell development on tap and more capacity across the East River. On the other hand, the alignment is terrible in that it tracks subway lines such as the J/M/Z that are under capacity and mirrors preexisting ferry service.

Although the East River Skyway would provide some fantastic views, perhaps we should consider improvements to the rights-of-way that already exist.

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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 City Councilman Donovan Richards Jr. | Photo: council.nyc.gov

New York City Councilman Donovan Richards Jr. | Photo: council.nyc.gov

WINNERS

Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 - Regional Administrator Judith Enck’s office was the only government office brave enough to stand up to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attempt to raid Environmental Facilities Corporation water and sewer funding for the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction project.

R Train riders - The Montague Street Tunnel storm recovery project has been completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

New York City Councilman Donovan Richards Jr. - Queens commuters are applauding the stellar service provided by the new Q114 route, and the Councilman has plans to further expand service in the borough.

Metro-North Railroad - The agency launched a pilot program for bike racks on Connecticut’s New Haven line trains, and also received an award from the 2014 BuildSmart NY Awards for its Grand Central terminal energy conservation projects.

New Jersey Transit –While only a partial solution to addressing capacity concerns, the agency will be replacing all current train cars with double decker designs and all buses with a fleet of longer designs with more seats.

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We’re Hiring: Join Tri-State as Staff Analyst!

MTRHeaderChances are, if you’re reading Mobilizing the Region, you’re serious about creating a more sustainable transportation network in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. If you’re in the job market, consider applying for our Staff Analyst position—or share the job post with your networks.

The Staff Analyst will conduct data analysis and write reports as part of Tri-State’s advocacy for sustainable transportation policies. Duties include reviewing and analyzing existing data sets and creating original fact sheets, visuals and reports from the information, providing analytical and statistical support for other staff program work and contributing to Mobilizing the Region.

The ideal candidate would have at least three years of work experience and have a passion for environmental issues, be politically savvy, energetic, highly motivated and have excellent analytical, research and writing skills. An undergraduate degree is required, and a graduate degree in urban planning, environmental policy, political science, or a related field is preferred.  Experience with basic statistics and data analysis, and demonstrated competence in GIS software or online mapping programs is also required, and knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite is a plus.

To apply, please send a one page cover letter and resume to Kathi Ko at kathi@tstc.org by September 30, 2014.

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A Full Plate for the PATH Riders Council

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The PATH Riders Council‘s first meeting, held in July, was a basic introductory meeting that didn’t touch on any substantive issues. The next meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, and the Council, chaired by (former Tri-State staff member) Ya-Ting Liu, will undoubtedly start getting down to business.

The most pressing issue facing the Council is the need for the Port Authority to meet the current and future challenges of population growth in the PATH ridership area. After explosive growth over the past decade in Hoboken and Jersey City, any PATH rider already knows that rush hour trains are too crowded, and any delay only compounds the problem. This problem, if unaddressed, will only get worse in a future that will see:

Capacity is a glaring near and long-term need for PATH, and the Council should focus its efforts on ensuring that the Port Authority understands that need.

The Riders Council must also address inadequate service levels, especially on the weekends. In recent history, transit ridership has grown dramatically at non-traditional commuting times resulting in a demand for service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Connecticut Gubernatorial Candidates Address State’s Transportation Issues

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and challenger Tom Foley joined a crowd of over 200 in North Haven on Monday to discuss transportation challenges in the Nutmeg State and take questions from the audience.

The forum was hosted by a broad-based coalition of transportation and environmental advocates, including Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transit for Connecticut, Connecticut Construction Industries Association, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Regional Plan Association, Connecticut Association for Community Transportation, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and Capitol Region Council of Governments.

Tri-State live-tweeted the event:

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NJ Transit Ridership Up Across the Board

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail saw twice as many passengers as Newark and four times that of RiverLine. | Photo: New York Post

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail saw twice as many passengers as Newark and four times that of RiverLine. | Photo: New York Post

New Jersey Transit recently opened its committee meetings to the public, allowing riders greater insight into the agency’s operations and performance stats. Ridership data made available at the August Customer Service Committee meeting has revealed some interesting usage trends across NJ Transit’s operations, highlighting customer needs in several areas.

The most encouraging insight gained from the committee’s report is that total June 2014 ridership across all three modes increased by 4.8 percent compared to June 2013, while statewide vehicle miles traveled (VMT) decreased and gas prices continued to soar. Rail ridership was up 7.3 percent, and the HBLR showed tremendous gains with a 6.9 percent increase in May and 7.4 percent in June, compared to 2013.

With statewide transit ridership increasing at such an encouraging rate, the state would be wise to prioritize a sustainable funding source for transportation projects. Thankfully it seems there is growing momentum to help push this issue in the right direction, though with NJ Transit already dependent on borrowing against its own capital funds to cover growing operating costs, a solution to the state’s transportation funding crisis can’t come soon enough.

Ridership stats across NJ Transit’s three transit modes allowed us to identify three specific transportation infrastructure projects that, if prioritized, could significantly improve and expand existing service for NJ Transit customers.

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Two Reports, Two Angles, Same Message: Infrastructure Needs Unmet in New York State

"Streets that need repair" are identified as the number one problem for NY Voters 50+

“Streets that need repair” are identified as the number one problem for voters in New York State age 50 and over. | Source AARPNY

Back-to-back reports released this week by AARP and the New York State Comptroller take two different approaches to arrive at the same conclusion: New York’s infrastructure needs are not being met.

AARP’s report, 2014 State of the 50+ in New York State, surveyed New Yorkers aged 50 and older to determine their likelihood of staying in New York after retirement, and what factors would impact that decision. The survey revealed that:

  • 60 percent are at least somewhat likely to leave New York after retiring; 27 percent extremely likely
  • 66 percent would be more likely to stay if improvements were made to transportation
  • 80 percent identified “streets that need repair” as a problem in their community
  • 67 percent cited cars not yielding to pedestrians as a problem in their community
  • 52 percent said public transportation was too far away, too limited or too hard to navigate
  • 67 percent said they would “vote for a candidate working on maintaining safe and independent mobility around town”

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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 City Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Ydanis Rodriguez | Photo: council.nyc.gov

New York City Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Ydanis Rodriguez | Photo: council.nyc.gov

WINNERS

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer – The senator has secured a $25 million grant to enable the NYC DOT to implement 13 projects to improve roadway safety as well as access to schools and transit.

New York City Councilmembers Ydanis Rodriguez and Jimmy Van Bramer – Rodriguez and Van Bramer have introduced new legislation to increase penalties for drivers who leave the scene of a crash where another person is injured.

Stamford, CT Mayor David Martin – After three pedestrian deaths this year, the mayor has launched the Stamford Street Smart initiative.

NJ Transit riders – If approved as the first deputy director in 12 years, Neil S. Yellin, a well-respected transportation professional who has been a champion for riders during his tenures as Senior Vice President of the LIRR and President for MTA’s Long Island Bus, could help round out a solid leadership team at the agency.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx — Secretary Foxx announced today that the Department of Transportation is “putting together the most comprehensive, forward-leaning initiative USDOT has ever put forward on bike/ped issues.”

New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery – After three years with Tri-State, beloved senior staff analyst Renata Silberblatt will now aid in the state’s storm recovery efforts as a policy analyst.

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