NJ Cyclist Fatalities Double in 2008

As more New Jerseyans bike, the need for cycling infrastructure – like this "bike boulevard" in Ocean City – will increase, especially in urban areas.

According to data released by the NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety, 2008 has seen the highest number of bicyclist fatalities in the state in at least six [...]

NJ Greenhouse Gas Plan: A "Paradigm Shift" on Transportation?

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s recently released draft Greenhouse Gas Plan shows promise of real change, provided that the recommendations survive the trip through Trenton.

The report details strategies that the state must implement in order to meet greenhouse gas targets set out in the Global Warming Response Act, signed last year by Governor Corzine. Under the Act, NJ must reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and cut emissions to 80% under the 2006 level by 2050.

Progressive Transportation Reforms?

Transportation represents most of NJ's emissions.

Transportation represents most of NJ's emissions. (Image: NJDEP draft Greenhouse Gas Plan.)

Recommendations touted in the report are familiar to progressive transportation and land use advocates – an expanded transit network including bus rapid transit, transit-oriented development, complete streets, zoning and planning reforms linking transportation and land use, and carbon analyses of transportation capital projects.

For reasons not entirely clear, the report puts these initiatives in a vague category called “supporting recommendations,” meant to provide a cushion for three “core” recommendations that together will meet the state’s 2020 target. The sole transportation core item is a Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) program that will call for automakers to reduce fleetwide emissions from vehicles sold in NJ by 30%, and for all new vehicles sold in NJ to meet California-level emissions standards after January 1, 2009. (The reduction plan is currently the subject of litigation, though the issue may become moot by executive action in January.)

Though the document first says the “core” recommendations will meet the 2020 target by themselves, it later contradicts itself and says that the LEV program will fall short of the target by 5 million metric tons even if growth in vehicle-miles traveled is capped at 1% annually (from a current 1.7%). To achieve either the 2020 or 2050 goals, the report says that all of the supporting recommendations must be enacted in the next 18 months.

The Best-Laid Plans…

These ambiguities are not the sole concern. Many of the initiatives, including many which must be implemented in the next 18 months, will require legislative action. Given the difficulty of passing any ambitious effort through a divided legislature in an election year, the final report should clearly define each of its initiatives, and make them enactable by agency action where possible.

» Continue reading…

Transit Cuts Would Impact Many. Bridge Tolls? Not So Much.

If state elected officials don't save the MTA, transit riders are in for a lot of pain.

Yesterday, the MTA Board passed its “doomsday budget,” officially putting riders on the hook for massive fare increases and service cuts if state elected officials don’t pass the Ravitch Commission’s recommendations or some other plan to [...]

Running on Empty: Ways to Fix the Highway Trust Fund

TKTKTKT.

New sources of revenue will be required to meet U.S. infrastructure needs.

The Federal Highway Administration reported last month that 2008 revenues into the Highway Trust Fund fell $3 billion from 2007 levels. It seems that $4 per gallon gasoline earlier this year suppressed driving nationally by almost 90 billion miles in the 12 months since October of 2007, the most significant and sustained decline in driving in more than two decades.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund was already expected to go broke by FY 2010. But this drop in revenue may accelerate that crisis to the current fiscal year. It also serves as a stark reminder that with declining VMT and improving fuel efficiency eroding the motor fuel tax’s contribution, the U.S. must find a better way to pay for transportation projects.

The need is all the more pressing as discussions on SAFETEA-LU reauthorization shift into high gear.  Some experts have called for scrapping the existing surface transportation funding bill altogether and developing a new agenda for federal transportation policy.  But either way, the nation’s infrastructure needs are considerable. Earlier this year, a national commission found that it would take $225 billion per year for 50 years to bring the nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems to a state of good repair and create an enhanced and modernized transportation system.

Transportation policy wonks have been having fun developing alternative revenue proposals, which MTR summarizes here:

Raise the federal gas tax. The federal gas tax has held steady at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1997. Proposals range from an immediate 5 cent increase to a 40 cent increase phased in over five years. Others have called for raising the federal gas tax by as much as 80 cents. With national gasoline prices now under $2.00 per gallon, a steep gas tax increase should be much more palatable for the public, and their elected leaders. Still, if and when the country embraces alternative fuel vehicles, transit, or more fuel efficient vehicles, gas tax revenues will begin to diminish once again.

Index the federal gas tax to inflation. In 1997 dollars the current federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has been eroded by inflation to just 13.6 cents. Had the tax been indexed to inflation beginning in 1997, it would now be 24.8 cents per gallon. As a general rule of thumb, every penny of gas tax brings in $1.9 billion, so simply adjusting the tax for inflation today would produce an additional $12 billion over the year. This idea is a no-brainer, but again, higher fuel efficiency, alternative fuels, and greater transit use will work against the gas tax’s ability to raise revenue for transportation projects.

Make the federal gas tax a sales tax. A sales tax which produces greater per gallon revenues when prices are high would help defray at least some of the revenue lost when people drive less. It would also serve to convert some of the pain drivers feel at the pump to tangible road, bridge and transit improvements, instead of profits for oil companies.

» Continue reading…

NYC's Growth Backed by 11 Years of Transit Improvements

(NY Times graph using NYCDOT data.)

New York City’s growth has been borne on the back of a steadily improving transit system. That’s the implication of a recently released NYCDOT report, Sustainable Streets Index 2008, that found that although NYC continued to grow between 2003 and 2007, traffic actually declined. Subway and bus [...]

PBS Turns Attention to MTA Crisis

New York Voices will air on Tuesday, Dec. 16th at 8:00 pm

As part of its “Blueprint America” program, PBS affiliate Thirteen/WNET New York will air a “New York Voices” segment about the MTA’s financial crisis and its impact on the major proposed and existing transit capital projects slated for completion over the [...]

New Jersey SLAPPs Groups Over Meadowlands

The Meadowlands will be home to Xanadu, "the ultimate sports, leisure, family entertainment and shopping complex in the United States."

[Update 12/19: The NJ Sports and Exposition Authority's lawsuit has been thrown out.]

Earlier this year, the Sierra Club, NJ PIRG and NJ Environmental Federation were in court fighting the Xanadu development, which [...]

Groups, Electeds: CT Must Put Rail Project on Fast Track

Enfield is one of three towns which would receive new rail stations as part of the New Haven-Hartford Springfield Commuter Rail project. (Station concept rendering above.)

Tri-State joined several transportation, environment, civic and business groups in asking Connecticut Governor Rell to fast track the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail line on Tuesday. The [...]

Older Pedestrians at Risk in the Region; Gov. Paterson Responds

Older tri-state residents bear a significantly higher risk of being killed as a pedestrian than do their younger neighbors, or their cohorts in the rest of the country, according to a new analysis released today by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. (See TSTC fact sheets and downstate NY, NJ, and Conn. press releases.)

Between 2005 [...]

In the Bronx, Pedestrians Bring the Business

On an average day, Fordham Road in the Bronx is busier than London's Regent Street.

For shoppers and residents walking along East Fordham Road in the Bronx, it may not come as a surprise that this heavily traveled corridor made a list of pedestrian hot spots identified in NYCDOT’s recently released report, World [...]