What We’re Thankful For In 2009

Tammy, the NJ Turnpike-frequenting turkey, captivated state media last week (she has since been taken to a zoo.)

Tammy, an NJ Turnpike-frequenting wild turkey, captivated state media last week (she has since been taken to a zoo.)

These are tough times throughout the region, but there’s still plenty to be thankful for when it comes to transportation reform:

Albany comes through for the MTA. That “whoosh” felt in the state of New York this summer wasn’t a global-warming-induced hurricane. It was the sound of millions of transit riders who could finally stop holding their breaths after state officials took them off the hook for 25% fare increases and unthinkable service cuts. It’s too bad Albany’s solution didn’t include enough money to fund the MTA’s entire capital program. Let’s hope state leaders find a way to fill that gap in coming months.

New York City keeps up the pace. NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has continued the department’s sustainable ways. Car-free Broadway and the city’s first bus rapid transit route could be legacy projects in themselves. Expect more bold thinking coming out of 55 Water Street in the next four years.

Good stuff in Newark. Better bus service is coming to Newark, too, with an expansion of the GoBus system to Newark Airport. The local advocacy community has come together around pedestrian safety — and have you noticed that Mayor Cory Booker seems to be doing an awful lot of bike riding these days?

Access to the Region’s Core. The original Hudson rail tunnel has helped sustain our regional economy for the last hundred years. This project, which won federal funds in June, is essential if New Jersey and NYC are to prosper for the next hundred.

The Connecticut turnaround. State legislators passed “complete streets” legislation over the summer, asserting the rights of pedestrians and cyclists in a big way. Meanwhile, ConnDOT Commissioner Joe Marie is cutting wasteful road projects in the name of fiscal prudence, and is putting real momentum behind transit projects that have been on the planning board for over a decade.

Fare hikes stopped in Connecticut. Is a 40% fare increase for Connecticut bus riders good policy? We thought the answer to that question was a pretty obvious “no.” It took a few months for elected officials (who, in fairness, were dealing with a tough budget) to agree, but we’re glad they did.

The Green Vision for Route 347. After 10 years of opposition from TSTC and allies, then-NYSDOT Commissioner Astrid Glynn redesigned the 15-mile highway expansion project on Long Island into a suburban greenway with separated bike and pedestrian paths and a modified boulevard design. With the agency struggling to find the resources for its capital program, the next best step is one that eliminates the widening in Brookhaven altogether and initiates a corridor planning effort.

Land use training begins in Tappan Zee corridor. Regional Plan Association, Project for Public Spaces, and Reconnecting America kicked off transit-oriented development training in the Tappan Zee corridor last week with two well-attended county workshops.  The project team is also running five “stakeholder working groups” a month and is scheduling meetings with local officials throughout the winter. Public outreach on the TZB project has come a long way from where it was five years — or even one year — ago.

High-speed rail. Negotiations on the new federal transportation bill continue to drag on, but there’s one clear sign that national transportation policy is moving in a new direction: $13 billion for high-speed rail.

Tri-State: Bigger and better. This year Tri-State hired our first-ever federal advocate, Ya-Ting Liu, and got into the grantmaking business, dispensing transit-oriented development grants to towns in the region. MTR got a fancy redesign, and readership is 50% higher than it was last year. And that’s not all; the Tri-State team will be growing again soon. Stay tuned.

Photo: Brian Donohue/Star-Ledger.

(MTR will return on Monday.)

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1 comment to What We’re Thankful For In 2009

  • Thankful that you guys cover all the issues so well, like the complete streets legislation, the ongoing tolls debate, pedestrian issues, cycling issues. The proposals of unfair fare increases and your commentary on just that subject as well as transit funding, important events that happen in the state, etc. Thanks and keep up the good work!

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