The NJ municipalities of East Windsor, Hamilton and Robbinsville have filed suit against the State of New Jersey for the return of funds that were supposed to be used to replace trees destroyed by NJ Turnpike […]
The economic crisis has forced municipalities across the region to make painful service cuts, but when it comes to school bus reductions, there might be a silver lining. New Jersey schools are not required to provide buses for elementary and middle school students who live within two miles of school, or high schoolers within […]
This week has been a sobering reminder of the age and poor condition of the public transportation system on which our region depends. On Monday, a small fire crippled the switching system of the LIRR, […]
Last week, the Town of […]
Fewer pedestrians and cyclists are dying on the Garden State’s roads, sidewalks and bicycle paths this year versus 2009, even as the number of drivers and passengers killed has more or less […]
During the 2010 Albany legislative season, transportation advocates put their weight behind six laws: four that dealt with enforcement and prosecution, one that established policy guidance on infrastructure spending, and one that would change the way that New York builds its roads. All four of the enforcement laws have been signed by the Governor. […]
High-speed rail between major city destinations is a front-page story across the nation. Big players, stimulus money, and a short timeframe are coalescing in a sustained effort to provide alternatives to the interstate and air travel. In rural and suburban communities, where population densities don’t attract major public transit dollars, a less glamorous and more incremental story is unfolding. The “Rails-to-Trails” movement is slowly morphing into a “Trails-to-Transportation” movement.
The “Rails-to-Trails” movement started in the mid-’60s, after a substantial consolidation of the rail industry led to the closure and abandonment of many lines. The movement was driven by a certain ideology—environmentalists wanting to get “back to nature,” redefine public space, and simply go for a walk. The effort was relatively inexpensive and often hurdle-free. After purchasing a portion of the property from the railroad companies, volunteers would take out the tracks, use the old rail ties in their home gardens, and once a year, come out to the “linear park” to cut back the brush.
Today, new ideologies are in place—and with those ideologies come new priorities. Environmentalists, many of whom were a part of the 60s Rails-to-Trails movement, are now looking at rail trails as part of a non-motorized transportation network. Keith Laughlin, president of the national nonprofit Rails-to-Trails now sees his organization as a transportation advocacy group: “There was a time when people viewed having these trails in their communities as a nice-to-have thing, but not a necessity. But what we’re seeing is an increased demand at the local level, and the trails are now viewed as critical infrastructure for a livable 21st century community.”
In a 2008 survey of Ulster County (NY) residents, 21% of the respondents said they used non-motorized transportation to get to work and 35% used it for shopping and errands; 68% said they don’t use non-motorized transport because there are too many cars or motorists drive too fast. This potential demand for safer routes could be met by a connected network of protected trails. In Manchester, CT, the rate of biking-to-work was ten times greater among those residents who had access to the Charter Oak Greenway compared to those who did not, according to the Capitol Region Council of Governments (the Greenway connects East Hartford with outlying towns).
Building a Network
Perseverance has led to some high-profile wins for trail advocates. Walkway Over the Hudson was an effort that was started in 1992 by Bill Sepe, whose organization eventually bought the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad bridge (built in 1888) for $1. The pedestrian bridge, which in the end cost $38.8M to renovate, opened to great fanfare last October, and is now the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, and a key link to the Amtrak/Metro North station. In August 2009, the Open Space Institute and the Wallkill Valley Land Trust bought the iconic Rosendale Trestle Bridge and 11.5 miles of trail—a missing link between New Paltz and Kingston that had been owned by a private property owner. The two land trusts waited for 20 years for an opportunity, and, amidst the recent economic crisis, the property went into tax foreclosure.
Advocates in New York have not stopped fighting for a statewide complete streets bill (A8587-B/SB5711-B) that would require that pedestrian and cyclist accommodations be considered in the planning, design, and construction of all road projects receiving state or federal funds.
The state legislature’s extended session ended in August with […]
Citing even one crash as “one crash too many,” New York City DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on Monday released the city’s “roadmap for safety strategies.” The study recommends four specific engineering and design strategies to improve pedestrian safety:
20 mph zone pilot program in at least 75 residential neighborhoods; dangerous […]
Gov. Rell and CT legislative leaders stood behind the New Haven-Springfield rail line today, after the State Bond Commission voted to bond $260 million towards the project. The commitment of state funds, pushed by Gov. Rell, should bolster the state’s chances of winning $220 million from the second round of federal high-speed rail grants.