Looking back at the year in transportation advocacy reveals that there’s a lot to be thankful for:
Safer streets for all in New York State… In one of this year’s most inspirational stories, Long Island mother Sandi Vega became a citizen champion for complete streets after her daughter was killed while walking to school. Her persistence, and advocacy from dozens of groups across the state, led to the passage of a statewide complete streets law this summer.
… and elsewhere, too. The march of complete streets continued throughout the region, with local complete streets policies, laws, and resolutions passing in Linwood, Frenchtown, Bloomfield, Jersey City, Ridgewood, Maywood, and Point Pleasant, NJ; and Lewis, Lewisboro, and South Hampton, NY (we may have missed some). And a planned highway-to-boulevard conversion of Route 34 in New Haven, CT, is looking more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly these days.
NYC’s livable streets champion keeps on rolling. Let’s not forget New York City, where NYC DOT’s tireless commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, keeps rolling out the improvements. This month, the city created its first 20-mph “slow zone” in the Bronx. With the MTA, it brought faster bus service to 34th Street. And the agency is gearing up for what will be the country’s largest bike-sharing system next year. Who’s excited about that? Apparently everyone.
Strong support for Tappan Zee transit from the Hudson Valley. You might have expected local officials to stay quiet when a “fast tracking” of the Tappan Zee Bridge project was announced by both Governor Cuomo and the White House. That’s exactly the opposite of what happened once people like Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef, and State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins realized that “fast tracking” meant nothing but dropping existing plans for public transit.
That things weren’t even worse for Long Island Bus riders. As dismal as things look now for bus riders and taxpayers in Nassau County, they could have been even worse. A funding showdown between Nassau and the MTA meant riders faced the loss of half the system’s routes this summer. Long Island’s State Senate delegation stepped in to make sure service would keep running through the rest of the year.
Forward-looking governance in Connecticut. The Malloy administration has kept its nose to the grindstone in pushing forward the state’s major transit projects, the New Britain-Hartford Bus Rapid Transit and New Haven-Springfield Rail Line. It also released the state’s first-ever transit-oriented-development grants. The Nutmeg State will be better off for it.
TSTC/One Region grants pay off. Speaking of transit-oriented development, the grants we and the One Region Funders’ Group awarded to municipalities in 2009 have been extremely successful. Stratford, CT leveraged its grant to win a $250,000 state grant this year. Babylon, another grantee, won a $2 million federal transportation grant. And both Babylon and Brookhaven, another grantee, were named “transformative” projects by LI’s Regional Economic Development Council. P.S. We are offering those grants again this year.
That transportation funding made it through the “House of Horrors.” Through spring, summer, and early fall, the constant rhetoric from the House of Representatives was 30% cuts in federal transportation spending — both in the 2012 budget and in the House’s long-term transportation bill. Turkeys don’t often escape the hatchet, but transportation did. The 2012 budget mostly preserved current levels of funds. And so many people decried a long-term funding bill that included serious cuts that the House took them out of that bill, too. Let’s hope the failure of the so-called debt supercommittee doesn’t bring back the axe.
TSTC: Still expanding our reach. This year, we were able to hire our first-ever South Jersey advocate. The hard look we’ve been able to take at dangerous conditions in southern NJ has paid dividends already, earning dangerous roads personal visits from NJDOT Commissioner Jim Simpson and new sidewalks. Many thanks to the foundations which generously support our work — and to readers like you, who helped make our annual benefit in November the best we’ve ever had.
MTR will return on Monday.