What We’re Thankful For in 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Before we got down to business on our tofurkey, meatloaf trains, and other, more normal Thanksgiving treats, Tri-State’s staff gathered around the table and discussed what we’re thankful for in 2012:

NYC’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure—In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, when transit wasn’t running at full capacity and streets, bridges, and tunnels were congested with cars, NYC residents and workers were able to bike and walk to work because of the vast bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure implemented citywide over the past five years.  Cycling increased by 150% on the Thursday after the storm showing the importance of providing greater transportation options.

Transit still has dedicated federal funding—In early 2012, Congress was working on bills that would rewrite federal transportation policy. The House’s version, HR7, would have ended dedicated federal transit funding, while the Senate bill contained several positive reforms for national transportation policy. Fortunately, the most extreme parts of HR7 were defeated and many of the Senate’s transit reforms were approved by both chambers.  Though the final bill gutted bike and pedestrian funding and environmental protections, transit funding for our region remained stable.

Connecticut broke ground on CTfastrak and made progress on a new commuter rail line—This year, ConnDOT started construction on a bus rapid transit line between Hartford and New Britain that is already attracting investment to the transit corridor. Plus, the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project cleared its first tier environmental review, got a shot of federal funds and construction is underway.

ConnDOT continued its progress towards being more multi-modal—The first full year of leadership from Commissioner Jim Redeker continued to build upon last year’s progress with the department advancing key transit projects, spearheading transit-oriented development at the Stamford Transportation Center, studying express lane tolling, and implementing the state’s first ever road diet.  It is a dramatic change for a department that for too long was only considered a “roads-only” agency.

NY, NJ, CT kept recreational trails money for bike and pedestrian projects—Under MAP-21, states can opt-out of spending federal Recreational Trails Program funds on bike and pedestrian projects. Yet, all three states in our region opted to use these funds for their intended purpose.  New York is set to receive over $2 million, New Jersey over $1 million, and Connecticut just under $1 million as a result.

New York State didn’t raid MTA funds—As part of a deal to restructure the state’s tax code, Governor Cuomo restructured the payroll mobility tax resulting in a $250M cut to the MTA.  Promising that he would make up the funds “dollar for dollar,” the Governor did indeed fully fill the gap in the 2012 budget.  Given the state’s history of stealing dedicated transit funding, that was no sure thing.

Strong community support for transit on the Tappan Zee Bridge—When a new bridge project without mass transit was announced by New York State in October 2011, the Hudson Valley spoke loudly in support of transit, particularly buses, along the I-287 corridor.  State elected officials, county executives, mayors, environmental groups, labor, good government, transit, bike and pedestrian groups, and residents, pressed the state to address congestion, economic sustainability, and environmental concerns by including transit on the bridge. Unfortunately while the state promised three months ago to create a task force to issue recommendations for transit, the task force has still not been convened.

New Jersey’s transportation capital program restored funding for Transit Village program, invested more in transit and Safe Streets to Transit—After being slashed in the 2011 NJDOT budget, funding for New Jersey’s Transit Village Program, which encourages development near transit stations, was fully restored to $1M in NJDOT’s 2012 capital program.  Safe Streets to Transit, which helps municipalities make streets safer around transit hubs, got a 50% increase. NJ Transit got a 3% funding increase, reversing a trend of New Jersey’s shrinking commitment to transit.

Complete streets swept New Jersey—Over the past year, complete streets policies have been adopted by municipalities of all sizes, from Mercer County to Hackensack to Newark. Coupled with NJDOT’s complete streets workshops this past spring and a new website, the state is making steady progress towards promoting increased transportation options for its residents.

Smithtown, NY Main Street got a little safer—After three pedestrian fatalities in 18 months, NYSDOT moved forward with a plan to make Main Street in downtown Smithtown, Long Island a little safer by implementing a modified road diet.  Advocates continue to press NYSDOT to do more, including a landscaped median and possibly roundabouts at the entryways of downtown Smithtown.

The support of our funders, colleagues and friends-Without the grants and donations of support, and the confidence underlying that support, the Tri-State’s work wouldn’t be possible.  We work in a large community of advocates-from the local community activist to public officials-across many interest areas. Our region is better because of our collective efforts.

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