We’d Be More Thankful If…

Turkeys dodging traffic on Staten Island.

Last week, Tri-State gave thanks for smart transportation policy that occurred throughout the region in 2012.  During our tryptophan-induced naps, however, we dreamed about what more can be done to make sustainable transportation advocates even more thankful in 2013.  What if…

The developer of American Dream Meadowlands supported transit service–With NJTransit’s operating budget already stretched thin and the financial impact of Sandy yet to be calculated, the added expense of operating regular rail and additional bus service to ADM is not something the agency can afford.  The developers of ADM, Triple Five, need to contribute to transit operation in order to mitigate expected traffic congestion generated by the anticipated 150,000 people visiting the site.

Trenton found the courage to raise revenues for the Transportation Trust Fund–Even though the TTF was broke before the storm, the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy has still not convinced Governor Christie to raise the state’s gas tax as a way to rebuild its transportation system.  New Jersey’s elected officials must find the political courage necessary to sustainably fund its transportation network.

The Tappan Zee Bridge Transit Task Force launched–It’s been over 3 months and counting since the task force was announced, yet no indication of its composition has been made.

New York State made transit a greater priority–The MTA received high praise in the wake of Sandy, but riders are still set to see their fourth fare increase in five years next spring.  Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature can come to riders’ rescue by finding funding for the MTA, and Albany can bolster suburban bus systems by making the ‘long lines tax’ redistribution permanent.  This, and additional funding, could help make Sunday bus service permanent in Suffolk County.

Connecticut Governor Malloy nixed Route 11 once and for all–Despite the tremendous progress Connecticut and ConnDOT has made over the past few years in promoting a more balanced transportation network, some projects from an earlier transportation era, like the Route 11 extension, refuse to go away.

The fiscal cliff led to more sustainable transportation–Congress is working hard to address the so-called “fiscal cliff” before the end of the year, meaning discussions about tax reform and deficit reduction are ongoing. Speculation has begun that some type of increase in federal transportation revenue could be included in a deal.  New revenues could come with new reforms, like dedicated money for the New Starts program (which helps pay for new transit projects and is currently funded out of general tax revenue).  Such changes would lay the groundwork for a more multi-modal successor to MAP-21, and if tax reform is on the agenda, Congress could fix the federal commuting benefit so that transit and parking tax deductions are back on equal footing, and the bike benefit is more useful.

Nassau County funded its bus system–The Nassau County legislature recently adopted its 2013 budget but only allocated $2.6 million to Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE).  In testimony submitted to the legislature, Tri-State highlighted that this year’s NICE budget was stitched together by over $7 million in service cuts, an additional $7 million in one shot bailouts from New York State and the federal government, and from higher than expected farebox revenues that are threatened by a drop in ridership.  Nassau County must identify a sustainable funding stream for its bus system, and not rely upon fare increases that have not been ruled out next year by NICE.

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