Before the Thanksgiving holiday, the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut celebrated progress on its BGreen 2020 sustainability plan, which aims to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent from 1990 levels. The City released a three-year Progress Report highlighting accomplishments on 65 initiatives related to transportation and land use, green energy and buildings, parks, [...]
While elections in New York City and New Jersey got the most news attention this past week, there were a number of races across Connecticut that were also decided on Tuesday. Mayoral races took place throughout Connecticut, but the results from two of Connecticut’s major cities could have significant transportation implications.
New Haven Mayor-Elect Toni Harp. | Photo: CT General Assembly
In New Haven, State Senator Toni Harp defeated Alderman Justin Elicker in a campaign in which transportation issues were prominent. Elicker, who represented the city’s East Rock neighborhood, entered the contest with a long record supporting livable streets. Harp came to embrace some of these issues during the campaign, culminating in the October release of a policy paper supportive of a city bike share system, protected bike lanes, lower speed limits near schools and hospitals, and upgrades to the city’s bus system including information screens for arrivals and schedule changes. However, Harp also suggested that the city’s Downtown Crossing plan should be revised to improve car movement and gave conflicting answers on whether she would support lowering the speed limit to 20 mph citywide.
Harp also called for improvements to the New Haven Line, with the goal of cutting travel time between New Haven and New York City from 90 minutes to an hour. In the past, she has joined other state representatives from New Haven in supporting legislation allowing municipalities to use red-light cameras.
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The 2010 Hub of Hartford study looked at dramatic alternatives for the segment of I-84 that cuts off downtown Hartford from other parts of the city. Rather than simply rebuilding the highway viaducts as is (depicted at left), planners have suggested several ways to reclaim downtown real estate and reconnect the city (right).
Hartford faces a once-in-a-century opportunity to reshape its downtown as state engineers again turn their attention to the aging “Aetna viaduct” which carries I-84 through the city center. Bringing this elevated highway down offers a chance to reconnect neighborhoods and give the city a major economic jolt.
The viaduct, constructed in 1965, accommodates roughly 175,000 vehicles a day, but it also acts as a barrier between neighborhoods and is a blighting influence around major employers like Aetna and city landmarks like Union Station, Bushnell Park and Capitol Hill. So last decade, when the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) began studying a project to replace the now-deteriorating structure
s, civic and community leaders saw an opportunity to undo some of the disruption caused by the placement of the highway.
Three years ago, the Capitol Region Council of Governments (guided by the aforementioned civic and community leaders, who dubbed themselves the “Hub of Hartford” committee) completed a study of visionary alternatives for I-84. The study found that moving the highway at-grade, placing it in a short tunnel segment between Broad Street and Union Station, and rerouting the Amtrak rail line to the north of I-84 would free up 15-20 acres of developable land next to Union Station. Such a rearrangement could support at least one million square feet of mixed-use development and raise city property taxes by at least $12 million annually. On top of that, new streets and parkland would create a better urban fabric, all while costing the same as rebuilding the viaducts, though far more study is needed to be sure.
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The Town of Brookhaven, New York has been working to support development and revitalize its Greater Bellport neighborhood, one of the most economically distressed communities on Long Island. Last year, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the One Region Funders’ Group awarded $48,500 to the town to further these efforts, and the town is already seeing dividends. Last [...]
Stamford mayoral candidates at last week’s debate. (From left: Fedele, Murphy, Martin, Zito.) | Photo: Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
Walking and biking received substantial floor time at the first debate between the candidates vying to become mayor of Stamford, Connecticut. The debate, held on October 10 at UConn Stamford’s Gen Re Auditorium, was sponsored by AARP Connecticut and included Republican Michael Fedele, Democrat David Martin, and unaffiliated candidates Kathleen Murphy and John Zito.
Candidates fielded a number of questions, including this one: “Do you believe Stamford should be doing more to make city streets more accommodating for walking and biking? What planning and funding do you think is needed to make such improvements? Furthermore, would you support the implementation of complete streets legislation?”
Local livable streets advocates have successfully raised the profile of walking and biking as an issue in Stamford politics, and recognizing that cyclists vote, candidates are making their presence known at local cycling events. The day after the debate, Martin rode in the “Bike Stamford” group ride, and Fedele spoke with participants before the ride.
UConn’s recording of the debate is available here, and the candidates’ full responses to questions about biking and walking can be found after the jump.
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In 2009, Connecticut passed one of the strongest Complete Streets laws in the country, but a law is only as effective as the agencies who implement it. This summer, Connecticut DOT released a webpage and report outlining the progress it has made to change the way it designs streets. It’s a welcome show of transparency and shows that the department has made real changes toward making the complete streets approach part of its daily business. At the same time, many important reforms — like a badly needed rewrite of the department’s road design guidelines — still remain to be addressed.
ConnDOT has been providing wider shoulders on two-lane state roads, such as this stretch of State Route 99. | Image: ConnDOT.
According to the report, ConnDOT has been systematically widening shoulders along two-lane state roads, narrowing car lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet to provide the extra space. Of the 180 miles of two-lane highway that were resurfaced in 2012, 162 miles were redone with wider shoulders.
The department has been using a “bike and pedestrian form” at an early stage in the project design process to ensure that designers consider the need for pedestrian and cycling improvements. And since 2012, ConnDOT has sponsored or sent staff to at least four complete streets training workshops. Last year the department also established an internal Complete Streets Committee to recommend changes to agency policies.
One of the most needed reforms is a rewrite of the state’s Highway Design Manual. The manual is the standard reference book for road designers in the state and does not reflect a complete streets approach. Encouragingly, the ConnDOT report says that ”eventually, future initiatives will include the development of a Complete Streets Manual that integrates with the Department’s Highway Design Manual.” However, there is no timeline for this eventual “future initiative.”
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Source: NYTimes.com Connecticut officials must think outside the box to address the current crisis facing New Haven Line commuters.
The transit crisis facing the New Haven Line is now in its sixth day, and ConnDOT and the MTA have been doing what they [...]
Connecticut bus riders are facing a 15 percent fare increase. | Photo: Federal Transit Administration
When the Connecticut state budget passed earlier this year, legislators swept $110 million out of the (supposedly) dedicated Special Transportation Fund. At the same time, a 15 percent fare hike on Connecticut Transit (CTTRANSIT) bus riders was included in the budget as way to reduce state spending on bus service. Essentially, Connecticut’s leaders chose to balance the budget on the backs of those who could least afford it.
This past month, CTTRANSIT held fare hike hearings where advocates and riders alike cried foul, pointing out that the hikes will impact transit users who make on average $7,000 less annually* than those who drive to work alone and arguing that any increase should be used to improve service. (Read Tri-State’s official testimony here.)
The hikes will raise the price of a single fare from $1.30 to $1.50, with the cost of monthly passes expected to increase by 15 percent. CTTRANSIT is operated by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and provides service in the Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury, New Britain, Meriden, Bristol and Wallingford areas.
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For the last three years, train and bus riders have had to deal with annual uncertainty over the fate of the commuter benefit for public transit. The latest band-aid for the transit benefit extended it at its current level of $245/month through the end of 2013. Without action from Congress, however, the transit benefit will fall to $125/month next year, costing commuters in the tri-state area hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The parking benefit would remain $245/month, meaning the tax code would, perversely, provide nearly twice the incentive for driving.
Now a bipartisan group of Congressmembers is pushing to set the transit and parking benefits permanently equal to each other, while also reforming a portion of the tax code (HR 2288). The Commuter Parity Act, introduced by U.S. Representative Michael Grimm (R-New York), who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn, and co-sponsored by Peter King (R-New York), as well as Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), would provide fixes for this inequity: it reduces the transit and parking benefit to $220/month. In addition, this reduction in the total benefit for both motorists and transit users would be revenue-neutral, potentially making passage a little more likely.
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Stamford is a quickly growing city that still lacks pedestrian-friendly streets, like at this wide intersection (Atlantic and Dock Streets) south of the Stamford Transportation Center. | Photo: ConnDOT.
Stamford, Connecticut is a city on the rise — literally. Since 2002, 9,000 housing units have been or are being built, mostly downtown and in the South End, a neighborhood that is south of the city’s transportation center and close to the waterfront. Last year, Stamford grew to over 125,000 residents, passing Hartford to become the state’s third-largest city. The way people get around is changing, too, which is why as the City goes through a Master Plan process, it must change its streets as well.
The Stamford Transportation Center, which is the busiest rail station on Metro-North’s New Haven Line and also hosts Amtrak and CTTRANSIT buses, has been an anchor for the city. In 2000, 7 percent of Stamford workers took transit to work and 2.7 percent walked. According to 2006-10 data from the American Community Survey, 10.6 percent of workers in the city now take transit; 4.5 percent walk to work. (Many of the transit commuters ultimately walk from the station to their office.)
But the walk between the transportation center and downtown leaves much to be desired. While the walk north is pleasant in spots, people must confront intersections like this one, at Washington and Tresser Boulevards:
Major roads in central Stamford are up to seven lanes wide at intersections. Pictured is the intersection of Washington Avenue and Tresser Boulevard, roughly 1/4-mile north of the Stamford Transportation Center. | Photo: Google Maps.
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