Groups Call for Bus Capital Improvements in PANYNJ’s 2014-2023 Capital Plan

TSTC Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool spoke today outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal at a rally for increased bus infrastructure funding in the PANYNJ capital plan. | Photo: Madeline Marvar

In advance of today’s Port Authority Board Meeting, advocates from community, business, transit, real estate and environmental groups gathered in front of Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal to call [...]

Highway Expansion Must Not Supplant Connecticut’s Multi-Modal Progress

Governor Malloy in Waterbury yesterday. | Photo: Waterbury Republican-American

Governor Dan Malloy in Waterbury yesterday. | Photo: Waterbury Republican-American

Governor Dan Malloy announced Connecticut’s five-year transportation capital infrastructure plan for federal fiscal years 2014-2018 yesterday. The plan allocates roughly $4.825 billion for roads and bridges over the five-year period, and $1.565 billion for transit. (Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects are included in the road and bridge category). In fiscal year 2014, $1.8 billion in capital funding will be available for all transportation modes ($1.4 billion for road and bridge projects, and $345 million for transit), an increase over the state’s 2013 Capital Program, which provided a total of approximately $1.6 billion.

The plan lists several pages of transportation investments, including a few high-profile projects like the replacement of the I-84 viaduct in Hartford, the rehabilitation of the Merritt Parkway in Stamford, and upgrades to the New Haven commuter rail line and the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail corridor.

The governor made the announcement at a park-and-ride lot in Waterbury, a setting that was meant to highlight a major component of the infrastructure plan: the widening of 2.7-miles of Interstate 84. The project, which ConnDOT first announced in 2013, adds a lane in each direction to Interstate 84 between Exit 23 and 25A in Waterbury, and is expected to cost $400 to $450 million – almost as much as the total amount of federal highway funding Connecticut receives in a single year.

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ConnDOT Seeks Federal Funds for Northeast Corridor, Metro-North Resiliency

The Walk Bridge in Norwalk. | Photo: nec-commission.com

The Walk Bridge in Norwalk. | Photo: nec-commission.com

Some major resiliency projects could be on the way for southwestern Connecticut. Governor Dannel Malloy announced this week that the Connecticut Department of Transportation is applying for $600 million in federal transportation funding that would be divided among three key components of the state’s transportation infrastructure:

Walk Bridge Replacement Project  ConnDOT is applying for $349 million to pay for the bulk of the cost of replacing the Walk Bridge in Norwalk. The Walk Bridge is a “balky“ 118-year-old swing bridge on the Northeast Corridor which “has experienced increased deterioration since its construction.” The State would replace the Walk Bridge with “a more resilient bascule bridge.”

New Haven Line communications and signaling  ConnDOT is also seeking $245 million to fund the replacement of communications and signaling equipment on Metro-North’s much-maligned New Haven Line. According to the governor’s press release, the current communications and signaling system is 35 years old and “well past its useful life, with its poor condition exacerbated by winds and flooding.”

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Induced Demand Is Everywhere, Even on Staten Island

It’s been said that Staten Island is stylistically stuck in another era, and with news of another multi-million dollar roadway expansion, it’s becoming clear that transportation priorities in the borough are also a few decades old.

Governor Cuomo’s office announced yesterday that Staten Island’s West Shore Expressway will be getting two new ramps and an expanded service road, all of which is intended to reduce congestion for drivers in New York City’s most transit-starved borough:

“New York cannot be a center of commerce if our roads are centers of congestion,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Reducing traffic congestion on the West Shore Expressway, a major artery for Staten Island residents and business, will be good for commuters, good for business and good for our environment.”

induced-demand-loop

The rationale for expanding roadways tends to assume the simple linear view of causation in the relationship between road capacity and congestion (top), ignoring the induced traffic effect (bottom). | Image adapted from Josh Floyd at beyondthisbriefanomaly.org

Not surprisingly, the plan has garnered support from Staten Island’s elected officials, including Borough President James Oddo, who once expressed interest in allowing motorists to use bus lanes, State Senator Andrew Lanza, who was a driving force behind getting toll reductions on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and one of New York City’s most reliable motorist advocates, Councilmember Vincent Ignizio.

While the $7 million West Shore Expressway makeover was heralded as “great news for Staten Island drivers,” the reduced congestion will be short-lived because it’s impossible to build your way out of congestionStudy after study has shown that greater roadway capacity only leads to more traffic thanks to a phenomenon known as “induced demand.”

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Advocates Call for Additional New York State Funding for Suffolk County Transit

TSTC Associate Director Ryan Lynch was among the advocates who called on Governor Cuomo and the NYS Legislature to boost state funding for Suffolk County Transit today. | Photo: Mike Koehler/Vision Long Island

Suffolk County bus and paratransit riders gathered in Hauppauge with business, labor, planning and transit advocates today to urge Governor [...]

Bike-Friendly Infrastructure and Policies, Not Gadgets, Make Cycling Safer

We can't rely on gadgets to make cycling a safe and comfortable mode of transportation. Infrastructure, like the Prospect Park West cycle track, and policies that prevent dangerous driving are needed. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

We can’t rely on gadgets to make cycling a safe and comfortable mode of transportation. Infrastructure, like the Prospect Park West cycle track pictured here, and policies that prevent dangerous driver behavior are needed. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A recent feature in the New York Times highlighted some new gadgets that were created in response to ”[bicycle] riders’ demands for a greater sense of comfort and safety on the road.” Unfortunately, however, the Times’ tradition of misunderstanding bicycles as a legit mode of transportation continues:

Who needs bike lanes at all? The Xfire Bike Lane light is equipped with two high-visibility red lasers that project two three-foot lines onto the road, creating an ad hoc bike lane. The lighted lane is visible to motorists up to a mile away, according to the manufacturer.

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Making a More People-Friendly Jay Street

Our friends at Transportation Alternatives are hosting a community workshop next week geared toward making safety improvements on Brooklyn’s Jay Street, “a critical connector to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge [that] lacks the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure needed to protect New Yorkers from dangerous traffic.” Jay Street was an area of particular concern for cyclists who participated in the [...]

If Verrazano Toll Relief Is Truly About Inequity, then Governor Cuomo Must Enact Real Toll Reform

If the push to lower tolls for Staten Island residents isn't a political tactic, then | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll reduction is truly about fixing inequities, then Governor Cuomo should be an advocate for adding tolls in places where alternatives to driving exist, like the East River bridges. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The MTA board adopted a toll reduction for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the agency’s monthly board meeting yesterday, a move that was opposed by Tri-State and former Lieutenant Governor and MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch, and one that was criticized by several board members.

The toll relief program has been framed as a way to solve the “inequity” of high tolls that Staten Islanders pay. On top of the existing discount for Staten Island residents, the program lowers the toll to $5.50 (it currently ranges from $6 to $6.36) and also includes a 20 percent discount for commercial vehicles that use the bridge at least 10 times a month. The program will cost the MTA and New York State $7 million each — funds that could have otherwise been used to address the real inequity in Staten Island: that residents have limited transportation options beyond driving.

Despite its unanimous passage (minus one abstention), the proposal drew criticism from a number of board members in part due to politics. The toll reduction for Staten Islanders was pushed by Governor Cuomo, which led board member Mark Page, the only board member to abstain from the vote, to question whether the MTA would have ever considered the toll reduction if not for the Governor’s involvement.

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An Open Letter to Suffolk County Legislator Thomas Barraga

Photo: Facebook/Sandy Heins Cutrone

Letter from Suffolk County Legislator Thomas Barraga  | Photo: Sandy Heins Cutrone/Facebook

Late last month, Suffolk County (NY) Legislator Thomas Barraga responded to a letter from a constituent whose mother, Sandy Heins Cutrone, suffered a broken shoulder and head and neck injuries after being struck by a car while bicycling in West Islip.

Barraga’s response, which essentially said “don’t ride a bike in Suffolk County,” has received a fair deal of media attention in the last 24 hours. His response is an unfortunate turn of events. Tri-State has met with Barraga in the past to discuss pedestrian safety in Suffolk County, and believe it or not, Barraga was named a “Winner” last October for writing a letter to the County’s Department of Public Works urging them to conduct a traffic safety study on County Road 13 after a pedestrian and cyclist were killed within one week of each other.

So instead of joining in on the pummeling, we’d like to offer a rebuttal to some of the Legislator’s statements, as well as ideas that he can pursue to make cycling and walking safer in his district of West Islip and Suffolk County as a whole.

Dear Mr. Cutrone,

Thank you for your recent letter concerning bicycle safety and bicycle lanes. Let me at the outset express the hope that your mother will have a complete recovery from her accident in September while riding a bicycle in West Islip.

I have lived in West Islip most of my life and my personal feeling is that no one who lives in our hamlet or for that matter in Suffolk County should ever ride a bicycle or a motorcycle. I cannot tell you how many constitituents over the years have told me that they are taking up bicycling for pleasure and exercise. I have hold them not to do so but they usually do not listen — 90 percent of those people eventually were hit by an automobile many like your mother with serious physical injuries.

If Barraga has had “many constituents over the years” telling him they want to bike more, then there’s clearly a demand for better bicycle infrastructure in Suffolk County. So instead of telling constituents that cycling will get them killed, he should be using the influence of his position to make cycling in Suffolk County safer and easier.

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Where Dangerous Roads are Becoming Less Deadly

montclair-street

South Park Street in downtown Montclair, NJ was reconstructed with new crosswalks and other complete streets elements in 2012. | Photo: Adam Anik/Montclair Times

Roads that put pedestrians’ lives at risk traverse the tri-state region, and although no two dangerous roads are exactly alike, they tend to share a design that expedites the movement of motorized vehicles with little consideration for the needs of vulnerable road users like pedestrians and bicyclists.

These roads, however, can be made safer for drivers and non-drivers with simple and relatively low-cost modifications like pedestrian countdown signals, well-marked crosswalks, crossing islands and other context-sensitive safety improvements.

Last week, Tri-State released an analysis on the region’s Most Dangerous Roads for Walking. This year, in addition to looking at total fatalities and targeting locations where pedestrian deaths are clustered, we’ve also highlighted areas where state agencies and local governments are redesigning roads with sorely-needed safety improvements. Here are a few that stand out:

Route 211, Wallkill, NY  Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo announced $67 million in grants for municipalities to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects. The Town of Wallkill in Orange County, one of the grant recipients, will receive $1.13 million to extend sidewalks and add landscaping to a portion of Route 211 that is lacking both. While there were no pedestrian deaths along this arterial road in the three years from 2010 through 2012, according to the Wallkill Police Department, Route 211 has been the site of at least 22 pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes in the past 10 years.

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