Nassau County: Ready for Speed Cameras

The Nassau County Legislature unanimously approved a home rule message in support of speed camera enforcement yesterday. The home rule message serves to formally endorse a New York State bill that would authorize 56 speed cameras for Nassau County (one for each of Nassau County’s school districts).

speed-camera

Nassau County took a critical step toward getting speed enforcement cameras yesterday. | Photo: CBS 2

Nassau County is home to some of the deadliest roads to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in the region. According to a TSTC analysis of federal data, 88 pedestrians were killed along roads in Nassau County between 2010 and 2012. According to Governor Cuomo’s Traffic Safety Committee, 185 motorists and passengers, and 13 cyclists were killed during the same time period.

There were over 100,000 crashes from 2010-2012, roughly 70 percent of which the Nassau County Police Department was the lead investigating agency. Yet speeding tickets made up only 11 percent of all tickets issued during the same time period, a number that is shockingly low to anyone who has driven Nassau County’s roadways, where drivers often speed without consequence.

Nassau County has taken significant steps to combat dangerous driving with better enforcement. In 2009, the New York State Legislature, at the County’s request, authorized red light cameras for 50 intersections in Nassau County, and in 2013, the County adopted a Complete Streets policy.

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Tri-State and Straphangers Say No to Governor Cuomo’s MTA Diversion

NY Assemblymembers | Photo: Dan Rivoli/AM New York

At a rally earlier this month, Assembly leaders and advocates urge Governor Cuomo to remove a $40 million transit raid. Photo: Dan Rivoli/AM New York

In an op-ed in Newsday and amNY today, Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s executive director Veronica Vanterpool, and Straphangers Campaign staff attorney Gene Russianoff, called on the New York State legislature, particularly the Long Island delegation, to hold firm on its rejection of Governor Cuomo’s proposed $40 million diversion of dedicated transit funds to the State General Fund. Such diversions can lead to service cuts and fare increases, as was the case in 2010 after $260 million in transit funding was used to plug state budget holes. Long Island’s elected officials have already stood up to the proposed diversion in both the Senate and Assembly budgets:

Long Island’s Senate and Assembly members understand the importance of this transit funding. Thanks to the efforts of State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and senior Assembly members like Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), the proposed budgets of both the Senate and the Assembly withdrew the governor’s $40 million diversion.

But as negotiations for the final budget enter the final days, it is imperative that the Senate and Assembly remain firm in their opposition to the Governor’s proposed diversions. As the op-ed highlights, $40 million could go a long way towards stabilizing the MTA’s tenuous finances, while also potentially restoring previously cut service–like weekend service on the West Hempstead branch–or holding down next year’s proposed fare hike.

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Annual Transit Ridership Grows, but Not on Long Island

Transit ridership is up across the region, except in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. | Photo: Ed Betz/Newsday

Transit ridership is up across the region, except in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. | Photo: Ed Betz/Newsday

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released its annual overview of transit ridership in the United States today, and by and large the news across the country was good. According to the report:

In 2013 Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years[...]This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.

In New York, annual transit ridership growth largely mirrored national patterns. The Long Island Rail Road saw annual growth of over 2 percent, and even Metro-North, which had a year that Connecticut General Assembly Transportation Chair Representative Tony Guerrera aptly described as ”appalling,” still saw growth of .6 percent.

Ridership grew by 3.6 percent in New York City; in Westchester County, ridership on the County’s Bee-Line bus system grew by over 1.5 percent.

In New Jersey, ridership on the Port Authority’s transit systems grew by .47 percent and ridership on NJ Transit grew by 1.54 percent.

The lone blemish on the region’s widespread transit ridership growth was Long Island’s bus systems, with both Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) and Suffolk County Transit (SCT) experiencing ridership drops in 2013. With a ridership drop of almost 2.4 percent, NICE ridership fell to its lowest level since 1998. In Suffolk County, ridership fell by just over 3 percent, resulting in the system’s lowest annual ridership since 2005.

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MTA Chief Safety Officer Must Look at Safety Beyond Railbeds

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The MTA will focus its safety efforts along the rails, but it must also address safety on the streets. At least nine pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by MTA bus drivers in New York City since January 2013. | Photo: Pearl Gabel/NY Daily News

Last month, in the wake of the tragic derailment of a Metro-North train at Spuyten Duyvil that killed four passengers in December 2013, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced the establishment of a new safety committee on the MTA board and the creation of a Chief Safety Officer position that will report directly to MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast.

The new position will be tasked with improving safety through “stepping up reporting responsibilities and management oversight and installing automatic speed protections” on the railroad. The move was applauded across the region as long overdue. While we hope these efforts will improve safety along the rails, oversight on safety issues for the MTA’s new senior management position should not stop there.

Since January 2013, at least nine pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by MTA bus drivers in New York City, and according to a Tri-State analysis, from 2010-2012, 10 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred within a quarter mile of Long Island Rail Road stations in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and Metro-North stations in Westchester County. These fatalities highlight the need for greater coordination between the MTA, the New York City Department of Transportation and state departments of transportation to address the safety of millions of pedestrians who access the railroad and the City’s subways and buses daily. A model example of this type of collaboration can be found in New Jersey, where NJ Transit partners with NJDOT on a Transit Village program which prioritizes making access to transit stations safer.

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Once Again, NYS Comptroller Calls Out Governor Cuomo’s Transit Fund Diversion

dinapoli-report-2014For the second year in a row, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli weighed in on a 2014-2015 state budget maneuver proposed by Governor Cuomo that puts MTA dedicated funds at risk.

In the Comptroller’s review of the Executive Budget, DiNapoli highlighted Governor Cuomo’s proposal to divert “$40 million from the  Metropolitan Mass Transit Operating Assistance (MMTOA) account to the General Debt Service Fund to pay debt service typically paid from the State’s General Fund.” DiNapoli was explicit in calling the move “additional General Fund relief.” The Comptroller also noted that the $40 million are “resources that could otherwise gone to the MTA,” presumably to bolster service on existing transit routes in the region or even go towards helping Mayor Bill de Blasio achieve his goal of 20 additional bus rapid transit routes in the five boroughs. The proposal first drew ire last year.

One area the Comptroller did not address in his budget review was the Governor’s proposal to repeat this diversion beyond this fiscal year. According to the Governor’s Financial Plan, each year beginning in FY2016, the budget will divert $20 million of dedicated transit funding to provide for General Fund Relief. Advocacy groups have signaled the alarm and petitions are circulating.

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Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget: $40 Million Taken from Transit, No Dedicated Pedestrian and Bicycling Safety Funding

Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget is a mixed-bag for transit and safe streets advocates. | Photo: Mike Groll/AP

Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget is a mixed-bag for transit and safe streets advocates. | Photo: Mike Groll/AP

Governor Andrew Cuomo released his 2014-2015 Executive Budget yesterday and a preliminary look suggests transit riders, pedestrians and bicyclists are seeing a lot more take than give.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority

While the budget increases MTA funding by $85 million, Governor Cuomo proposes to use $40 million in ”surplus” transit funds to pay off bonds issued by the State on behalf of the MTA. Until last year, these bonds were serviced with General Funds. In 2013, when Governor Cuomo swept $20 million in transit funds, the move was criticized by transit advocates as well as State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli as a diversion of funds. The use of “surplus” funds to service this debt is something the Governor plans to do every year, beginning in FY2016:

Metro Mass Transportation Operating Aid (MMTOA) Debt Service Offset: The budget proposes to offset General Fund support for the MTA debt service costs by utilizing $40 million in dedicated resources from the MMTOA account to the General Debt Service Fund, with $20 million in resources available for the same purpose on an annual basis beginning in FY 2016.

While the Governor’s budget includes $310 million from the State’s General Fund to the MTA to compensate for lost revenue resulting from the rollback of the payroll mobility tax (PMT) in December 2011, this flat amount (which has been included every year since 2012) could be actually shortchanging potential revenue. The New York State Department of Labor estimates that 218,300 jobs were created in the downstate MTA region from November 2011 to November 2013, which means that additional PMT revenue likely would have been generated from these additional jobs, in excess of the $310 million. This additional revenue may have been enough to offset the proposed four percent MTA fare increase in 2015.

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Groundbreaking Report: Suburban Bus Systems Provide Multi-Million Dollar Boost to Regional Economy

A first-of-its-kind report commissioned by Tri-State Transportation Campaign and conducted by Appleseed, Inc. and New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, found that investment in Westchester County’s Bee Line and the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) served as boons for each county’s economy in 2012.suburban-bus-report-2

The report, “Supporting Economic Growth and Opportunity: The Economic Impact of Suburban Bus Service in Westchester and Nassau Counties,” found that in 2012 alone, the Bee Line and NICE systems added a total of $208 million and $191.5 million, respectively, to each county’s economy.

The totals were derived from both direct and indirect economic impacts, measuring the systems as enterprises themselves, as well as the multiplier effects generated as a result of money spent locally by employees on things like food, housing and utilities. These effects added almost half a billion dollars in economic development to the regional economy and supported 2,750 jobs (1,260 in Westchester and 1,490 in Nassau).

The report also highlighted that both bus systems serve as key economic lifelines for the riders who use them. Over 80,000 people a day use the Bee Line and NICE systems to get to work, earning an aggregate annual income of $1 billion in Westchester County and $840 million in Nassau County.

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Third Phase of REDC Grants Support Smart Transportation and Land Use Projects

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the recipients of the 2013 Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) grants last week. This third round of grants included several TSTC-supported projects that advance smart transportation policy and sustainable development in the Downstate and Capital Regions. Here are the highlights:

Photo: governorandrewcuomo Photo Stream/Flickr

Photo: Flickr/governorandrewcuomo Photo Stream

Capital Region:

  • Albany County Rail Trail – This $1 million project will construct 5.5 miles of a proposed 9.3 mile shared-use path along a former rail bed in Albany County. Funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Cleaner, Greener Communities (NYSERDA CGC) program will assist in the final design and construction of the path.
  • Albany 2030 Sustainable Code Project – The $300,000 NYSERDA CGC grant will help update the Code of the City of Albany to allow for the incorporation of sustainable design and smart growth principles, with an emphasis on zoning and development regulations.
  • Community Recovery Components: Design and Construction – The Town of Prattsville will receive a $807,000 grant from the Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (DOS LWRP) to help advance the Town’s community reconstruction plan to restore and revitalize Route 23 (Main Street), which was devastated by Hurricane Irene flooding. The project will include streetscape enhancements and the design and construction of a new waterfront trail.

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Business Groups Lead the Charge for Increased Funding for NICE Bus

Source: Newsday.com. A letter from almost two dozen groups calls on Nassau County to increase its contribution to NICE Bus.

Source: Newsday.com. A letter from almost two dozen groups called on Nassau County to increase its contribution to NICE Bus.

In the face of declining ridership and high levels of rider dissatisfaction, nearly two dozen local groups sent a letter to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and the members of the Nassau County Legislature in August calling for increased funding for Nassau County’s bus system, Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE).

Unfortunately, although the final Nassau County budget is due by the end of the month, the County’s proposed contribution to NICE remains a paltry $2.6 million in the County Executive’s proposed budget. The groups hope that robust support from a diverse background of service sectors including rider, labor, social services, planning, environmental and transportation groups, will help convince Nassau County’s elected officials that funding the beleaguered bus system is good public policy. Support for increased funding for the bus system was particularly strong from Nassau’s business community, which made up 20 percent of the signatories to the letter. Region-wide business groups like the Long Island Business Council and the Long Island Association, as well as local business advocates like the Hicksville and Freeport Chambers of Commerce, helped make the case that County investment must be increased.

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Suffolk County Budget Expands Bus Service and Creates Jobs

Source: Suffolk County Transit. Sunday bus expansion will not only add service, but create jobs.

Last month Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone released his proposed operating budget for 2014. As expected, the budget included a $2 million increase in funding from New York State over last year’s budget-$24.1 million in 2014 versus $22 [...]