Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

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New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney | Photo: njleg.state.nj.us

WINNERS

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney — After several bridge closures, Sweeney declared that “[New Jersey’s] transportation priorities are mixed up,” and is now calling for the creation of a comprehensive transportation plan for the state.

Advocates for Albany reform — The arrest of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has put the state’s political system under scrutiny, generating widespread calls for reform.

“Gridlock” Sam Schwartz — The engineer and former NYC traffic commissioner has proposed a potential work-around for the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station’s truck traffic problem.

Amtrak — The agency has given cross-Hudson commuters a sliver of hope to cling to for the first time since Governor Christie shut down the ARC plan: Amtrak will be taking its first step toward the construction of two new rail tunnels with an environmental review this fall, and in the meantime they continue to lobby for funding for the Gateway project.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano — At least week’s State of Long Island breakfast event, Mangano mourned the loss of the county’s school zone speed camera program, insisting that it was successful while it lasted.

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Connecticut 2014: Looking Back on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

ct-2014-reviewThey say the only thing more painful than learning from experience is not learning from experience. So now that the 2015 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly is underway, it’s important to look back at 2014 to see what went well for transportation policy in the Nutmeg State, and shed some light on what did not go so well. We’re just three weeks into the new year, so it’s impossible to know what 2015 will bring. But what we do know is that we won’t see much progress if leaders don’t replicate their successes and learn from their missteps.

The Good

Governor Dannel Malloy reelected — Despite our many criticisms of the Governor during his first term, he did quite a lot of good for Connecticut in 2014, including dedicating $15 million to support transit-oriented development, signing the vulnerable user bill into law, and announcing more frequent service on the Metro-North New Haven Line. Transportation was a key plank of Governor Malloy’s reelection platform in the close race against challenger Tom Foley, who in contrast displayed little knowledge about the state’s transportation challenges, said Connecticut spends too much on transit, and criticized strategies which try to “push people out of their cars and onto mass transit.”

Connecticut’s Streets Safer for All Users — At the state level, the Connecticut Department of Transportation finally caught up with the State’s Complete Streets law by adopting a departmental policy enabling “the alignment of transportation funds to encourage improvements for non-motorized users,” and a long-awaited Vulnerable User Bill became law. And in addition to the establishment of several promising local safety enforcement campaigns, more communities joined and climbed the list of Bicycle Friendly Cities.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

Photo: Brad Aaron

Photo: Brad Aaron

WINNERS

NYS Administrative Law Judge Sidney Fuchs — The NYS DMV has revoked the license of Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh, the driver who struck and killed 3-year-old Allie Liao in 2013, a decision that “reinforces the importance of DMV safety hearings as a venue to ensure that reckless drivers face consequences for killing other people.”

Brooklyn residents — In addition to plans to redesign the most dangerous road in Queens, major safety improvements have also been announced for Atlantic Avenue and Ocean Parkway, two of Brooklyn’s most dangerous roads.

Staten Island ferry commuters and bicycle riders — The Clove Road bike path will be one of 2015’s first Vision Zero improvement projects, meaning commuters can soon bypass the worsening parking situation at the St. George Ferry Terminal.

New Haven, CT bicyclists —  The announcement of a 2.1-mile cycle track to connect suburban neighborhoods to downtown businesses is great news in light of recent data showing that one in four New Haven families do not have access to a car. 

Princeton, NJ bicyclists — The Princeton Council voted 5-1 to replace on-street parking with two-way bike lanes along a section of Hamilton Avenue as a “baby step” toward a future comprehensive bike policy.

M60 SBS riders — According to new MTA data, Harlem’s M60 SBS has been wildly successful, reducing travel time to Laguardia Airport by nearly 15 percent and travel time along the Second Avenue dedicated bus lane by more than 30 percent.

Brooklyn Technical High School freshman Alison Collard de Beaufort — After several students’ lives were lost in traffic incidents, Alison founded the Vision Zero Youth Council to provide a venue for other students to become actively involved in street safety.

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New Jersey 2014: Looking Back on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

NJ Year In ReviewTransportation was quite possibly the hottest topic in New Jersey in 2014, seeing major highs, major lows and everything in between. Momentum for improving bicycle and pedestrian safety continued with the passage of new Complete Streets policies, bike accommodations along the rebuild of Route 35 in Ocean County, and new support for the Circuit trail network. Legislative leadership finally started realistic conversations about addressing the transportation funding crisis.

But for just about every step forward, there was another step back. Before the paint was even dry, Newark suspended enforcement of newly-installed protected bike lanes, critical safety legislation appears to be indefinitely stalled in the Senate, and the red light camera pilot program ended. Port Authority reform in particular turned out to be a robust source of lows, including blocked transparency efforts and misguided capital programming priorities.

But by far the biggest fail for New Jersey in 2014 was the fact that the state’s looming transportation financing crisis remains unresolved with less than six months left until the Transportation Trust Fund runs dry.

The Good

“Everything is on the table.” — The grave state of the Transportation Trust Fund generated a deluge of attention towards restoring solvency to the TTF.  A total of five special hearings were held by the Senate and Assembly Transportation Committees on the state of transportation funding, resulting in a number of solutions “on the table.” Transportation leadership in New Jersey— including NJDOT Commissioner FoxSpeaker PrietoAssemblyman Wisniewski and Senator Lesniakwas boldly vocal about the need for an increase in the state gas tax, which has not been increased since 1988 and is the second lowest in the country.

Complete Streets progress continues — The Garden State continues to lead the tri-state region with 14 new Complete Street policies added in 2014 as of October, bringing the total number of policies to seven counties and 111 municipalities.

Bicycle network grows — The Circuit received $8.6 million in funding to support the continuation of the 750-mile regional trail network, 300 miles of which are now open for use with 50 more underway. Once complete, more than half of the Camden-South Jersey-Great Philadelphia region’s population will live within a mile of the Circuit. Also in 2014, Tri-State, along with NJ Bike & Walk Coalition and Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, launched an all-out campaign to ensure that the 12.5-mile,eight-municipality rebuild of Route 35 in Ocean County served as national model for implementation of Complete Streets. On April 1, the New Jersey Department of Transportation revealed revised plans which now include ten miles of bike infrastructure.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

Elliot Sander speaks at a news conference on Jan. 13, 2015 in Grand Central Terminal with Jay Walder, center. | Photo: AM New York (Credit: Charles Eckert)

Elliot Sander speaks at a news conference in Grand Central Terminal with Jay Walder, center. | Photo: AM New York

WINNERS

New York City street users - At a press conference this morning, the City announced street safety gains made in Vision Zero’s first year, including the completion of more than 50 major street redesign projects, with 50 more slated for 2015, starting with the notorious Queens Boulevard. It was also announced that at 19 speed camera locations around the city, speeding dropped 59 percent from September to December.

Former MTA Chiefs Elliot Sander, Jay Walder and Peter Stangl – Joined by advocates, the three former MTA heads came together to demand a fully-funded MTA capital program, saying “The governor, the legislature, and the mayor must do the heavy political lifting to find new revenue sources to fund a $15 billion gap in the program.”

PATH riders, Hudson and Essex County residents, and businesses along PATH – The distressing proposal to eliminate overnight PATH service has been officially and indefinitely tabled following a meeting between Port Authority Chairman John Degnan, NJ state Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.

New Canaan branch and Danbury line commuters – Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced that Metro-North’s New Canaan branch will be receiving new, higher-capacity rail cars to offset the projected 44 percent increase in ridership over the next 15 years, and officials are looking at improvements to get Danbury line upgrades back on track.

New York City Council Member Ben Kallos – The council member is working to persuade the MTA to release more bus data more frequently in order to improve service for riders.

Stamford, CT – As part of Stamford’s Street Smart Initiative, the city is hiring a transportation planner as well as a new bureau chief for transportation, traffic and parking, to be charged with “preparation of a transportation master plan and transportation studies” and seeking state and federal grants.

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New York 2014: Looking Back on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

vz & cb vAfter a solid finale in 2013 from the Bloomberg/Sadik-Kahn administration, it was unclear how progress on safer streets in New York City would fare. Right out of the gate, Mayor Bill de Blasio dispelled doubts with bold moves for a “Vision Zero,” and the positive culture change on roads appeared to spill over to statewide efforts. Advocates were able to secure more money for pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure across the state, and several new cities were able to add traffic enforcement camera programs to their toolbox. Alas, sadly, there were setbacks as well.

But setbacks aside, overall it was a good year for advocates and their issues. Casinos and fracking were put in their rightful places, a solid plan for transit for the New NY Bridge was released with a $20 million commitment from the governor, and on the horizon, more and more voices are calling for the $5 billion bank windfall to flow towards transportation infrastructure.

Perhaps the biggest loser of 2014 was the public. Over and over, they were shut out of the decision-making process on how their tax dollars are being spent—especially with regard to the Port Authority and the New NY Bridge. The dark clouds of infrastructure funding and spending loom large in 2015, with massive deferred maintenance and unfunded capital programs, leaving everyone nervous about what’s to come.

The Good

Cities Get Bold About Street Safety — The first year of New York City’s Vision Zero program was a bit rocky at times, but overall an enormous achievement for a city where a growing population puts increasing pressure on limited shared space. The City Council passed an unprecedented number of streets safety bills, lowered the speed limit to 25 miles per hour, and implemented a speed camera program. But this energy was not solely limited to the City. The number of statewide red light camera programs grew significantly, and Albany’s program commits all excess revenue to a Traffic Safety Fund for the city. Suffolk County legislators approved dedicated funding for implementing the county’s landmark Complete Streets policy.

Mass transit plan for new Tappan Zee Bridge proposed — After a year of meetings, the Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force proposed seven new bus routes in a new branded, modern, efficient bus system serving Rockland and Westchester Counties. The state wisely applied for (though unfortunately didn’t receive) TIGER funds to implement the Task Force recommendations for transit along the I-287 corridor.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

Left: Connecticut DOT Commissioner James Redeker, Photo: ct.gov | Right: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Photo: nysenate.gov

Left: Connecticut DOT Commissioner James Redeker, Photo: ct.gov | Right: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Photo: nysenate.gov

WINNERS

Connecticut DOT Commissioner James Redeker — The ConnDOT head described the agency’s big plans for the years ahead, including more BRT: “I’d like to have CTfastrak East, CTfastrak West and CTfastrak North.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — When asked what Brooklyn needs more of in 2015, BP Adams replied “…Cars are so old school. We need to embrace bicycling as a transportation alternative, but the infrastructure needs to come with it. We need more bike lanes, buildings should have bus shelters, and we need to remake the entire borough based around that.”

Lower East Side resident William Mojica — Mr. Mojica spearheaded the installation of new pedestrian safety measures for his neighborhood.

Motorists and Pedestrians: Both in New York City and across the nation, driver and pedestrian fatalities have significantly declined.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders  Now the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Sanders recently announced his plan to authorize a $1 trillion, multi-year infrastructure program to improve roads, bridges and transit.

The Federal Highway Administration — A YouTube video showing how the agency strives to “make biking and walking safer, affordable, more accessible, and an integral part of livable communities across America” complements their recent acknowledgement that driving is not as popular as it used to be.

Waterbury branch commuters — Weekend ridership has surpassed Metro-North’s projections after the addition of two late-night weekend trains on the Waterbury branch.

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Happy Holidays from Tri-State!

Even Santa takes public transit! | Photo: LakeCharles.com

2014 has been a huge year for news from the transportation and transit sectors — especially in the tri-state region. We worked hard this year and are proud of our many accomplishments, including:

successfully fighting the diversion of clean water funds to the new Tappan Zee Bridge project; helping to […]

Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo | Photo: governor.ny.gov

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo | Photo: governor.ny.gov

WINNERS

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker — “I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Zucker, prompting the Governor to announce a ban on the controversial energy extraction process, which would have had a major impact on transportation across the state.

Opponents of the Sterling Forest casino proposal — The state casino siting board announced its choice developers today, none of which will be located in Orange County – great news for those advocating against the Sterling Forest proposal.

Connecticut commuters — Governor Dannel Malloy toured the CTfastrak busway yesterday and stated that he felt confident that “the route will ease traffic jams on I-84, generate economic development and make commuters’ lives better.”

New York City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod — Weisbrod recently promised that future city development would be approached through the lens of coordinated rational growth, with a focus on transit-oriented development.

U.S. Representatives Richard Neal, Rosa DeLauro and John Larson, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and Connecticut transportation commissioner James Redeker — The elected officials from both Massachusetts and Connecticut rode the rails to highlight recent upgrades to the regional transit line.

North Shore Bus Rapid Transit advocates — Councilwoman Debi Rose, The New York League of Conservation Voters and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce have joined forces to raise awareness and grow support for expanding transit options to the rapidly-developing North Shore.

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NICE Bus Public Meeting Tomorrow

Tomorrow evening the Nassau County Bus Transit Committee will be holding a public meeting, which will include a presentation by NICE CEO Michael Setzer. Last week, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano stated that in order to make up for revenue lost after the repeal of the county’s school zone speed camera program, “painful” decisions about […]