Can the Reinvention Commission Recommendations Unite Our Fractured Regional Transit System?

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 7.48.16 PMJust in time to feast on before the Thanksgiving holiday, the final report of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Transportation Reinvention Commission was released today, identifying seven key strategies to help the agency plan, prepare for and fund the next 100 years of transit investments.

While various outlets will focus on the funding, customer service and project delivery overhauls, there are key recommendations that acknowledge the interconnectedness of the MTA with transit systems and facilities in the tri-state region, a region where transit agencies and authorities operate independently of one another otheroften in a vacuum. Given Tri-State’s regional role and our seat at the Reinvention Commission roundtable, we’ve highlighted the recommendations from the report that have implications for all beneficiaries of the MTA’s bus, subway and rail systems in the agency’s three state service territory:

Prioritize new fare media to facilitate seamless travel across the region. [Strategy Three, p.37]
With commuters from all three states using multiple transportation modes and systems, integrating fare media across various agenciesMTA, NJ Transit, PATH, NICE, Bee-Line, Tappan Zee Express, etc.would provide seamless connectivity and ease of transfer.

Increase connectivity between MTA and other regional transportation providers. [Strategy Four, p. 42]
The MTA network operates in a region with other transit agencies and facilities, yet transit planning is often siloed within state and agency jurisdictions. This often leads to fractured approaches to transit needs that impact more than one agency (e.g. capacity/infrastructure constraints at Penn Station; outdated Trans-Hudson tunnels, terminals and tracks)

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Join Us for the People’s Climate March This Sunday

pcm-id-1b-400-x-400On Sunday, Tri-State Transportation Campaign will be joining more than 1,400 organizations and hundreds of thousands of people in solidarity for a new approach to climate change: the People’s Climate March. It will be an unprecedented mass acknowledgement of the inequity of climate change around the world. And, this will be our collective moment to change the discourse and alter the outcome.

The environmental movement has progressed from protection of water resources to eradication of toxins to protection of air quality and endangered species to combating destruction of the ozone layer and the decimation of our rainforests. For the most part, people were the backdrop for these goals, seldom the lead actors in the story.

The People’s Climate March knits these goals into a shared narrative that puts people at the forefront of a new environmental movement. This March is foremost about the extreme vulnerabilities faced by some populations as a result of our climate inaction: poor and indigenous people who inhabit our waterfronts, live within forest societies and border our polluting industries. The inequity embedded in our consumption of fossil fuels and consumer goods must be addressed at the human level. With this March, we can alter this discourse and make this inequity the core of the climate change movement moving forward. It’s an opportunity to rebrand 21st century environmentalism around what matters: People.

What does this have to do with transportation?

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What the Port Authority Capital Program is Missing

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Instead of investing in trans-Hudson bus infrastructure, the Port Authority is prioritizing a PATH extension to Newark Liberty International Airport. | Photo: NY Daily News

Citing decreased revenue, five years ago the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey “postponed” a bus garage from its 2007-2016 capital plan period to the next capital program. In transportation parlance, “postponed” is often a euphemism for “not likely to ever happen,” a message delivered again by the PANYNJ in its most recently approved 2014-2023 capital program. The omission was scantly observed except by those paying close attention to the lack of bus parking in and around the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.

The postponed West Side bus garage, once estimated at $1 billion, would provide indoor parking for hundreds of NJ Transit and private buses, sparing dozens of communities on Manhattan’s West Side from the dominating presence of buses on their residential streets. The projected cost is a seemingly massive impediment to the project — that is until you compare it with other projects with a similar price tag that deliver fewer immediate direct transit benefits. One such project is the PATH extension from Newark Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport.

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91st Street Marine Transfer Station Should Not Be a Casualty of NYC’s SWMP Reevaluation

Sanitation trucks | Photo: Todd Maisel/NY Daily News

The 91st Street Marine Transfer Station means more local truck traffic. It’s up to the City to ensure those trucks have greener engines and present as little a threat as possible to pedestrians and people on bikes. | Photo: Todd Maisel/NY Daily News

Despite four unsuccessful lawsuits in six years to stop the construction of the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station (MTS) in Manhattan, opponents are still making the case that it should not be built. Last month, opponents released a report, conducted by a private consulting firm, indicating that the vehemently-debated facility would not make much of a dent in reducing garbage filled trucks from some of New York City’s most overburdened communities. While the report takes a comprehensive look at the 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) and makes solid recommendations, the construction of the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station should not be the casualty of a reevaluation of solid waste management in New York City.

The 2006 SWMP was expected to reduce truck traffic through overburdened communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. So one of the report’s key claims, that truck traffic would not be reduced significantly in these communities, was bound to ignite the fire about the borough equity of the SWMP.

Overall, the report challenges the analyses and data underlying the 2006 plan and raises sound questions about the numbers while also addressing new issues that have come to light. Severe storms have exposed the vulnerability of the City’s waste disposal and treatment systems. Commercial trucks are still lacking greener technology. A recycling rate of 15 percent lags embarrassingly behind other progressive cities like Seattle (56 percent) and Los Angeles (45 percent). The polluting tug/barge industry is slow to implement green technologies. And the key point of the report: the 91st Street station will only divert 1.6 percent of commercial waste and 1.3 percent of the in-city truck miles associated with this waste. These points are the report’s strengths and contributions but they are not the reasons to abandon the 91st Street MTS. In fact, they are the reasons to make the MTS the premier environmental example in waste handling.

One way to do this is for the New York City Council to pass Local Law 2013/145 which would allow the City to refuse to issue a license or registration to any applicant that has failed to reduce (by 2020) “the emissions of pollutants from heavy duty trade waste hauling vehicles… with the best available retrofit technology.” This mandate will ensure that trucks entering the 91st Street MTS, which would be located in close proximity to recreational facilities like Asphalt Green, release as few pollutants as possible.

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Vision Zero Plan Puts Lost Lives at the Forefront

visionzerocoverYesterday’s unveiling of New York City’s interagency action plan to reduce pedestrian fatalities to zero, also known as Vision Zero, was finally presented in the somber tone the issue deserves. For years, pedestrian and bicyclist safety has been mired in politics about cost, traffic congestion and revenue. It has even been linked to gentrification and elitism. And amid this discussion, the lives that have been lost have been pushed to the background while legalese and self-interest have eclipsed the sadness that lingers.

In a subdued press event, Mayor de Blasio released a Vision Zero Action Plan filled with powerful memorials and strong text about saving lives. The Vision Zero plan continues, and vastly expands, what was started during the Bloomberg administration, while bringing humanity back to public policy. Mayor de Blasio declared that “No level of fatality on City Streets is inevitable or acceptable,” and said “We won’t accept this any longer. I make that pledge as a parent, and as your mayor.”

The Vision Zero plan has been widely-covered within New York City, but because Mobilizing the Region aims to cover the entire tri-state region, we’d like to share some key messages in the plan that municipalities, law enforcement and elected officials beyond the five boroughs should consider in order to expand upon existing efforts to reduce fatalities on local, county and state roads.

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What De Blasio’s Early Appointments Could Mean for Transportation Policy and Safety

Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio's appointed Anthony Shorris (left) and Bill Bratton this week. | Photos: Kristen Meriwether/Twitter; Todd Maisel/NY Daily News

The selection of Shorris as First Deputy Mayor and Bratton as Police Commissioner could be a positive sign for pedestrian and bicyclist safety in New York City. | Photos: Kristen Meriwether/Twitter; Todd Maisel/NY Daily News

Mayor-elect de Blasio’s appointment of William J. Bratton as NYPD Commissioner and Anthony Shorris as First Deputy Mayor could be an intentional signal to livable streets advocates that pedestrian and bicyclist safety will be a priority for the administration.

The Mayor-elect has noted that “one crash is too many.” The same goes for pedestrian and cyclist fatalities — because these are preventable deaths. Nearly 2,000 pedestrians have been fatally struck by cars in NYC since 2002, along with nearly 150 cyclists. The enforcement of speeding and reckless driving falls under the purview of the NYPD, so Bratton’s appointment is key to fulfilling de Blasio’s vision to reduce fatalities and injuries to zero. However, the philosophy for how streets balance the needs of residents, workers and visitors is established in City Hall, not at “1PP.”

Although it’s still unknown who will be the City’s next transportation commissioner, de Blasio’s appointment of Anthony Shorris to First Deputy Mayor is a positive sign. Shorris brings some strong transportation credentials to City Hall: he is a former director of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and former Executive Director of the Port Authority of NY & NJ. Shorris also provided critical pedestrian safety research that resulted in NYC DOT’s groundbreaking Pedestrian Safety Study & Action Plan.

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AAA Members: Get Your Money Back

If you are a member of the American Automobile Association (AAA), you might want to ask for a refund on your membership dues.  According to comments made by AAA spokesperson Robert Sinclair in a Wall Street Journal article about street safety, the driving club is increasing the likelihood you will die in a car […]

Is TZB TIFIA Financing Stuck in Neutral?

New York State officials have not yet submitted the formal application for a TIFIA loan, but they seem confident the Tappan Zee project will receive funding. | Photo: The Journal News

The unveiling of a financing plan for the Tappan Zee Bridge is becoming a classic chicken and egg scenario. New York State […]

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino Carries Support for Buses into Budget

Westchester County Bee-Line bus

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a vocal champion in support of bus transit in the I-287 corridor and on the new Tappan Zee Bridge project, carried this support for buses into his recently released 2013 Proposed Operating Budget.  For the second consecutive year, the County Executive keeps Bee-Line Bus […]

New York State Improves Tappan Zee Project, But Must Do More

In what was called “breaking news” at last night’s News 12 town hall in Tarrytown, where attendees discussed the project to replace the Tappan Zee, New York State announced that it would dedicate a lane to buses on the new bridge, on day one—but only during rush hour. The announcement, made by Secretary to […]