Stamford Becomes the Third Connecticut City to Formally Embrace Complete Streets

Stamford's new Complete Streets ordinance should guide the City toward building more crossing islands like the one on the left, and fewer like the one on the right. | Photos: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Stamford’s new Complete Streets ordinance should guide the City toward installing crossing islands more like the one at Washington Boulevard and North State Street (left), and less like the one on at Washington Boulevard and Tresser Boulevard (right). | Photos: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Earlier this month, Stamford, Connecticut’s Board of Representatives unanimously approved a city-wide Complete Streets ordinance. The ordinance, which was sponsored by Land Use Committee co-chair David Kooris and drafted with support from Tri-State Transportation Campaign, “mandates that the Office of Operations review transportation projects and explore opportunities to make them more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.”

Kooris introduced the bill in September, but support for a Complete Streets law had been growing in Stamford after three pedestrian deaths took place in a four-month period in 2014. The new ordinance rounds out Mayor David Martin’s Street Smart initiative, which took initial steps toward addressing safety issues on Stamford’s streets.

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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.

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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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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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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

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

New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg | Photo: johnjay.jjay.cuny.edu

New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg | Photo: johnjay.jjay.cuny.edu

WINNERS

New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg — The Senator solidified her role as champion for New Jersey bus riders by calling for equal investment in and improved conditions at the Port Authority Bus Terminal at today’s Port Authority budget hearing. She is also holding a second commuter feedback meeting this Thursday.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka — The mayor has joined other leaders in calling for the continuation of the state’s red light camera program.

New York State Senator Jeff Klein — The Senator wants to see part of the state’s windfall bank settlement money used to create a new program called Empire Public Works, dedicated to upgrading the state’s infrastructure, rather than seeing the funds go to a one-shot project.

Camden, NJ — The city recently approved six new major development projects, including Subaru’s new corporate headquarters, “leading to the creation, retention or relocation of some 2,000 jobs.”

Village of Mamaroneck, NY  After completing a zoning study and public engagement process partially funded by Tri-State’s Transit-Centered Development Grant Program, the Village has approved a transit-oriented development rezoning that promotes green building codes, green infrastructure, and green roofs in the TOD district.

PATH riders — Weekend service connecting Exchange Place and the World Trade Center is finally set to resume next week.

Mark Fenton — The public health, planning and transportation expert and Tufts University adjunct professor engaged New Haven residents in a walking tour and planning workshop for the Route 34 development corridor.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo — The mayor is banning cars in central Paris neighborhoods.

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CTfastrak to Hold Informational Open Houses, Starting Tonight

CTfastrak, Connecticut’s new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, is rapidly gearing up for its opening day early next spring. The new service will provide a connection between the cities of New Britain and Hartford along an exclusive dedicated busway. In preparation for CTfastrak’s launch, ConnDOT is ramping up its public outreach to help potential […]

We’d Be More Thankful If…

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Photo: people.com

Before we succumb to the increasingly aggressive Christmas creep, we’d like to take a moment to honor another important holiday coming up. No, not National Cookie Day (but that’s coming up on December 4 — mark your calendar). We’re talking, of course, about Thanksgiving.

We’ve got a lot to be thankful for here at MTR, like New York City’s lower default speed limit, the passage of a vulnerable users bill in Connecticut, and New Jersey legislators pushing forward Port Authority transparency. And while some may be thankful for declining Thanksgiving gas prices, it’s worth noting that the number of travelers is skyrocketing.

Yes, there are plenty of reasons to be thankful, but we’d be a lot more thankful if:

Traffic deaths weren’t a requirement for getting safety improvements on our streets — “Let’s wait until someone is struck and killed before we make traffic safety improvements,” said no one ever. But unfortunately, that’s often what it takes to get local governments to fix unsafe street conditions.

New York and New Jersey’s elected officials had to commute via bus or train — We feel pretty confident that if the Port Authority Bus Terminal or Penn Station were part of the daily commute for our states’ leaders, the Gateway Project would be moving forward with real funding, the city’s bus terminals would receive more than a one percent funding priority in the Port Authority capital programand NJ Transit service would be more reliable.

Connecticut cities started acting like cities — Hartford is planning to add over 1,400 new parking spots in the Downtown North district, New Haven’s Route 34 West project looks like something you’d see in a suburban office park, and Stamford’s new Street Smart program doesn’t address the downtown area’s wide arterials that shun pedestrians and bicyclists.

New Jersey drivers were any good at math – We can’t help but add to the pile of disparaging things that have been said about New Jersey drivers. Increasing the state’s gas tax—the second lowest in the nation—by 25 cents per gallon would cost the average driver an additional $292 each year. Last we checked, that’s less than half of what the average NJ driver pays in extra repair costs due to poor roads.

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Connecticut Cities Join — and Climb — the Ranks of Bicycle Friendly Communities

Image: simsbury-ct.gov

Simsbury moved up from Bronze to Silver in 2014’s rankings. | Image: simsbury-ct.gov

Two Connecticut cities were named Bicycle Friendly Communities by the League of American Bicyclists this week. Both New Haven and New Britain received Bronze-level designations, joining Farmington, South Windsor and West Hartford.

The Bicycle Friendly Communities program evaluates communities based on how welcoming they are to cycling from the entry level (Bronze) to all-star (Diamond). Bicycle Friendly Communities often have Complete Streets policies, active cyclists groups, bike lanes, relatively low crash rates, and higher than average percentages of people who regularly bike to work.

New Haven‘s selection as a Bicycle Friendly Community is an obvious one: the Elm City has strong local bike advocates, adopted the state’s first local Complete Streets policy, published its own Complete Streets design manual, and has had visionary leadership in its Department of Transportation for the last several years. Former Director of Transportation Jim Travers launched the City’s Street Smarts campaign and oversaw a tenfold increase in marked bike routes, while his successor, Doug Hausladen, is seeking to speed up the implementation of traffic calming projects and separated bicycle facilities.

New Britain launched a bike connectivity study in 2013 and has been working on promoting its bicycle-friendliness in recent months. With CTfastrak — the region’s first true bus rapid transit system — set to open in 2015, local leaders see the benefit of an improved cycling network in becoming a more multi-modal — and less car-oriented — community.

The Town of Simsbury, which became a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community in 2010, was the only Connecticut town that advanced in the rankings this year, becoming the first in the state to receive the League’s Silver designation.

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Election 2014: It’s Not All Bad News

Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut won a close race for reelection. | Image: ctnews.com

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, a proponent of transit-oriented development and improved rail service, won a close race for reelection. | blog.ctnews.com

Now that the votes have been counted, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of bad news for sustainable transportation policy across the nation: Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, a known climate change denier, is poised to lead the Environment and Public Works Committee, Wisconsin Governor (and avid highway expander) Scott Walker won reelection, and Massachusetts failed to defeat a ballot measure which ends gas tax indexing.

But if you look hard enough, you’ll find there’s some good news too.

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