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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Cashless, all-electronic toll plaza at the Henry Hudson Bridge (top) and an open-road AET gantry on the Garden State Parkway. | Photos: mta.info and NJ Monthly
Toll plazas throughout New York could soon be all-electronic, if a proposal in Governor Cuomo’s draft Executive Budget is approved. Tri-State has been advocating for all-electronic tolling (AET) since 1999, but to date, the only fully-cashless toll facility in New York is the MTA’s Henry Hudson Bridge. This conversion has been widely applauded and has approval ratings of 95 percent from users. Cashless tolling reduces congestion, improves safety by reducing the “weaving and lane-jockeying“ associated with toll plazas, and has air quality benefits too.
The New York State Thruway Authority has also been making plans to convert to cashless AET for some time, but implementation has been slow going. The slow roll-out on NYSTA facilities, and delayed expansion to other bridges in the MTA system, has been tied to a concern over the lack of enforcement capability against those who fail to pay the toll:
This bill would strengthen the ability of New York’s four authorities that operate toll facilities—the Thruway Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Bridge Authority, and the Port Authority—to effectively manage and enforce the collection of tolls throughout the State. Toll violators cost the tolling authorities tens of millions of dollars each year, and the current law is outdated and ineffective in enforcing against persistent violators. Some persistent violators owe in excess of $100,000 in tolls and fees.
This provision changes that: not only would the proposal double the fine for failure to pay a toll (to $100, currently $50), a vehicle owner who doesn’t pay will receive ”a nasty surprise when they try to register their cars at the Department of Motor Vehicles.”
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In New York’s transportation world, 2013 feels like a tale of two administrations: one, at the New York City level, that was pro sustainable transportation and one, at the state level, that… well, the jury is still out.
The Bloomberg/Sadik-Khan NYCDOT era brought plenty of wins for those who walk, bike and take transit in New York City. For those residing in the rest of The Empire State, stay tuned — the battle continues.
We end 2013 with two notable losses: not only has Mayor Bloomberg passed the torch, but Senator Charles Fuschillo, the State Senate’s Transportation Committee chair and sponsor of the 2011 Complete Streets law, will also be stepping down, leaving a big question mark as to who will advocate for downstate’s transit systems and pedestrian and cycling safety interests.
Livable streets advocates impact elections – StreetsPAC, the New York City livable streets political action committee, launched in April and its push for a Vision Zero policy quickly became a plank in then-candidate Bill de Blasio’s platform. The PAC has already elevated progressive transportation policy into New York City’s political circles and Tri-State is excited to see what’s to come this year during the state election process.
Speed enforcement cameras debut in NYC – After more than 10 years of failed attempts, New York City finally squeezed out of Albany a key victory for safer streets. The City’s first speed camera demonstration program launched in the fall thanks to the efforts of Assemblywoman Glick and State Senator Klein.
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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.
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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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: Flickr/governorandrewcuomo Photo Stream
- 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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Situated in southeastern Westchester County, less than 30 minutes from Grand Central Terminal, Pelham, New York (which is comprised of Pelham Village and Pelham Manor) is compact, about 2.5 square miles and, compared to Westchester’s hilly Hudson River Towns, relatively flat. Visitors walking around Pelham’s well-maintained residential streets or stopping in for a slice at Pelham Pizza along Fifth Avenue, the Town’s main commercial street, might never realize that, according to a recent Journal News article, Pelham is plagued by a lack of available parking at its Metro-North station.
The article highlighted Pelham as having one of the longest waiting lists for train station parking: “The 446 people on the wait list for Pelham outnumber those with permits more than 2 to 1.” However, this does not mean that parking is not available around the train station; the article notes that the price of Metro-North-owned parking is considerably cheaper ($583 annually) than what the Village charges in its own lots ($1,500 - $2,000 annually), no doubt increasing the demand for the railroad parking spaces.
On a tip from a former resident, MTR visited Pelham to see if biking to and from the train station might be a good option for residents who commute to work by train and do not have a train station parking spot.
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Elected officials, nonprofit and business leaders, transit officials and members of the general public gathered for a discussion on bus rapid transit (BRT) and transit oriented development (TOD) in Rockland County this past Friday. | Photo: Steven Higashide/TSTC
As the Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force moves towards its final report on mass transit recommendations for the I-287 Corridor, state and local elected officials, nonprofit and business leaders, as well as transit officials and members of the general public gathered for a discussion in Rockland County on the potential benefits and financing opportunities related to bus rapid transit (BRT) and transit oriented development (TOD) this past Friday. The event, organized by Tri-State and co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Westchester and Groundwork Hudson Valley, included speakers from five different states, each of whom had particular and extensive experience with planning or financing transit projects or related development. By the end of the program, it was clear that BRT is not only possible in the I-287 Corridor, but when combined with smart TOD planning, could be utilized as a tool to revolutionize mobility in the Hudson Valley and revitalize local communities.
The event opened with a welcome from Chairwoman of the Rockland County Legislature Harriet Cornell, a strong supporter of improved transportation options for Rockland commuters. Joseph Calabrese, CEO, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, followed with a presentation that detailed the implementation of the HealthLine BRT system and the critical role this new transit option had in revitalizing Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue. Calabrese noted that although BRT was not the region’s first choice, it has been a greater success than people expected (and at a fraction of the cost of a rail alternative) because it was well planned and implemented. ”If we had done rail, it would have cost more than $1 billion, and it never would have gotten done,” said Calabrese. “So we did the best we could with what we had, and it’s been wildly successful.”
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