Metro-North Survey Provides Insight into Westchester’s Emerging Mobility Needs

The Harlem Line's third track is part of the reason why Westchester job centers have had success in attracting reverse commuters. | Photo: Peter Ehrlich

The Harlem Line’s third track is part of the reason why Westchester job centers have had success in attracting reverse commuters. | Photo: Peter Ehrlich

Starting in 2007, the MTA undertook customer surveys on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, as well as in New York City (for New York City Transit). As MTR previously reported, the MTA’s New York City survey showed large income and age differences between bus and subway riders.

The 2007 Metro-North on-board survey — the railroad’s first origins and destinations survey — highlights the differences between those traveling from Westchester County to Manhattan (for both work and non-work purposes) and those traveling to and within Westchester. The survey had a 45 percent response rate, with 206,000 surveys distributed and 93,000 returned. The survey asked riders about the trips they were taking at the time surveyed, and riders’ planned return trips.

While work travel from Westchester to Manhattan comprised the largest share of the railroad’s passengers — 60 percent — more than one in five Metro-North passengers surveyed were either traveling from New York City into Westchester or traveling within Westchester (what the survey calls “Intermediate Travel”).

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NYS Thruway Authority Board Must Address TZB Task Force Recommendations

The NYS Thruway Authority was a key member of the Mass Transit Task Force, but the NYSTA Board is still yet to formally address the group’s recommendations.

On Thursday, the New York State Thruway Authority Board of Directors held its first meeting since the New NY Bridge Mass Transit Task Force issued its final [...]

How Far Would $40 Million Go?

The scenario outlined in the report could improve and restore service on several subway lines, including the W train, which was cut in 2010. | Photo: NY Daily News

The scenario outlined in the report could improve or restore service on many subway lines, including the W train, which was cut in 2010. | Photo: NY Daily News

Today, while legislators in Albany scramble to stop Governor Cuomo’s ill-advised diversion of $40 million in dedicated transit funds during the final hours of State budget negotiations, a report was released outlining just how far $40 million could go to restore and expand transit service in the New York metropolitan area. The report, authored by Riders Alliance and NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign, provides a scenario in which the $40 million is spent on transit upgrades, and details how those investments could substantially improve the commutes of the region’s transit riders.

Subways

  • Restore mid-day, nighttime and weekend service that was reduced on the 1, 7, A, F, J, L and M lines in 2010, creating shorter waits for 300,000 riders every weekday and 285,000 riders every weekend ($3.1 million)
  • Add 20 percent more morning rush hour service on the notoriously crowded C train ($1 million)
  • Restore G train service to Forest Hills–71st Avenue in Queens ($1.5 million)
  • Restore W train one-seat service from Astoria to Lower Manhattan ($3.4 million)

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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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MTA Chief Safety Officer Must Look at Safety Beyond Railbeds

mta-bus-ped

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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TZB Transit Task Force Recommends New Modern, Faster Bus System in I-287 Corridor

The New NY Bridge Mass Transit Task Force (of which Tri-State is a member) issued its Final Transit Recommendations today. The 119-page report details transit improvements along the Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 corridor in Rockland and Westchester Counties. The recommendations propose sleeker, new buses with WiFi technology; bus stops transformed from a patch of grass or pavement to a station with pre-board fare collection, seating, shelter, and real-time bus information; and new technology improvements that will give buses lead time at intersections and improve travel flow on I-287. With the implementation of these recommendations by Governor Cuomo and the New York State Thruway Authority, transit between these two counties can be transformed from an experience that is tolerated, to an experience that is preferred. And, the Hudson Valley will have secured a big win.

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Budget Provision Could Make All-Electronic Tolling a Reality throughout New York

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

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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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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Elected Officials Should Be Improving Transit Service, Not Subsidizing Tolls

Last week, New York State Senator David Carlucci proposed a $250 state tax credit for toll-paying commuters in New York state.

 The state has the nation’s highest tolls and the costs can be “crushing,” Carlucci said. His plan would be the first of its kind in the state.

“If you look at someone’s overall costs of living in the Hudson Valley, for middle-class families a large portion of their income has to go to just getting to work,” Carlucci, D-New City, told The Journal News on Thursday. “We’ve got to work at lowering all of these costs.”

The Senator’s statement, however, does not seem to comport with the facts. According to a recent Thruway Authority report, tolls in the Hudson Valley and in upstate New York are actually quite low compared to what drivers pay on toll roads in other states:

More specifically with respect to Tappan Zee Bridge tolls, a commuter with EZPass pays $3 per day or $720 per year to commute to work. This is significantly lower than the tolls at the Port Authority Hudson River crossings and much lower than what transit commuters must pay, including those in Carlucci’s district:

Commuter Mode

Daily Cost

Yearly Cost

TZB EZPass Car

$3

$720

TAPPAN ZEExpress Bus (TZx)

$4.40

$1,056

Metro North (Spring Valley, Nanuet, Pearl River to Midtown)

$14.40

$3,456

Coach Bus (Palisades Mall pick-up to Midtown)

$15

$3,600

Metro North (Suffern, Sloatsburg to Midtown)

$17.56

$4,236

(Source: Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
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New York 2013: Looking Back on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

NY-GBU-2013In 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.

The Good

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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