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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For the second year in a row, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli weighed in on a 2014-2015 state budget maneuver proposed by Governor Cuomo that puts MTA dedicated funds at risk.
In the Comptroller’s review of the Executive Budget, DiNapoli highlighted Governor Cuomo’s proposal to divert “$40 million from the Metropolitan Mass Transit Operating Assistance (MMTOA) account to the General Debt Service Fund to pay debt service typically paid from the State’s General Fund.” DiNapoli was explicit in calling the move “additional General Fund relief.” The Comptroller also noted that the $40 million are “resources that could otherwise gone to the MTA,” presumably to bolster service on existing transit routes in the region or even go towards helping Mayor Bill de Blasio achieve his goal of 20 additional bus rapid transit routes in the five boroughs. The proposal first drew ire last year.
One area the Comptroller did not address in his budget review was the Governor’s proposal to repeat this diversion beyond this fiscal year. According to the Governor’s Financial Plan, each year beginning in FY2016, the budget will divert $20 million of dedicated transit funding to provide for General Fund Relief. Advocacy groups have signaled the alarm and petitions are circulating.
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Rutgers University shuttle bus in New Brunswick. |Photo: eden.rutgers.edu
Colleges and universities across the nation are pioneering methods to reduce vehicle ownership and use on their campuses, according to a U.S. PIRG/Frontier Group report, released earlier this month. The report highlights strategies like free transit services, car-sharing, and even new infrastructure like biking and walking paths.
Initiatives aimed at decreasing driving on campuses were spurred by a number of reasons, not least because building and maintaining parking is expensive. Stanford University, for example, “has avoided more than $100 million in parking construction costs over the past decade due to its efforts to discourage driving.”
In addition to showing ways colleges and universities are reducing car use, the report also makes clear that municipalities should look to these institutions when seeking to implement policies that discourage driving. Fortunately, municipalities in the tri-state region don’t have to look very far. While the report does not mention any specific examples from the region, MTR did a little digging into the transportation and parking policies of four schools in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut:
Rutgers University New Jersey’s state university employs almost all of the innovative strategies the PIRG report mentions. There are shuttle buses providing transit to and on the campuses, as well as walking and biking paths. There is a campus bike rental and bike exchange, and the university also provides student discounts for NJ Transit fares and a Rutgers Rideshare program.
SUNY Purchase According to its website, SUNY Purchase’s adoption of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, as well as its “dedication to overall environmental sustainability,” led Purchase to “offer a variety of convenient alternatives to individual car ownership.” This includes the Purchase Shuttle, Zipcar membership for students, faculty and staff, and Zimride, an online platform that facilitates ridesharing.
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Letter from Suffolk County Legislator Thomas Barraga | Photo: Sandy Heins Cutrone/Facebook
Late last month, Suffolk County (NY) Legislator Thomas Barraga responded to a letter from a constituent whose mother, Sandy Heins Cutrone, suffered a broken shoulder and head and neck injuries after being struck by a car while bicycling in West Islip.
Barraga’s response, which essentially said “don’t ride a bike in Suffolk County,” has received a fair deal of media attention in the last 24 hours. His response is an unfortunate turn of events. Tri-State has met with Barraga in the past to discuss pedestrian safety in Suffolk County, and believe it or not, Barraga was named a “Winner” last October for writing a letter to the County’s Department of Public Works urging them to conduct a traffic safety study on County Road 13 after a pedestrian and cyclist were killed within one week of each other.
So instead of joining in on the pummeling, we’d like to offer a rebuttal to some of the Legislator’s statements, as well as ideas that he can pursue to make cycling and walking safer in his district of West Islip and Suffolk County as a whole.
Dear Mr. Cutrone,
Thank you for your recent letter concerning bicycle safety and bicycle lanes. Let me at the outset express the hope that your mother will have a complete recovery from her accident in September while riding a bicycle in West Islip.
I have lived in West Islip most of my life and my personal feeling is that no one who lives in our hamlet or for that matter in Suffolk County should ever ride a bicycle or a motorcycle. I cannot tell you how many constitituents over the years have told me that they are taking up bicycling for pleasure and exercise. I have hold them not to do so but they usually do not listen — 90 percent of those people eventually were hit by an automobile many like your mother with serious physical injuries.
If Barraga has had “many constituents over the years” telling him they want to bike more, then there’s clearly a demand for better bicycle infrastructure in Suffolk County. So instead of telling constituents that cycling will get them killed, he should be using the influence of his position to make cycling in Suffolk County safer and easier.
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Photo: Ed Betz/Newsday
Update: The PBS Weekend News Hour program has been moved from Sunday, January 12th to Saturday, January 11th, at 6pm.
Last year, after several months of advocacy by Tri-State and allies including the Welfare to Work Commission, LI Jobs with Justice, Vision Long Island and others, Suffolk County announced it [...]
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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The most congested roads on Long Island, highlighted in purple. | Map credit: Patchogue Patch
Segments of Long Island’s Sunrise Highway in Nassau County and Route 25A in Suffolk County are two of the most congested areas in New York, according to 2011 New York State data published in the Patchogue Patch.
The stretch of Sunrise Highway between Route 135 and Route 107 in Massapequa has three lanes in each direction and average daily traffic of 52,729, while a mile east, between Park Boulevard and 27A sees average daily traffic of 51,951 and also has a total of six lanes. Rounding out the list is Brookhaven’s Route 25A between Echo Avenue and Route 83. This road has two lanes (five total where there is a turning lane) in each direction and sees average daily traffic of 50,560.
Part of the reason these roads have such high average daily traffic stems from the way they are designed. While certain areas within these segments have sidewalks on at least one side of the street, these sidewalks are far from contiguous. By creating an environment that doesn’t welcome walking or bicycling, like a road with multiple lanes of fast moving vehicles and nothing to help people safely walk or cross, driving becomes the only “reasonable” mode of transportation. It should come as no surprise then that these roads rank among the most heavily congested on Long Island.
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