We need your help! We want to make sure that legislative leaders in Albany will protect funding for transit.
Will you add your plea to that of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and other advocates by sending the following e-action? Advocacy works when many people express their opinions to our elected officials—and we need your voice [...]
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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If the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll reduction is truly about fixing inequities, then Governor Cuomo should be an advocate for adding tolls in places where alternatives to driving exist, like the East River bridges. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The MTA board adopted a toll reduction for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the agency’s monthly board meeting yesterday, a move that was opposed by Tri-State and former Lieutenant Governor and MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch, and one that was criticized by several board members.
The toll relief program has been framed as a way to solve the “inequity” of high tolls that Staten Islanders pay. On top of the existing discount for Staten Island residents, the program lowers the toll to $5.50 (it currently ranges from $6 to $6.36) and also includes a 20 percent discount for commercial vehicles that use the bridge at least 10 times a month. The program will cost the MTA and New York State $7 million each — funds that could have otherwise been used to address the real inequity in Staten Island: that residents have limited transportation options beyond driving.
Despite its unanimous passage (minus one abstention), the proposal drew criticism from a number of board members in part due to politics. The toll reduction for Staten Islanders was pushed by Governor Cuomo, which led board member Mark Page, the only board member to abstain from the vote, to question whether the MTA would have ever considered the toll reduction if not for the Governor’s involvement.
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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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Commuters filled a “Speakout” at the Pequot Library in Southport, hosted by the Connecticut Citizens Transportation Lobby on February 18. | Photo: Steven Higashide/TSTC.
Over 100 commuters came to an occasionally raucous “Commuter Speakout” hosted by the Connecticut Citizens Transportation Lobby in Southport last Tuesday night. The event was organized in response to a series of incidents and increasing delays on Metro-North’s New Haven Line. On-time performance on the railroad, which had hovered around 95 percent for many years, fell to 80 percent in February.
“We are well aware of our failure to provide the service you deserve,” said John Kesich, Metro-North’s senior vice president of operations. Also in attendance were ConnDOT Commissioner Jim Redeker and rail administrator Eugene Colonese; Sue Doering, Metro-North’s senior director of service and stations; and Anne Kirsch, Metro-North’s director of safety and security.
The Speakout came one day after Metro-North’s new president, Joseph Giuletti, appeared at a press conference with Governor Malloy, Commissioner Redeker, and MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast. There, the officials promised to deliver a “100-day action plan” to the governor in the coming weeks. At the Speakout, Commissioner Redeker said the 100-day plan would include a safety review, a review of major projects, a new communications plan, and a simpler customer complaint interface.
Riders at the Speakout cited a litany of complaints including broken heaters, stranded trains, missed connections and standing-room-only conditions. But perhaps the most pointed line of criticism came from several commuters and elected officials who said the series of incidents was hurting the state’s economy and reputation. A realtor said that potential clients were mentioning the railroad’s faults. A new resident of Stamford said he had warned friends not to move to Connecticut. And State Senator Toni Boucher (one of several state legislators in attendance) warned that Connecticut has been losing population in recent years and can’t afford to lose any more.
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After a year of delays, derailments, and other woes on Metro-North’s New Haven Line, the Connecticut Citizens Transportation Lobby is hosting a commuter “Speakout” on February 18 at 7:30 pm, at the Pequot Library in Southport, CT. Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker will be present for the event, which is an opportunity for rail riders to [...]
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 advance of tomorrow’s hearing on the transportation section of the New York State 2014-2015 Executive budget, a coalition of transit, labor, business, environmental, good government and rider advocacy groups issued a statement on the proposed diversion of dedicated MTA transit funds:
Transit riders should be concerned. The 2014-2015 Executive Budget contains a troubling diversion of MTA dedicated funds that could mean a rough ride for bus and subway riders, workers, and manufacturers. In the Budget, $40 million in dedicated transit funds, which pay for day-to-day operations, service and maintenance are being diverted into the General Service Debt Fund. With this action, Governor Cuomo reneges on an agreement the State made with the MTA in 2002 in which the State would pay for $2.4 billion in MTA debt.
This proposal, which first occurred with a $20 million diversion in the 2013-2014 NYS budget, is not only planned again this year, but in 2015, 2016 and beyond. In total, nearly $350 million could be siphoned away from transit in future years.
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