A New Port Authority Bus Terminal May Be Closer Than We Thought

Riders waiting to board buses at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. | Photo: The Record

Riders waiting to board buses at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. | Photo: The Record

Back in February, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) officials said it was “premature” to put any spending for the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) in the capital program, and that nothing would be done regarding building a new bus garage until a $5.5 million study was complete.

But it seems like the Authority is revisiting this stance given new financial optimism and pressure from advocates and elected officials.

A few weeks ago, PANYNJ Commissioners Ken Lipper and Jeffrey Lynford of New York and David Steiner of New Jersey indicated that due to “several recent positive financial developments for the agency,” a new terminal “could and should be added” to the 10-year, $27.6 billion capital plan adopted in February. This news comes in response to New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg’s testimony last month during the monthly meeting of the Port Authority Board of Directors.

The growing number of public complaints from New Jersey Transit commuters who use the PABT caught the attention of Assemblymembers Gordon Johnson and Senator Loretta Weinberg, who held a hearing on June 11 in Teaneck specifically to discuss concerns regarding the PABT. “We wanted to make sure in a most public way that NJ Transit and PANYNJ are well aware of the problems,” Weinberg said. “We’ve been hearing from our constituents,” who Weinberg says often must stand for more than an hour at a gate waiting to board a bus.

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NYCDOT Outreach Meeting on Woodhaven SBS: Mix of Viewpoints and Misconceptions

Community members envision a transformed Woodhaven Boulevard during a design charrette hosted by NYC DOT and MTA Bus. Photo: Kathi Ko

Community members envision a transformed Woodhaven Boulevard at a design workshop hosted by NYC DOT and MTA Bus. Photo: Kathi Ko

In late June, the New York City Department of Transportation and the MTA returned to Queens for a second round of workshops to solicit ideas for the Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service (SBS) route — the first of its kind for the borough. Residents and community groups gathered for a design charrette to submit their visions for a transformed Woodhaven Boulevard. Amid some concerns, participants were eager to share their ideas on how to speed up bus service, ease congestion, and improve walkability along the corridor.

Most workshop participants agreed that something needs to be done to relieve the infamously congested and dangerous corridor. At the first meeting back in April, participants discussed how and where they live, work and play along Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards, as well as their choices of and experiences with various commute modes. The feedback revealed local concerns including very slow and unreliable buses, dangerous and difficult pedestrian crossings, and traffic congestion.

During last week’s design charrette, participants engaged in a streetscape redesign envisioning process using elements of SBS and bus rapid transit (BRT) — similar to what MTR envisioned — as well as complete streets elements. The room was abuzz with a mix of proponents for big and bold ideas; others who were open to SBS, and even full-fledged BRT, but with some reservations about how SBS might affect congestion, parking and local bus service; as well as those who were seemingly opposed to any changes to the status quo.

Since city-wide SBS routes currently in service show that these concerns do not necessarily materialize, MTR decided to take a stab at addressing some of these concerns:
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2014 New York Legislative Session Wraps Up with Traffic Safety, PANYNJ Reform and Sneaky TZB Financing

 | Photo: AP via legislativegazette.com

State legislators voted in favor of allowing New York City to lower its default speed limit to 25 miles per hour in the 2014 legislative session. | Photo: AP via legislativegazette.com

It was an action-packed end-of-session for transportation advocates in Albany, with some squeaker wins as well as some disappointing losses which will no doubt be on next year’s sustainable transportation wish list.

Lowering Speeds

A key victory this year came when the State Senate laid politics aside and granted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio a key component of his Vision Zero plan: the authority to lower the default speed limit to 25 mph throughout the five boroughs.

Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell was an early and effective champion in the Assembly, but in the Senate, passage was less certain when election year politics entered into the negotiations.

After a concerted campaign from Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, the first positive sign of forward progress for the bill came with three days left in the legislative session when Senator Jeffrey Klein introduced an amended bill (S.7892) that included input from community boards. Passage was certainly not assured especially as it became clear that Senator Dean Skelos was prepared to block the bill for personal reasons, and when Senator Andrew Lanza also indicated he was not inclined to support the legislation. Ultimately, consensus was reached and the bill is expected to be signed by Governor Cuomo. The City has already begun to discuss how to implement its new local control.

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NYC DOT Policy Director & Former TSTC Director Jon Orcutt Moving On

Image: @Naparstek/Twitter

New York City Department of Transportation Policy Director Jon Orcutt announced today that he will leave his post after seven years with the department. Orcutt was with Tri-State for 13 years before joining NYC DOT, first as associate director from 1994 until 2003, and executive director from 2003 until 2007. Over the past 25 years, Jon has [...]

New Coalition Aims to Make Mayor de Blasio’s “World Class BRT” Promise a Reality

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Image: BRT for NYC

coalition of transit advocates (including TSTC), community groups, labor unions and business organizations have come together to address transportation inequality by making sure Mayor de Blasio’s vision of 20 world-class BRT corridors becomes a reality in New York City.

The BRT for NYC Steering Committee is working with elected officials at the local and state level, focusing on areas which lack subway service, with growing employment opportunities, and where there’s the greatest risk of damage from natural disasters.

The MTA and NYC Department of Transportation are currently conducting community outreach events focused on implementing Select Bus Service (SBS) along the Woodhaven/Cross Bay corridor. The massive roadway, up to 10 lanes wide in some areas, has been on the NYC DOT’s radar for several years, as it is not only one of the borough’s most congested corridors, but also the most dangerous corridor for pedestrians in Queens. The roadway’s width, if used to its full potential, could easily accommodate a more robust BRT service and infrastructure.

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Will Infrastructure Needs Be Met in Revised Midtown East Rezoning Plan?

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Mayor de Blasio’s new and improved plan to rezone Midtown East must prioritize infrastructure improvements to relieve overcrowding and congestion. Image: www.theepochtimes.com

A recent proposal to build a 65-story tower directly adjacent to Grand Central Terminal has reawakened the broader Midtown East Rezoning plan. During the Bloomberg Administration’s waning days, a previous version of the proposal was halted by the City Council due to its failure to adequately address infrastructure needs before more intense development arrived. The new plan has yet to be fully developed, but for now, a short term zoning change could clear the way for the first tower in the area and offer a blueprint for how infrastructure improvements could be made in tandem with development.

It’s not that the previous proposal ignored infrastructure needs. The Bloomberg proposal read that a District Improvement Fund (DIF) would be dedicated to transit and pedestrian improvements throughout the area, paid for by contributions funneled through a District Improvement Bonus (DIB). Developers would be able to build higher density for contributions into the DIF. The problem is that these improvements would be made after the fact – infrastructure improvements would not be made until there was enough money in the pot to cover costs. Meanwhile, an enormous influx of new employees would exacerbate the already-congested Metro-North and subway platforms and entrances, as well as strain public spaces, sidewalks and streets.

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NYPD Must Do More to Fill Gaps in Vital Crash Data Recording

NYPD must record crash information accurately in order to achieve Vision Zero. Image: Streetsblog

NYPD must record crash information accurately in order to achieve Vision Zero. Image: Streetsblog

Since the release of New York City’s much-anticipated comprehensive crash dataset earlier this month, community members, advocates, and other proponents for safer streets can more easily access traffic crash data to advocate for safer streets. Opening crash data in this format is an integral step towards Vision Zero’s success.

As the City continues to outline next steps towards eliminating traffic deaths, the public can now view the NYPD-provided dataset, which includes information on all vehicle crashes dating back to July 1, 2012. Its 332,871 records (as of May 20,2014) contains date, time, number of persons/pedestrians/cyclists/motorists involved (broken out by injury and fatality), as well as geographic information. Of the 332,871 records within this period, 28,244 represent vehicle crashes that involved pedestrians or cyclists (or both).

Of particular interest when looking at crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists was the “Contributing Factor” attribute, which is what the investigating officer indicated as a factor in what caused the crash. This attribute could help us understand the true causes of crashes, but the dataset leaves a lot to be desired.

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Bus Lanes on 125th Street Already Speeding Up Service

Without camera enforcement, some drivers will treat bus lanes as nothing more than a suggestion.

Without camera enforcement, some drivers will treat “BUSES ONLY” as nothing more than a suggestion. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

New York City Transit staff were on hand to help new SBS riders with off-board fare payment. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

New York City Transit staff were on hand to help new SBS riders with off-board fare payment. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Select Bus Service for the M60 bus in Harlem launched earlier this week — a move the MTA expects will “speed trips to LaGuardia and across 125th Street” for the thousands of daily riders who use the service along the corridor.

To get a first person perspective of the new service, MTR rode the M60 Select Bus Service on 125th Street Wednesday morning at rush hour to see how the newly-installed bus lanes have helped to increase bus speeds. The M60 bus traveled at an average speed of 2.7 miles per hour prior to the addition of bus lanes on 125th Street.

The ride from St. Nicholas Avenue to Lenox Avenue — where there are no exclusive bus lanes – is .4 mile in length, and took four minutes and 30 seconds, for an average speed of 5.3 miles per hour, largely because the M60 doesn’t make any stops between St. Nicholas and Lenox.

The ride from Lenox Avenue to Lexington Avenue — where exclusive bus lanes have been painted — is .5 mile long, and took four minutes and 45 seconds, for an average speed of 6.3 miles per hour. While that doesn’t seem like much of a difference, during this particular trip, the bus was stopped at the Madison Avenue station for extended period. First the operator had to direct passengers to pay their fare using curbside payment machines (after just three days in service, people are still getting used to Select Bus Service off-board fare payment) and then assist a passenger using a wheelchair. That was more than enough time to capture this video and grab this photo of the real-time bus arrival signage from one of the rear doors. Take away 45 seconds from the total trip time and it’s more like 7.5 miles per hour, nearly three times as fast as before SBS implementation.

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Communities Across New York Want Local Control Over Speed Limits

Lawmakers in Albany have the opportunity to correct a law that prevents community-wide speed limits below 30 miles per hour. | Photo: Burlington Free Press

Lawmakers in Albany have the opportunity to change a law that prevents community-wide speed limits below 30 miles per hour. | Photo: Burlington Free Press

Leaders across New York united in an appeal to Governor Cuomo this week to correct a loophole in the Vehicle and Traffic Law that circumvents New York’s home rule principles, and prohibits municipal leaders from making their streets safer. Over 50 mayors and supervisors representing communities in over half of New York’s counties, along with the Association of Towns and the New York Conference of Mayors, have spoken with one voice to the Governor: give municipal leaders the ability to lower the speed limit in their communities.

The home rule concept allows local leaders to make local decisions about the health, safety and welfare of their communities. It is a bottom-up philosophy, embedded in the belief that local leaders know their communities best and that self-governance leads to better solutions. Unfortunately, when it comes to local roads, communities have to open their pocketbooks to pay for them, yet they do not have the authority to govern basic rules of them—like the speed limit.

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Without Wide Sidewalks, People Will Walk in Bike Lanes

During rush hour in Manhattan, you’re likely to encounter just as many pedestrians using Eighth Avenue’s protected bike lane as you will cyclists.

The problem isn’t necessarily that people are unwilling to walk on the sidewalk; it’s that the sidewalks on this busy midtown avenue cannot accommodate the volume of pedestrian traffic, especially between Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. This creates a rather chaotic — and potentially dangerous — environment for both pedestrians and cyclists, as the video illustrates.

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