Long Island Elected Officials Call for Safety Improvements on Dangerous Roadways

Last week, Newsday published two separate articles about local elected officials in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties calling for safety improvements on fatal roads.

In response to two fatal crashes in the last three months along a stretch of Roslyn Road in the Town of North Hempstead, Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs is calling for a uniform speed limit of 30 [...]

NACTO State Transportation Departments Walk the Walk

State transportation departments in Massachusetts and California -- which have adopted NACTO's Urban Street Design Guide -- happen to be located in highly walkable, bikeable, transit-accessible locations. | Image: WalkScore

State DOTs in Massachusetts and California — which have adopted NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide — happen to be located in highly walkable, bikeable, transit-accessible locations. | Image: WalkScore

As MTR reported earlier this week, Tennessee became the sixth state to formally endorse the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design Guide.

The NACTO Guide is considered “a blueprint for safe, multi-modal streets,” but 44 states (including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) still rely on the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) less progressive design guidelines for urban streets.

That got us thinking: What, if anything do the states that have endorsed the NACTO guide (California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee, Utah and Washington) have in common?

Back in March of 2013, we used Walk Score to see if there was any correlation between a state transportation department’s priorities and where the people who staff those departments go to work each day.

Tri-State looked to see if — and to what extent — state departments of transportation lead by example. Specifically, how walkable are the locations of state department of transportation (DOT) headquarters, and what does this tell us about that state’s transportation priorities?

» Continue reading…

Time for New York’s Driver’s Education to Enter the 21st Century

A recent screen shot from a drivers education course shows the tendency to blame vulnerable users.

Do you drive a motor vehicle in New York State?  Have you ever wondered:

  • How to safely negotiate bike lanes while driving?
  • How to pass a bike on a rural road with a double-yellow line and oncoming traffic?
  • What the “Due Care” law actually means?

Well, if you’re curious, you won’t find the answers in New York State’s Driver’s Education Manual. In fact, the 100+ page document only devotes two pages to “Sharing the Road” with bicyclists — a whopping 544 words, and 66 percent of those words are devoted to how bicyclists are supposed to act on the road, not drivers.

Contrast that with the fact that in 2012, over 60 percent of vehicle crashes with bicyclists in New York State were attributed to unsafe motorist behavior, and that pedestrians were involved in 25 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes in the same year, more than twice the national average (11 percent). And while New York State does require a five-hour pre-licensing course and test before a new driver gets a license, the course curriculum and test are not required to address how vehicles can better navigate roads that are increasingly populated by vulnerable road users.

» Continue reading…

Safer Streets Bills Dominate the New York State Legislature’s Transportation Agenda

Two items legislators in Albany may consider this session: Local control over speed limits and new measures to ensure complete streets are being implemented. | Photos: FHWA and Reconnect Rochester

Among the transportation-related bills legislators in Albany may consider this session are local control over speed limits, speed cameras on Long Island and measures to guide complete streets implementation. | Photos: FHWA and Reconnect Rochester

UPDATE: The New York State Assembly and Senate have passed speed camera legislation; it’s awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature.

New York’s State legislators returned to work in Albany yesterday with a host of “shovel ready” transportation bills awaiting their attention — bills with matching language in both the Senate and Assembly that need just a shot of political will to cross the finish line.

Speed Cameras for Nassau, Suffolk and NYC

Suffolk CountyNassau County, and New York City have all approved the required home rule messages asking Albany to pass bills (A9206/S6918) that authorize the installation of new speed cameras. Yesterday, their first day back from break, the NYS Assembly passed the bill. Now, all eyes are on the Senate. Last year’s efforts to authorize 20 cameras in New York City were often contentious, but this year’s legislative effort has been smoother, thanks in part to support from Governor Cuomo and the executives in all three jurisdictions.

Concerns remain, however, and a bill’s passage is never certain until it’s signed into law. One concern is that camera enforcement is about revenue, not safety. But the fines included in this legislation are low — $50 (whereas Governor Cuomo has announced speeding fines up to $975) — and only apply to drivers going 10 mph or more above the speed limit.  Plus, speed camera revenue has been shown to drop off precipitously once drivers understand they may get caught. Camera programs across the country have shown impressive gains in safety. After speed cameras were implemented in Washington D.C., for example, traffic deaths fell by 72 percent from 2003 to 2012. If New York City were to achieve a similar reduction, 200 lives would be spared each year.

Local Control for Speed Limits

New York is a home rule state, but unfortunately, local officials don’t have control of speed limits. No level of government—village, town or city—can enact a municipal speed limit lower than 30 mph. Villages and cities can enact 25 mph limits on specific roads, but towns under 50,000 in population have to petition the New York State Department of Transportation in order to do so. If a municipality wants to set speed limits lower, they must pass a law in Albany, a time-consuming prospect that is rarely successful.

» Continue reading…

NYSDOT’s Complete Streets Report: Positive Steps but Some Sidesteps, Too

nysdot cs reportThe New York State Department of Transportation released a report last week detailing how the Department has gone about implementing New York’s 2011 Complete Streets Act. The report, which NYSDOT is required by law to produce, elaborates on best practices and demonstrates the degree to which complete streets have been institutionalized and incorporated into all phases of transportation projects across the state.

Perhaps the best news coming out of the report is the forthcoming Complete Streets Checklist, a potentially useful tool for institutionalizing complete streets design into the decision-making process. Its success will depend, however, on how pervasively it is used. At a minimum, to be compliant with the state complete streets law, all projects receiving state and federal funding would need to use the checklist, a fact not mentioned in the report.

The report does state, however, that “many Complete Streets improvements, such as lane striping, are relatively inexpensive but effective” techniques to improve accessibility for all users of the roadways. If NYSDOT mandates these basic improvements, which would reflect NYSDOT going above and beyond what the law requires, the checklist would then be required for all projects, including resurfacing, restoring and rehabilitation projects —which could easily incorporate complete streets elements with almost no additional costs. If NYSDOT opts out of this strategy, a bill on the table in Albany would require them to do so by amending the complete streets law to require inclusion of “complete street design features in resurfacing, maintenance and pavement recycling projects and further enable safe access to public roads for all users.”

» Continue reading…

States Spend on Expansion While Roads Decay

According to Repair Priorities 2014, most state DOTs “are spending more money building new roads than maintaining the ones they have.” | Image: Smart Growth America

With people driving less and federal largesse not what it used to be, it would make sense for state departments of transportation to shift away from building [...]

Albany Budget Dance is Now in Full Swing

Transit champions Assemblymember Jim Brennan (top) and State Senator Marty Golden | Photos: Riders Alliance, NYSenate.gov

Transit champions Assemblymember Jim Brennan (top) and State Senator Marty Golden stood up for transit riders by removing Governor Cuomo’s proposal to divert $40 million from the MTA.  Photos: Riders Alliance, NYSenate.gov

This week, the New York State Assembly and Senate finally showed their cards, making public their one-house budget resolutions in response to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget. The next few weeks will be a flurry of negotiations and deals, and there are several issues TSTC is keeping on the radar.

Diversion of Transit Funds: Removed

The 2014-2015 Executive Budget proposes to divert $40 million in dedicated transit funds to pay off State Service Contract Bonds. The Assembly and Senate have responded in unison by standing up for transit riders and removing the proposal.

The saga began in 2002 when the State signed a contract with the MTA that obligated the State to pay the debt service on these bonds. Last year the governor backtracked on that obligation, and proposed to use $20 million in funds dedicated to transit to pay off the bonds, instead of using funds from the General Fund. Unfortunately, last year’s diversion slipped through in the budget process. The governor upped the ante in January, proposing a diversion twice the size of last year’s, while also revealing that he intended to pay down the entire $345 million in outstanding State-obligated bond debt by diverting chunks of transit funds every year over the course of the next 17 years.

As Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli points out, these are funds that could otherwise have gone to the MTA, and as the Straphangers Campaign’s Gene Russianoff told Capital New York, “We suffered through the bad times… Now with the economy improving, the MTA is being treated like a cash cow by the governor’s office.”

» Continue reading…

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.

» Continue reading…

The Region’s Freeways Without Futures

Earlier this month, Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) released its 2014 Freeways Without Futures report, which lists the top opportunities in North America for replacing aging urban highways with boulevards or avenues that connect with local street networks.

2014 Freeways Without Futures

2012 Freeways Without Futures 

I-10/Claiborne Overpass, New Orleans 

I-81, Syracuse, NY

Gardiner Expressway, Toronto

Route 5/Skyway, Buffalo, NY

Inner Loop, Rochester, NY

I-70, St. Louis

I-280, San Francisco

I-375, Detroit

Terminal Island Freeway, Long Beach

Aetna Viaduct, Hartford, CT

I-10/Claiborne Overpass, New Orleans

I-895/Sheridan Expressway, Bronx, NYC

Route 34/Oak Street Connector, New Haven, CT

Route 5/Skyway, Buffalo, NY

I-395/Overtown Expressway, Miami

I-70, St. Louis

West Shoreway, Cleveland

I-490/Inner Loop, Rochester, NY

I-81, Syracuse, NY

Gardiner Expressway, Toronto

Although the list includes freeways throughout North America, 40 percent of the list is made up of opportunities in New York and Connecticut (show in bold). Three of the projects in particular (highlighted in red) also showed up on the 2012 list.

Connecticut has a newcomer in Hartford’s Aetna Viaduct, which the local government has explored alternatives for, but has eliminated the boulevard option. As planning continues to move forward, officials should consider how they can encourage Interstate 84 users to switch modes to alleviate traffic and expand the potential alternatives to include a roadway that is more appropriate for downtown Hartford’s urban landscape. Mode shift in central Connecticut will be a more realistic goal after the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail corridor is completed, and especially after the CTfastrak BRT system — which has six stations along I-84 near the viaduct – opens in 2015.

» Continue reading…

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.

» Continue reading…