The New Jersey Department of Transportation recently released an interactive map showing where and what types of projects are planned for fiscal year 2014 in the Garden State.
According to a Tri-State analysis from earlier this year, the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) $3.98 billion FY2014 Capital Program Capital Program shows some positive trends including greater investment in bicycle, pedestrian and [...]
The Tax Reform and Fairness Commission report attempts to provide revenue neutral policy options for legislators to consider, while a separate proposal from state Republicans calls for further erosion of the payroll mobility tax. | Image: governor.ny.gov
With the State election season already on the horizon, transit riders should be wary of the upcoming budget session. Very wary.
Governor Cuomo has put tax reform on the 2014 budget agenda, and now, the proposals are coming in fast and furiously. With downstate transit systems funded by a panoply of taxes, both large and small, the threat to these funding sources, from both Republicans and Democrats, is very real.
Last week, Governor Cuomo’s Tax Reform and Fairness Commission released a report that attempts to provide revenue neutral policy options for legislators to consider. However, soon on its heels came a proposal from state Republicans that didn’t share in the revenue-neutrality ethos, and one that was quick to call for a further erosion of the payroll mobility tax, which provides $1.2 billion in crucial funding revenues for the MTA. Now, this week, a second tax commission report, headed by former Governor George Pataki, is expected to release its findings. Governor Pataki’s charge from Governor Cuomo is to find between $2 and $3 billion to cut from taxpayer’s bills.
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Today, a statewide coalition sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, urging him to sign the “transit lockbox” bill that was delivered to his desk on Friday, November 1st. The statewide coalition is made up of a diverse group of over 200 organizations representing labor, business, transit, the environment, disabled, aging, faith-based, smart growth, good government, bicycling, housing, and transportation groups who have joined together in a rare moment to deliver one shared message: public transportation is crucial to the state’s economy and the well-being of its citizens. (The letter is available here.)
The Lockbox Bill (S.3837/ A.5084), sponsored by State Senator Martin Golden and Assemblyman James F. Brennan, unanimously passed both houses of the New York State legislature in June 2013. The bill helps to assure revenues dedicated to public transportation are spent on public transportation, not diverted to plug budgetary holes in the state’s general fund. The bill was introduced in response to the dramatic negative impacts to the economy after Governor David Paterson diverted $260 million of dedicated transit funds in 2010, at the height of the recession. This diversion contributed to the worst service cuts and fare hikes in recent memory, impacting transit riders, as well as employers and transit manufacturers across the state. This bill will protect the revenue streams of over 130 transit providers across the state.
If this bill becomes law, it will not prohibit diversions, but it will provide decision makers and the public with vital information. As the coalition’s letter states, the bill’s “key provision requires the State to issue a ‘diversion impact statement’ in the unfortunate event that state dedicated transit funds are diverted. The impact statement details what effect the diversion will have on transit service, safety and maintenance.”
While the bill aims to improve budgetary transparency and governmental accountability with regards to transit, it also attempts to protect the transit manufacturing sector which helps stabilize New York’s economy. Transit is big business in New York, and the state has one of the largest transit manufacturing clusters in the world: Kawasaki, Bombardier, Alstom and Nova Bus all have manufacturing plants in the state. An August 2011 report from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) estimates that the MTA’s capital program alone impacts 325,000 jobs, and generates almost $41 billion in overall economic impact, from the Adirondacks to Western New York to the Hudson Valley. Diversions also devastate transit providers and manufacturers who rely on this dedicated transit revenue stream for planning.
The transit lockbox concept has been supported by newspapers, upstate and down. The Buffalo News and Plattsburgh’s Press Republican both recently urged the Governor to sign S.3837/ A.5084; in 2011, the New York Times and Crain’s endorsed a similar bill that impacted the MTA alone.
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TSTC’s new analysis of the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) and New Jersey Transit’s (NJT) Transportation Capital Program for fiscal year 2014 reveals encouraging shifts towards greater investment in bicycle, pedestrian and transit projects. However, the agency is still spending too much money to build new roads and bridges for short-term traffic congestion relief instead of redirecting more of these funds to maintain the State’s existing roads and bridges and retrofit more of the State’s most dangerous roads to be Complete Streets compliant.
The analysis finds:
|The percentage of dollars going to projects that significantly expand New Jersey’s roadways and bridges has decreased by 16.5 percent.
||The percentage of funds dedicated to expansion projects is still high.
|The percentage of dollars going to projects that make the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists has increased by 34 percent.
||The percentage of dollars going to projects that maintain the State’s roads and bridges has decreased by 16.2 percent.
|The percentage of dollars going to NJT has increased by 5.5 percent.
||A little over 30 percent of the NJT portion of the 2014 Capital Program will go towards funding for buses, yet in Fiscal Year 2012, bus trips made up almost 60 percent of NJT’s average weekday unlinked passenger trips.
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Source: Newsday.com. A letter from almost two dozen groups called on Nassau County to increase its contribution to NICE Bus.
In the face of declining ridership and high levels of rider dissatisfaction, nearly two dozen local groups sent a letter to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and the members of the Nassau County Legislature in August calling for increased funding for Nassau County’s bus system, Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE).
Unfortunately, although the final Nassau County budget is due by the end of the month, the County’s proposed contribution to NICE remains a paltry $2.6 million in the County Executive’s proposed budget. The groups hope that robust support from a diverse background of service sectors including rider, labor, social services, planning, environmental and transportation groups, will help convince Nassau County’s elected officials that funding the beleaguered bus system is good public policy. Support for increased funding for the bus system was particularly strong from Nassau’s business community, which made up 20 percent of the signatories to the letter. Region-wide business groups like the Long Island Business Council and the Long Island Association, as well as local business advocates like the Hicksville and Freeport Chambers of Commerce, helped make the case that County investment must be increased.
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Source: Suffolk County Transit. Sunday bus expansion will not only add service, but create jobs.
Last month Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone released his proposed operating budget for 2014. As expected, the budget included a $2 million increase in funding from New York State over last year’s budget-$24.1 million in 2014 versus $22 [...]
Source: NYTimes.com Connecticut officials must think outside the box to address the current crisis facing New Haven Line commuters.
The transit crisis facing the New Haven Line is now in its sixth day, and ConnDOT and the MTA have been doing what they [...]
An on-street portion of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, which received funding though the William Penn Foundation-supported Regional Trails Program. | Photo: http://lhtrail.org/
Funding was approved for 13 Greater Philadelphia multi-use trail projects — including three in southern New Jersey – at yesterday’s Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) board meeting. The funds — totalling $3,988,608, with local matches amounting to $9,318,081 — will largely be used for trail construction, and were available through the third phase of the William Penn Foundation-supported Regional Trails Program.
In South Jersey, the Delaware River Port Authority will receive $400,000 for construction of the Ben Franklin Bridge Walkway Bicycle and Pedestrian Ramp, the Burlington County Department of Resource Conservation will receive $500,000 to move forward with the “Mansfield Community Park Connector” segment of the Kinkora Trail and the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corporation will receive $250,000 to build one of the final segments of their namesake trail in the Carter Road area.
These relatively low investments stand to have a significant impact on the region, as they advance completion of The Circuit, the region’s multi-use trail network. As each additional segment is built, increasing numbers of South Jersey and Philadelphia area residents will be connected to an integrated transportation network that allows them to walk or bike to work, transit stations and outdoor recreational opportunities.
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For the third year in a row, the Nassau County budget calls for a County contribution to the bus system of only $2.5 million. | Image: nassaucountyny.gov
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano released his $2.79 billion 2014 Proposed Budget earlier this week, and unfortunately for Nassau County Inter-County Express (NICE) riders, no new transit funding was included in his budget plan. For the third year in a row, the County Executive is proposing to keep the County’s contribution to its bus system at a paltry $2.5 million. According to the budget’s Executive Summary, this level of funding only exists because it is a “mandated County match to the STOA (State Transit Operating Assistance) program.”
While New York State has tried to pick up the funding slack by contributing 20 percent more to the bus system since NICE replaced Long Island Bus in 2012, and riders have seen a fare hike totaling $3 million, Nassau County has stubbornly refused to take its responsibility to fund its bus system seriously. And in recent months it has become increasingly clear that Nassau County’s failure to prioritize this funding is significantly impacting what was once one of the largest suburban bus systems in the country. Ridership in 2012 was the lowest since 1998 and ridership through July of 2013 is approximately 5 percent lower than 2012 ridership over the same time period. In addition, rider satisfaction rates from 2012 to 2013 have dropped precipitously. According to a NICE survey, overall satisfaction rates for the second quarter of 2013 dropped by 32 points, or nearly 52 percent, from Q2 of 2012 to Q2 of 2013.
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Source: National Conference of State Legislatures
These days, if you listen to almost any politician or talk to almost anyone who works in the public sector, you will invariably hear the term “public private partnership” (P3). Strictly speaking, a P3 is any contractual agreement between a public agency (federal, state or local) and a private sector entity. P3s can be found in a broad range of industries, from schools to hospitals to surface transportation and ports. Despite the apparent ubiquity of P3 types and industries, there are some basic relationship structures that are commonly seen in surface transportation.
While technically speaking the traditional Design-Bid-Build approach (in which public agencies design a project and then enter into an agreement with a private enterprise to build the project) constitutes a “public-private partnership,” more recently, the current usage of P3 implies the transfer of more responsibility to the private partner than Design-Bid-Build.
The oft-stated basis for P3s is that they allow private companies to take on traditionally public roles in infrastructure projects, and they can both 1) keep the public sector ultimately accountable for a project and the overall service to the public and 2) cut costs through the private sector’s efficiencies and abilities to better manage risk.
Despite the strong push for P3s, some have suggested they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.
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