Where’s NYSDOT’s List of Projects?

We are days away from a final budget in Albany, and yet no one has seen the list of road, bridge and transit projects that NYSDOT will tackle next year, to be funded by the budget currently being negotiated. No one has seen the proposed five-year capital plan, either.

And by “no one,” of course, we mean: the public, the advocates, the legislators, the transportation staff. In other words, everyone outside of the “four men-in-a-room”, and perhaps their respective staff members. Back in January, both were promised to be imminently forthcoming. And this isn’t the first time lists like these haven’t been forthcoming.

Why would we want a list?

  1. Albany has a checkered past of slipping pet transportation projects in without a democratic process—Senator Smith being a prime example of a short-circuited process.
  2. Advocates, the public and legislators would like to have some say in the development of project lists to be built, an opportunity to make the case for why some projects should be funded before others.
  3. This project list impacts not just NYSDOT, but the MTA. Historically, negotiations on the MTA and NYSDOT five-year capital plans have been coupled in the interest of assuring “parity” between upstate and down. We’ve had months to review the MTA’s Capital Plan because they have a statutory requirement to submit it on a certain date; NYSDOT has no comparable requirement.
  4. And advocates in Albany have been told point blank: no NYSDOT capital plan on the table, no discussion of the MTA’s capital plan.

Why keep this list in the dark?
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A New Port Authority Bus Terminal: One Small Piece of the Larger Cross-Hudson Capacity Conversation

Source: PANYNJ

Last week the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released preliminary proposals for a new bus terminal. There were five proposals in total, estimated to take anywhere from 11 to 15 years to complete, with some estimated to cost as much as $10.5 billion. And while it’s very encouraging to see the Port Authority finally acknowledge the bus terminal’s real long-term needs, a new terminal is not a slam-dunk solution to the cross-Hudson capacity dilemma. There has been a serious dearth of vision for managing cross-Hudson capacity, which is poised to become a true crisis for all public transit modes if solutions and funding are not prioritized.

Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT)

The PABT was built in 1950 at a cost of $24 million (approximately $233 million in today’s dollars), but quickly reached operating capacity by 1966, necessitating subsequent expansions. Today, the terminal is again operating above capacity, handling over 230,000 riders per day, with demand projected to grow to 330,000 by 2040. This is not a new issue. In fact, Tri-State has been sounding the alarm about cross-Hudson bus capacity since last decade.

PATH Train

Riding trains across the Hudson is also an increasingly daunting experience. Jump on any rush hour PATH train and you are sure to be far from alone. PATH ridership stands at roughly 250,000 passengers per day, an increase of nearly 50,000 passengers per day since 1994, and with even more development slated for Hoboken and Jersey City planned or under construction, capacity is and will continue to be a real problem.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez join other City electeds in breaking ground on the Plaza de Las Americas. | Photo: NYC DOT Flickr

The groundbreaking of the Plaza de Las Americas. | Photo: NYC DOT Flickr

WINNERS

Washington Heights residents After seven years of planning, the City has finally broken ground on the Plaza de Las Americas, a big win for local vendors and businesses as well as for pedestrians, who will enjoy increased traffic safety once the project is complete.

Queens residents —  In addition to the great news of permanent Q103 weekend service, the City DOT unveiled its design for a ‘super’ bus route along Woodhaven Boulevard, where buses would run in their own lane separated from local traffic with a concrete median.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Cities of Opportunities Task Force, de Blasio called on fellow mayors across the country to raise the call for greater federal investment in mass transit and infrastructure, saying “the failure to invest in transportation, the failure to invest in infrastructure is holding us back.” Does this mean there will be an increase in city funding to the MTA’s capital plan to match the call for increased federal funding?

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal & acting Federal Railway Administrator Sarah Feinberg — The Northeast Corridor high speed rail study that has been irking Connecticut officials for weeks has been declared “dead on arrival,” with the Connecticut Senator vowing to fight the bill until the study includes a stop in Connecticut.

Connecticut commuters and residents — In an effort to woo residents of the Land of Steady Habits, there are several promotional offers for passengers who try CTfastrak, launching this Saturday, March 28, including local business discounts and nine full days of free rides for all passengers statewide.

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New Jersey’s Pile of Transportation Troubles in 500 Words or Less

greetings-from-njA quick update on some of the Garden State’s transportation issues:

Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) 

The state’s TTF will run dry on July 1, one year earlier than initially thought. Legislative leadership had been working with Governor Christie to devise a plan to restore solvency to the fund, insisting “everything is on the table.” But after denying the existence of any “crisis,” the Governor announced a new plan to borrow $600 million to meet the state’s FY2016 transportation needs. To put it simply: any hope of honestly addressing this issue appears to be dead.

Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT)

While the terminal’s $90 million “Quality of Commute” program is underway, the improvements do not address the underlying problems plaguing the 65-year-old facility. After months of pressing the Authority to address the growing demand for cross-Hudson bus service, the Board announced this week that a new terminal would cost as much as $10 billiona price tag that many find suspect.

Gateway

Amtrak announced several months ago that damage to the rail tunnels under the Hudson from Superstorm Sandy was worse than initially perceived, and to repair it would require that one tunnel be taken out of service for at least a yearwhich could happen as early as this year. Given that NJ Transit ridership is steadily increasing, the work would cause major disruption to service. Last week, Senate President Sweeney announced a funding proposal for the Gateway Tunnel Project, which would include a $3 billion Port Authority contribution from the sale of non transportation-related real estate.

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It’s Not Always Sunny in Albany

Discussions on ethics and transparency have exploded over the last couple of weeks, just in time for Sunshine Week. We thought we’d provide this handy list of choice tid-bits, in case you’ve lost track:

The New York Assembly called the State Thruway Authority to task by requiring public disclosure of a detailed financial plan for […]

Tolls Aren’t as Controversial or Politically-Risky as Some Connecticut Politicians Would Like You to Believe

The Connecticut State legislature’s Transportation Committee voted this week to advance a bill which would bring the state one step closer to reinstating highway tolls. The vote followed party lines, with 18 Democrats voting in favor, and 13 Republicans voting against.

State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) spoke against the bill, but her argument falls apart when you look at the facts.

Transportation Committee Chairman Representative Antonio Guerrera and ranking member State Senator Toni Boucher.  | Image: SRO/Flickr

Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Tony Guerrera and ranking member State Senator Toni Boucher. | Image: SRO/Flickr

Boucher said “People uniformly have an opinion on [tolls],” but that would only be true if you look at the results of a poll which was conducted by Boucher’s office, which only surveyed voters in her district.

An independent Quinnipiac University poll conducted earlier this month, however, shows that 58 percent of Nutmeg State Republicans (and 62 percent of Democrats) support tolls as long as the revenue raised goes toward transportation purposes. Without that provision, 61 percent of voters oppose tolls. But it’s highly unlikely that tolls would be implemented until the State puts a “lockbox” on the Special Transportation Fund.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

New York State Senator Jose Peralta | Photo: nysenate.gov

New York State Senator Jose Peralta | Photo: nysenate.gov

WINNERS

New York State Senator Jose Peralta — Despite loud opposition in recent weeks from other Queens electeds, State Senator Jose Peralta of Queens became the first state senator to outright support the Move New York toll reform plan.

U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) — The Senators have reintroduced their Innovation in Surface Transportation plan, a bipartisan bill that “would give local officials more control over the transportation planning process in their states and communities.”

New York Legislative transit champions  The State Senate has released their budget resolutions, which like the Assembly also include increases to statewide transit spending. The Assembly has also updated its resolutions to include $100 million for Bus Rapid Transit projects, a portion of which will help support Staten Island’s North Shore BRT, thanks to Assemblymembers Michael Cusick and Matthew Titone.

State Farm Insurance — The firm is aligning its future planning at three major sites to concentrate its employees near transit to create a “live-work-play environment that will give employees easy access to their work from the neighboring communities.”

Village of Hempstead, NY — Mayor Wayne Hall Sr. has attributed the village’s vitality to its proximity to a transit hub, which in turn spurred a major downtown revitalization project.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak | Photo: njleg.state.nj.us

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak | Photo: njleg.state.nj.us

WINNERS

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak — Amid threats of another fare hike, State Senator Lesniak is introducing a bill to give commuters a greater say over NJ Transit decisions.

New York State Assembly — The Assembly wants to limit state aid to the Tappan Zee Bridge project until the state gives up the details of its financial plan, and has proposed increasing funding for statewide transit systems.

Bridgeport, Glastonbury, Hartford, Simsbury, South Windsor and Stamford, CT   Six Connecticut municipalities have signed on to the USDOT Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets, more than New York and New Jersey combined.

Linden, NJ — The City Police Department has received a $200,000 grant from the New Jersey Safe Routes to School program for safety improvements near School #1, including the addition of bike racks and sidewalks.

New York City Councilmembers Donovan Richards and Helen Rosenthal — The transportation sector is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in New Yorka threat to both the environment and residents’ healthand the councilmembers want YOUR help in the fight against violators of the City’s anti-idling law.

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Amtrak Policy Reform Could Bring True High-Speed Rail to the Northeast Corridor

Amtrak got a bipartisan nod of approval in Washington last week in the form of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (H.R. 749), which authorizes $7.2 billion in federal subsidies for Amtrak and other rail programs through 2019, including $1.7 billion a year over four years.

While it’s not the boost in funding needed to match ridership gains, it could be considered a win in this congress. The vote was 316 to 101—with all Democrats who voted being in favor, and the conservative contingent casting against. A last minute action alert from conservative groups—Heritage Action and Club for Growth—called, unsuccessfully, for a no vote, identifying this as a “key vote” against which legislators’ performance would be judged. Given that Democratic votes were needed for passage, even the usual attempts to privatize and defund the system were unsuccessful.

There were several bits of policy reform of note:

  • Local officials in the 19 states that contribute financially to Amtrak service would have “a seat at the table” on decisions relating to changes and budgets for service.
  • Amtrak would need to be more transparent with the financial information it provides to state and local governments.
  • There will be some “streamlining” of environmental and other regulations on construction projects.
  • Amtrak will need to address the operating losses for food service on trains.
  • A pilot program will be launched allowing pets on board, for a fee.
  • A requirement that Amtrak take “a hard look” at the access needs of wheelchair users, bicyclists and other non-motorized transportation.
  • Profit from the Northeast Corridor (NEC), which usually subsidizes unprofitable routes across the country, would be reinvested in the corridor.

This final bullet can’t be overlooked, as it could ultimately lead to faster service. A feasibility study must be completed in six months that will analyze the possibility of a new and better Northeast Corridor.

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New York Legislative Alert: Call Your Leaders Today to Demand Greater Support for Transit

Today is a key advocacy day for transit riders statewide as legislators in Albany are in the final stages of putting together their one house budget bills, and the New York Public Transit Association (NYPTA) is asking every transit stakeholder to make their support for transit known. This is a critical time to reach out to […]