Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

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

New York City Councilmember Mark Weprin | Photo: DecideNYC.com

New York City Councilmember Mark Weprin | Photo: DecideNYC.com

WINNERS

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy — Governor Malloy unveiled today a truly multi-modal long-term transportation plan which includes, among other things, an eastern extension of CTfastrak, upgrades to the Metro-North Waterbury Branch and a program to improve pedestrian and bicycle improvements in urban areas.

New York City Department of Transportation — The City DOT has begun the release of its borough-specific Vision Zero action plans, so far releasing plans for QueensManhattan and the Bronx. The plans detail specific “priority” corridors and intersections identified through research and public workshops over the last year.

New York City Councilmember Mark Weprin — After having opposed previous congestion pricing proposals, Weprin is now one of MoveNY’s biggest proponents and one of few elected officials publicly endorsing the plan.

Senators Chuck Schumer (NY) and Richard Blumenthal (CT) — The senators’ new legislation, the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015, would dramatically increase funding for the Federal Highway Administration’s rail safety programs.

Gene Aronowitz — The Brooklyn resident is working to educate fellow senior citizens about traffic safety.

The Village of Munsey Park, NY — Village officials stand by the effectiveness of traffic enforcement cameras, and are considering the possibility of installing them as part of a four-point traffic safety plan to curb the village’s speeding epidemic.

» Continue reading…

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How Should We Fix the Port Authority? Upcoming Panel Seeks Solution to Bi-State Agency Reform

Last year was full of bad news for those advocating for reform at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. After months of broad discussion about how to best fix the myriad issues plaguing the bi-state agency, two bills advanced through both states’ legislatures. Unfortunately, the day after Christmas, both governors approved the bill to hold the Port Authority to open records laws in both states, but they vetoed the bill approved by 612 legislators in four chambers in two states to reform governance. Instead, they issued their own recommendations, which fall far short of instituting fundamental reforms necessary to make the Port Authority far more accountable and restore it to its original mission of transportation.

And this year has so far provided fewer reasons to be optimistic. The agency’s commissioners appear to be selectively adhering to the governors’ recommendations: while not a single commissioner has yet tendered a letter of resignation, they are preparing to begin the search for the agency’s first Chief Executive Officer. Meanwhile, legislators in New York and New Jersey are pressing forward to quickly pass new bills.

In light of the discouragingly slow progress being made, Saint Peter’s University is hosting an important panel this coming Monday, February 23, bringing together five panelists with “in-depth experience relevant to the transportation industry in the tri-state area” to discuss how to best reform the bi-state agency. The panelists include New York State Assemblyman James Brennan, New Jersey Assemblywoman Amy Handlin and New Jersey State Senator Bob Gordon, all three of whom played important roles in last year’s Port Authority reform efforts. Martin Robins, director emeritus of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, and Thomas D. Carver, former New Jersey commissioner of Labor Workforce and Development will also participate in the panel.

Philip Mark Plotch, Ph.D., director of the master’s program in public administration at Saint Peter’s University and Nicholas Chiaravalloti, J.D., executive director of the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership will moderate the event.

Panel: How Should We Fix the Port Authority?
Monday, February 23, 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Mac Mahon Student Center, Duncan Family Sky Room
St. Peter’s University
Jersey City, NJ

For more information or to register, please contact Dr. Plotch at pplotch@saintpeters.edu or (201) 761-7458.

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Register Now for NJ Future’s Redevelopment Forum

NJF-forum-headerNew Jersey Future‘s annual Redevelopment Forum is approaching fast! Register now to take advantage of the early-bird rate (which ends this Friday, February 20).

The Redevelopment Forum takes place on March 13 at the New Brunswick Hyatt Hotel and Conference Center, and will feature keynotes from Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Congress for the New Urbanism President Lynn Richards. The daylong conference, now in its 10th year, brings together more than 500 municipal and state leaders and professionals in planning, development, law, transportation, architecture, construction, environmental conservation and historic preservation to share best practices and lessons learned.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool will take part in a panel which will discuss the investments New Jersey needs to make in its transportation system:  a new passenger rail tunnel under the Hudson, new links in the rail transit network, improvements to the pedestrian experience in built-up areas – as well as the need to address the backlog of roads and bridges in need of repair. Strategies for how to fund these investments will also be addressed. The panel also features

  • Jack Lettiere, President, Jack Lettiere Consulting (Moderator)
  • Thomas Bracken, President and CEO, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce
  • Mary K. Murphy, Executive Director, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority

Tickets are $110 for New Jersey Future members, municipal employees and non-profits, $150 for non-members, until February 20 (after February 20 tickets are $155 for members and $190 for non-members). The forum has been approved for 5.5 AICP CM credits and has applied for AIA, CLE and GBCI credits.

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New Report Looks to Business Community as MTA Capital Program Remains a Last Priority for Albany

KNYOTThe MTA is a mammoth entity—an asset worth $1 trillion which carries more than one-third of all U.S. transit riders and two-thirds of all U.S. rail riders. The system is more than 100 years old and in need of continuous attention—and funding—to maintain a state of good repair, let alone expand service and harden against catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy. Considering that a whopping $22 billion of the MTA’s proposed $32 billion 2015-2019 Capital Program is slated for new rail cars, ferries and buses and state of good repair investments for the network’s seven bridges and two tunnels, as well as viaducts and rail line structures, it’s all the more discouraging that the so-called “bloated” Program is still barely half-funded and that it appears to have fallen to the bottom of our leaders’ priority lists.

To help change the negative, number-heavy dialogue and give some context to the role of transit in the tri-state region, the Urban Land Institute and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA have released a joint report and website that don’t dwell on the big, scary number, but instead focus on what the MTA Capital Program can do for New York State. The report, Keeping New York on Track, seeks to emphasize the role that the MTA plays in supporting New York’s business and tourism economies, as well as the social benefits it provides to residents. By highlighting how a fully-funded Capital Program helps New York’s biggest industries to remain globally competitive and regionally productive, the report strives to make the case for greater private support in the face of failing public investment:

  • The MTA network serves 75 percent of the metro region’s total population and 90 percent of its working population
  • Every weekday, the 4/5/6 subway line carries more commuters than the total ridership of San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston’s transit networks combined.
  • The density of businesses in the region is more than 10 times that of the average U.S. city, which benefits those businesses by allowing for greater productivity and gives residents access to greater income
  • The MTA’s flat-fare system helps to offset the increasing costs of living in the region, giving lower income families greater access to employment and educational opportunities
  • MTA’s network and service hours give residents and tourists the opportunity to access parks, beaches and other destinations

» Continue reading…

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Camden Passes New Jersey’s First Sustainability Ordinance

CAPTION: Developers in Camden will be required to submit documentation of the environmental impacts and benefits of proposed projects. | Source: Rutgers University

Now that a sustainability ordinance has been passed, developers in Camden will be required to submit documentation of the environmental impacts and benefits of proposed projects. | Source: Rutgers University

Camden, New Jersey has solidified its commitment to continued environmental and economic progress by adopting the Garden State’s first-ever sustainability ordinance. Passed by the Camden City Council on Tuesday, the ordinance had support from the many community groups that make up the Camden Green Team (of which Tri-State is an active member) along with support from prominent City leaders, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.

The Ordinance Adopting Sustainability Requirements for the City of Camden requires developers to submit an Environmental Impact and Benefit Assessment (EIBA) to be reviewed by the Camden City Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment before project approval. These agencies will then make a determination on the extent to which applicants can provide environmental and public health benefits as part of the proposed project.

» Continue reading…

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Walking Towards the Green in Camden, New Jersey

The assessment will seek to plan for infrastructure that expands upon existing projects with the power to improve community health in Camden, including the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) and Camden SMART Initiative’s ongoing transformation of former industrial property into parkland on the Delaware River waterfront. | Photo: Doug Burns, CCMUA

The assessment will seek to plan for infrastructure that expands upon existing projects with the power to improve community health in Camden, including the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) and Camden SMART Initiative’s ongoing transformation of former industrial property into parkland on the Delaware River waterfront. | Photo: Doug Burns, CCMUA

Can community gardens in Camden, New Jersey help to support local health needs and, if so, are the surrounding streets and intersections safe conduits for residents to access these spaces for healthy eating and recreation?

TSTC was recently awarded a grant that will seek to answer this question.

The grant will support a day-long health impact and livability assessment in Camden called “Walking Towards the Green.” The assessment will take place in the spring, and will include a walking audit to inventory and note community assets and needs such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, trails, green space, community gardens and access to community gardens. This work is funded through the Shaping New Jersey program, which “focuses on environmental and policy change to reduce obesity and chronic disease.”

» Continue reading…

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

Sponsors of Connecticut legislation SB 502, also known as  the "bike bill" (clockwise from top left) Sen. Beth Bye, Rep. Roland Lemar, Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, Rep. Audré Bumgardner

Sponsors of Connecticut legislation SB 502 (clockwise from top left), Sen. Beth Bye, Rep. Roland Lemar, Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, Rep. Aundré Bumgardner

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

WINNERS

New York City Council Progressive Caucus — The 17 council members submitted a powerful letter to MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast and City DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg calling for greater investment in full-featured bus rapid transit.

Connecticut bike bill sponsors — State Senator Beth Bye and Representatives Roland Lemar, Cristin McCarthy Vahey and Aundré Bumgardner are sponsoring bipartisan legislation which would make it possible for Connecticut municipalities to implement context-sensitive bicycle facilities such as two-way cycle tracks and contraflow lanes.

New York City pedestrians and bicyclists — One week after the death of a cyclist in Queens, Mayor de Blasio is implementing a retrofit program to add protective guards to more than 200 city-owned trucks.

New Jersey Assemblymembers Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton — The 7th District legislators have sponsored a bill that would uniformly raise pedestrian safety violation fines and dedicate the majority of the proceeds to a fund for road safety improvements and education.

LOSERS 

Gas tax opponents — A coalition of more than 50 organizations have expressed opposition to an increase in the federal gas tax because “Washington continues to spend federal dollars on projects that have nothing to do with roads like bike paths and transit.” Meanwhile, New Jersey Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak and New York State Senator Jim Seward have taken it upon themselves to introduce legislation to prevent gas tax increases at the state level.

New York Assemblymember Michael DenDekker — Pedestrian deaths hit a record low in 2014, but Assemblymember DenDekker — whose transportation ideas in the past have included free motorcycle parking and paid registrations and license plates for bicycles —  says New York City’s Vision Zero initiative has done nothing to keep pedestrians safe.

» Continue reading…

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Two New York Communities Recognized as National Leaders on Complete Streets

Two New York communities brought home the highest rankings in the nation for their efforts to make streets safer and more accessible. Just three years after passage of a statewide law on Complete Streets, Ogdensburg and Troy are being recognized by the National Complete Streets Coalition as the nation’s best.

The National Complete Streets Coalition today released The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2014, which reviews every policy passed in the United States in 2014 and scores each according to the ten elements of an ideal Complete Streets policy.

Troy, New York, known for its architecture, is now starting to build a reputation for its streets. | Source

Troy, a city known for its architecture, is now starting to build a reputation for its streets. | Source

Ogdensburg, located on the northern border of the state and home to 11,000 people, had the highest-scoring policy with 92.8 points out of 100. Troy, located just across the Hudson from Albany and home to 50,000 people, had the second-highest score with 91.2 points.

Josh Wilson, executive director of New York Bicycling Coalition (and former Ogdensburg resident) is proud of his former home. “What makes this policy particularly effective is that it allows for the establishment of a resident task force which will review all new public and private construction projects with an aim at incorporating improvements to pedestrian and bicycle access. Giving concerned citizens a voice in the project planning process is absolutely crucial.”

» Continue reading…

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Another Look at Stamford’s Washington Boulevard

An elderly woman who was using a motorized wheelchair sustained serious injuries after she was struck by a driver late last week while crossing Washington Boulevard at Main Street in downtown Stamford.

Washington Boulevard is like many of Stamford’s downtown streets: a wide, multi-lane arterial that is out of place in a downtown area. There’s a well-marked crosswalk and a narrow landscaped median on this segment — a good start, but more should be done in a central business district such as this. Ideally that median would extend into the crosswalk and serve as a pedestrian safety island. Without one, you’ll need to get all the way across seven lanes in one phase of the pedestrian signal (which you might consider much of a challenge, but imagine doing it in a wheelchair).

We took some rough measurements of Washington Boulevard using Google Maps. It appears to be 80 feet wide curb-to-curb, with lane widths of about 11 feet. We uploaded these characteristics into Streetmix and came up with an alternative design that considers more than simply level of service for cars and trucks.

Here’s what Washington Boulevard looks like today:

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 12.04.36 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 1.03.29 PM

And here’s what it could look like:

» Continue reading…

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Technology Can Help, but Transit and Walkability Are Keys to Reducing Automobile Dependence

A new report from USPIRG, The Innovative Transportation Index: Cities Where New Technologies and Tools Can Reduce Your Need to Own a Car, examines “technology-enabled transportation services” which, its authors suggest, “make it easier to conveniently get around without owning a car.” The report’s Executive Summary begins

“Rapid technological advances have enabled the creation of new transportation tools that make it possible for more Americans to live full and engaged lives without owning a car.”

There’s no doubt that car ownership isn’t required for living a “full and engaged” life. In fact, in some cities car ownership can be more of a hassle than a convenience. But are these tools, like Uber, Zipcar, bike share, and apps like NextBus really what makes a car-free lifestyle possible, or are there other factors at work?

To get a better understanding, we looked up the numbers on zero-car households for the top 20 (of 70) cities included in the Innovative Transportation Index (percentage of households that don’t own cars in parentheses):

pirg-tech-report

  1. Austin  (6.5)
  2. San Francisco  (31.4)
  3. Washington  (37.9)
  4. Boston  (36.9)
  5. Los Angeles  (13.6)
  6. New York  (56.5)
  7. Portland  (15.3)
  8. Denver  (11.7)
  9. Minneapolis  (19.7)
  10. San Diego  (7.4)
  11. Seattle  (16.6)
  12. Dallas  (10.1)
  13. Columbus  (10)
  14. Chicago  (27.9)
  15. Houston  (10.1)
  16. Miami  (26.7)
  17. Milwaukee  (19.9)
  18. Tampa (6.6*)
  19. Nashville  (8.5)
  20. Orlando  (4.9**)

The result is a mixed bag. While cities like New York, Washington and Boston, where more than a third of households are car-free, appear in the Innovative Transportation Index’s top 20, so do cities like Austin, Nashville and San Diego, where fewer than 10 percent of households do not own cars. It’s not clear that new transportation technology is having much of an impact in reducing car ownership.

Given that many of these new technologies are only a few years old, we thought we’d also look to see what direction these cities are headed in. Austin, Columbus and Dallas, for example, may not be leading the pack of cities with the most zero-car households , but could they be headed in that direction?

» Continue reading…

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