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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NIMBYs are of concern for pro-park and pro-rail advocates. | Photo: Kathi Ko
Rail advocates make a splash at the Queensway public input meeting in Ozone Park. | Photo: Gregory Homatas
Shortly after this piece was published, we learned that New York Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, along with faculty, students, and staff from the Queens College Urban Studies Department, will launch a community impact study to help assess the best use for the Rockaway Beach Line’s abandoned tracks.
Since MTR last visited the proposal to transform the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Beach Line (RBL) into a 3.5 mile elevated park (known as the Queensway), a feasibility study for the project has been launched with the support of state funding and private donations. The official project team includes the Trust for Public Land, Friends of the Queensway, and design consultants WXY Architecture and DLand Studio, and community outreach specialists the Hester Street Collaborative.
Over the course of the past two weeks, three public meetings have been held in the neighborhoods where the right-of-way runs (Woodhaven, Forest Hills and Ozone Park). These meetings provided no shortage of evidence that the project continues to live up to its title as the city’s “most controversial potential park,” with tensions rising between Queensway park advocates and “no-way Queensway” opponents who would prefer to leave the right-of-way as-is.
Meanwhile, a third group has been organizing rallies, forums and petition drives to garner support behind not converting the railway, but reactivating it. These railway reactivation advocates have been working to educate the public about how reintroducing rail service to the Rockaway Beach Line would benefit transit-starved communities in southern Queens and the Rockaways.
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Guide lines have been painted on newly-paved Orient Way. Notice the lack of guide lines for bike lanes. | Photo: Cyndi Steiner
On November 13, the Rutherford Borough Council in New Jersey unanimously approved a new road striping plan for the first phase of the Rutherford Bike Ring. In an ironic twist for the bike plan, this first phase of the striping did not include bike lanes or any other Complete Streets design components. Despite three years of meetings, letters of support from residents, local, state and federal elected officials, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, Hackensack Riverkeeper, Rutherford Downtown Partnership and the heads of the police, schools and health departments — and in addition to almost $115,000 in taxpayer supported planning and design work for the original Bike Ring — the latest version of the plan was approved within minutes of first being presented, without public viewing and without public comment.
Not only does the recent action contradict the Borough Council’s previous work to advance the project — the Council passed five different resolutions supporting the Bike Ring between July 2010 and December 2011 – but it directly flouts Rutherford’s nearly three-year-old Complete Streets policy. These Council actions helped contribute to a grant award of $89,600 in March 2012 to undertake a feasibility study to identify the best route for the project. At the time the grant was awarded, the Borough Council had already approved the first phase of the Bike Ring, which included bike lanes on Orient Way, the spine of the Town’s bike plan.
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Situated in southeastern Westchester County, less than 30 minutes from Grand Central Terminal, Pelham, New York (which is comprised of Pelham Village and Pelham Manor) is compact, about 2.5 square miles and, compared to Westchester’s hilly Hudson River Towns, relatively flat. Visitors walking around Pelham’s well-maintained residential streets or stopping in for a slice at Pelham Pizza along Fifth Avenue, the Town’s main commercial street, might never realize that, according to a recent Journal News article, Pelham is plagued by a lack of available parking at its Metro-North station.
The article highlighted Pelham as having one of the longest waiting lists for train station parking: “The 446 people on the wait list for Pelham outnumber those with permits more than 2 to 1.” However, this does not mean that parking is not available around the train station; the article notes that the price of Metro-North-owned parking is considerably cheaper ($583 annually) than what the Village charges in its own lots ($1,500 - $2,000 annually), no doubt increasing the demand for the railroad parking spaces.
On a tip from a former resident, MTR visited Pelham to see if biking to and from the train station might be a good option for residents who commute to work by train and do not have a train station parking spot.
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If appointed to the Amtrak board of directors, State Senator Charles Fuschillo (right) would give a voice to Long Island Rail Road commuters who rely on Amtrak-owned tunnels to get in and out of Manhattan. | Photo: nysenate.gov
A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in tri-state transportation news.
Stamford Police Department – The Traffic Enforcement Unit, which was disbanded in the late 1990s under then-Mayor Dannel Malloy, is back on the streets in Stamford.
Long Island Rail Road commuters – New York State Senator Charles Fuschillo, who represents commuters who live along the much-maligned Babylon Branch, has been nominated by Senator Chuck Schumer to join Amtrak’s board of directors, giving a voice to LIRR commuters, who depend on the Amtrak-owned East River tunnels to access Manhattan.
New Jersey Department of Transportation – Despite pressure from local officials, NJDOT won’t widen Route 4 in Teaneck, because “congestion related projects compete directly with limited fiscal resources that are available to address safety and to maintain the State’s aging infrastructure.”
US Reps. Earl Blumenaeur, Howard Coble, Mike McCaul, and Peter DeFazio and Sens. Jeff Merkley, Kelly Ayotte, and Brian Schatz – This bipartisan coalition introduced the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act (HR 3494 & S 1708) last week in an effort to help reduce fatalities of pedestrians and cyclists on America’s roads.
New York’s 130 transit systems – Governor Cuomo vetoed the transit lockbox bill, which would have made it more difficult to raid dedicated transit revenue by making the legislative process more transparent. So much for open and accountable government.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and Fernando Mateo – No charges – not even reckless endangerment – will be brought by DA Vance’s office against Mohammed Faysal Himon, the cab driver who struck a cyclist, jumped a curb and gravely injured tourist Sian Green. New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers President Fernando Mateo said in a statement that perhaps stricter regulation of cyclists is the solution.
NYPD – How did the NYPD respond to a series of violent bike thefts on the Willis Avenue Bridge between Manhattan and the Bronx? By ticketing cyclists for riding on the bridge’s shared bicycle-pedestrian path. The department is also recommending that you bring along a flashlight if you’re going to be out walking at night.
South Plainfield (NJ) Mayor Matthew Anesh – Mayor Anesh says “he’ll continue to fight to get [red light] cameras removed” from his community.
A “vision zero” approach to traffic enforcement, including strategies discussed by former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton yesterday, should be adopted by communities throughout the region — not just in New York City. | Photo: Kate Hinds/WNYC
There’s been a good deal of media attention given to a Vision Zero approach to reduce pedestrian fatalities on New York City streets. But, with new data showing pedestrian fatalities increasing in some places in the tri-state region, a Vision Zero approach must take root in the region as well.
According to data released last week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle deaths in the United States increased last year, from 32,479 fatalities in 2011 to 33,561 deaths in 2012. But, pedestrian fatalities increased at a greater rate than motor vehicle deaths. In 2012, 4,743 pedestrians were killed on the nation’s roadways, a 6.4 percent increase from 2011 (4,457). As Streetsblog points out,“Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths rose faster than the overall rate [of motor vehicle deaths]— 6.4 and 6.5 percent, respectively…Walking and biking are becoming more dangerous relative to driving.”
While TSTC’s annual analysis, Most Dangerous Roads for Walking, will be released early 2014, preliminary analysis of the three years from 2009 through 2011 (the time period of our last analysis) and 2010 through 2012 shows mixed progress:
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In New York State, more than 50 local communities have passed Complete Streets policies and laws, and in many instances the next question on their agenda is, “Now what?”
This December, Tri-State Transportation Campaign is partnering with the New York Academy of Medicine to deliver a two-part webinar on Complete Streets implementation. These webinars will be open to all audiences who are interested in learning about steps to take after a Complete Streets policy is in place. Representatives from municipal agencies and community-based organizations, transportation professionals, planners and all others interested in learning more about implementation of Complete Streets projects are encouraged to participate. The webinars are free, but you must register here.
Moving into Action: Planning and Implementing Complete Streets Projects – December 11, 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Panelists: Nadine Lemmon, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Christopher Eastman, NYS Department of State, Jamie Konkoski, North Country Healthy Heart Network
This first webinar will support participants in thinking about aspects of planning and implementing Complete Streets policies and projects. Issues covered will include:
- Getting everyone to the table
- Understanding the decision process for transportation projects
- Culture wars, liability, costs? Identifying and overcoming your community’s concerns
- New tools for planning and implementation
- Challenges in a rural community
- Complete Streets and the revised State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) forms
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Elected officials, nonprofit and business leaders, transit officials and members of the general public gathered for a discussion on bus rapid transit (BRT) and transit oriented development (TOD) in Rockland County this past Friday. | Photo: Steven Higashide/TSTC
As the Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force moves towards its final report on mass transit recommendations for the I-287 Corridor, state and local elected officials, nonprofit and business leaders, as well as transit officials and members of the general public gathered for a discussion in Rockland County on the potential benefits and financing opportunities related to bus rapid transit (BRT) and transit oriented development (TOD) this past Friday. The event, organized by Tri-State and co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Westchester and Groundwork Hudson Valley, included speakers from five different states, each of whom had particular and extensive experience with planning or financing transit projects or related development. By the end of the program, it was clear that BRT is not only possible in the I-287 Corridor, but when combined with smart TOD planning, could be utilized as a tool to revolutionize mobility in the Hudson Valley and revitalize local communities.
The event opened with a welcome from Chairwoman of the Rockland County Legislature Harriet Cornell, a strong supporter of improved transportation options for Rockland commuters. Joseph Calabrese, CEO, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, followed with a presentation that detailed the implementation of the HealthLine BRT system and the critical role this new transit option had in revitalizing Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue. Calabrese noted that although BRT was not the region’s first choice, it has been a greater success than people expected (and at a fraction of the cost of a rail alternative) because it was well planned and implemented. ”If we had done rail, it would have cost more than $1 billion, and it never would have gotten done,” said Calabrese. “So we did the best we could with what we had, and it’s been wildly successful.”
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The most congested roads on Long Island, highlighted in purple. | Map credit: Patchogue Patch
Segments of Long Island’s Sunrise Highway in Nassau County and Route 25A in Suffolk County are two of the most congested areas in New York, according to 2011 New York State data published in the Patchogue Patch.
The stretch of Sunrise Highway between Route 135 and Route 107 in Massapequa has three lanes in each direction and average daily traffic of 52,729, while a mile east, between Park Boulevard and 27A sees average daily traffic of 51,951 and also has a total of six lanes. Rounding out the list is Brookhaven’s Route 25A between Echo Avenue and Route 83. This road has two lanes (five total where there is a turning lane) in each direction and sees average daily traffic of 50,560.
Part of the reason these roads have such high average daily traffic stems from the way they are designed. While certain areas within these segments have sidewalks on at least one side of the street, these sidewalks are far from contiguous. By creating an environment that doesn’t welcome walking or bicycling, like a road with multiple lanes of fast moving vehicles and nothing to help people safely walk or cross, driving becomes the only “reasonable” mode of transportation. It should come as no surprise then that these roads rank among the most heavily congested on Long Island.
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For immediate release: November 14, 2013
Contact: Nadine Lemmon, 917-767-7698
Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool issued the following statement in response to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s veto of the Transit Lockbox Bill (S.3837/A.5084):
Governor Cuomo’s veto of the Transit Lockbox Bill (S.3837/ A.5084) sends the wrong message to New Yorkers who ride buses and trains, and who seek fiscal transparency. The veto means that taxes and fees dedicated to public transit will remain extremely vulnerable to budget raids. The Transit Lockbox has the support of hundreds of civic and business groups, and it passed the legislature unanimously. The public and the legislature recognize that diverting specially-dedicated transit funds to plug budget gaps is simply wrong.
The Transit Lockbox is solely a transparency bill. It creates a “diversion impact statement” which details how the diversion of transit funds impacts service, safety and maintenance for transit systems across the state.
Supporters of the bill would like to thank State Senator Marty Golden and State Assemblyman Jim Brennan for their hard work championing this bill.
The Transit Lockbox is supported by these organizations.