Election 2014: It’s Not All Bad News

Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut won a close race for reelection. | Image: ctnews.com

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, a proponent of transit-oriented development and improved rail service, won a close race for reelection. | blog.ctnews.com

Now that the votes have been counted, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of bad news for sustainable transportation policy across the nation: Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, a known climate change denier, is poised to lead the Environment and Public Works Committee, Wisconsin Governor (and avid highway expander) Scott Walker won reelection, and Massachusetts failed to defeat a ballot measure which ends gas tax indexing.

But if you look hard enough, you’ll find there’s some good news too.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

NYC Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announcing the installation of Queens slow zones. | Photo: Twitter @JimmyVanBramer

NYC Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announcing the installation of Queens slow zones. | Photo: Twitter

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

WINNERS

New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer – Sunnyside Gardens, Woodside and Sunnyside will be included in two new slow zones coming to Queens.

Linden, NJ – Linden’s City Council passed a unanimous resolution in support of “the renewal of the red light camera program in the interest of public safety” – a powerful statement in the face of increasingly vocal opposition.

Connecticut – ConnDOT adopted a departmental Complete Streets policy which “enables the alignment of transportation funds to encourage improvements for non-motorized users,” such as the road diet planned for East Hartford and the addition of bike racks to 50 train cars.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals – New Haven, CT’s Gateway Community College has received a $250,000 subsidy from the company to halve bus fares for college students over the next five years.

Retirees – Americans are outliving their ability to drive safely, and nonprofits are stepping in to connect housing choice and transportation options for the aging.

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Reforming the Port Authority, Part I: Transparency

The next six to twelve months will tell us whether the Port Authority is taking transparency seriously. Many encouraging promises have been made, now they need to be kept. The Port has some work to do to increase fiscal transparency.

John Kaehny, Reinvent Albany

If there’s one good thing that came out of Bridgegate, it was the fact that the public spotlight illuminated the inner workings of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), and revealed the need for a little more “sunshine” to enable the public to keep watch.

Mobilizing the Region asked John Kaehny, Executive Director of Reinvent Albany, what was on his “transparency wish list” for the agency, and we got quite a hefty to-do list in response. One of Kaehny’s biggest wishes is for an improvement to the accessibility of public documents, including Freedom of Information Law requests. He strongly asserted that all documents must be made available online in a downloadable, machine-readable format — including proposed budgets, committee briefing packets, contracts and property transactions. Making these documents easily available would not only increase transparency, but would potentially reduce the number of incoming FOIL requests by making frequently FOIL’ed information easily available to interested parties.

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This Wednesday: Newark Safe Routes to School Stakeholder Meeting

Approximately 40 percent of households in Newark, NJ do not own a vehicle, contributing to the city’s high rate of students who walk to school. Through the federal Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure grant program, and under the guidance of Meadowlink, local community groups are partnering with select schools in Newark to create safer, more walkable neighborhoods for school-aged children and the larger community:

La Casa de Don Pedro and Horton School and McKinley School
Ironbound Community Corporation and Hawkins School
Urban League of Essex County and 13th Ave School, Sussex School and Camden Street School

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 5 from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m at the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority office, which is easily walkable from Newark Penn Station.

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Save the Date: Implementing Complete Streets Projects Using New and Existing Funds

Adopting a Complete Streets policy is an excellent first step toward making roads safer and more accessible for users of all ages and abilities, but as we’ve said before: it’s how the policy is implemented that really makes a difference. Several municipalities in the tri-state region have successfully adopted Complete Streets policies, but the implementation of pedestrian and bicyclist improvements has been a challenge in some places.

As part of its Prevention Agenda Webinar Series, the University of Albany’s School of Public Health is hosting a free, live webcast about Complete Streets. Tri-State’s own Nadine Lemmon and City of Milwaukee Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Kristin Bennett will help participants learn how to identify and access new and existing funding sources to help communities become more competitive for these funds. This program will explain the differences between federal, state and local funding sources and describe how to identify low-cost solutions to advance Complete Streets policies and projects. The costs and benefits of funding larger infrastructure projects will also be discussed, including the costs of grant-writing, the importance of community buy-in and the challenges of administering a federal aid project.

Implementing Complete Streets Projects Using New and Existing Funding
Thursday, November 6, 2014
11:00am – 12:00pm

Click here to register for this event.

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Camden’s Large Carless Population Deserves Priority

Parking lots dominate some areas of the Camden waterfront. Image Source: www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com

Parking lots dominate some areas of the Camden waterfront. Image Source: www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com

Spend any time at all in Camden, New Jersey and you’ll notice people getting around without cars. Rutgers students flood out of PATCO and RiverLINE stations in the mornings and afternoons. Residents walk to work, transit hubs and local restaurants and shops. Whether by choice or out of necessity, locals rely on travel modes other than driving. To serve this large population, funding for transportation networks that accommodate Camden’s non-drivers must be prioritized by state and local agencies, and must be reflected in New Jersey’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for the region.

recent study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group showed that millennials accross the country are choosing to live and work in places where they don’t have to drive. This is also true in Camden, where students who either commute to Rutgers University-Camden or live nearby are shunning cars in favor of commuting by public transit, on foot or by bicycle. According to the US Census, just 4.9 percent of workers nationwide aged sixteen and older commute by public transit and 2.5 percent walk to work. Compare that to Camden, where nearly 16 percent of workers aged sixteen and older take public transportation to work, and 6.5 percent commute on foot.

Nearly 35 percent of occupied housing units in Camden do not own a motor vehicle–a rate nearly four times higher than the national average of 8.9 percent. This largely carless culture is due in part to factors like the high cost of owning and maintaining a motor vehicle. Regardless of the reasons behind low car use, these numbers clearly show that additional investments in transit, sidewalks, bike lanes and trails will improve the safety and convenience of getting around Camden for all residents, and will surely help convince more people to ditch their cars.

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All Aboard the “Hartford Line”

hartford-line-logo

Central Connecticut’s forthcoming commuter rail system, until today known as the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Program, is being branded as the “Hartford Line” according to a press release from Governor Malloy’s office today.

This is the second time Connecticut officials have rebranded a transportation service in the years prior to launching. In 2012, the State officially renamed the “Hartford-New Britain Busway” CTfastrak.

The Hartford Line will  bring “faster, frequent and more reliable passenger service,” but its benefits don’t stop there. It will also help decongest highways around Greater Hartford, where more than 80 percent of commuters currently drive alone. The rail line is also expected to bring transit-oriented development to areas near stations, not just in Knowledge Corridor’s major cities, but also in the smaller towns in between.

Construction on new and improved rail stations in Wallingford, Meriden and Berlin — which are currently served only by six daily Amtrak trains — will begin this fall and will be completed by late 2016, when Hartford Line service is scheduled to begin.

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Cuomo Must Act Regarding Port Authority Transparency

Two key bills that would vastly improve public disclosure and accountability at the beleaguered Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are currently awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature. Unfortunately, in a recently-released Citizens Union candidate questionnaire, the Governor fails to answer a direct question asking if he supports the bills. Instead, his response appears to punt leadership on the decision to yet another “Special Panel.”

As part of a longer question, the Citizens Union questionnaire directly asks “Do you support S. 6718-C/A.8785-C of 2014…” and “S.7721/A.3944-C”? The Governor’s response includes no mention of these bills:

It is vital that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey fulfill its regional mission. In 2011, at the direction of Governor Christie and myself, the Port Authority undertook a comprehensive review that led to improvements in operations, capital planning, and financial controls. However, it is clear that more remains to be done—as result [sic], in May of this year, we created a bi-state Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority. We charged the panel to review and evaluate reforms of the Port Authority’s mission, structure, management, operations and governance. The panel has already presented an initial status report, and will return to us with a set of comprehensive recommendations for reform by the end of this year.

Given that the Port Authority is a bi-state agency, identical legislation needs to be passed and signed in both New York and New Jersey. This spring, the New York legislature played their part by passing the two New York bills. The two New Jersey bills are now scheduled for the upcoming Assembly State & Local Government Committee hearing, after hitting a roadblock in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Governor Cuomo’s signature on these bills would be a strong show of leadership, and send a clear message to New Jersey and the Port Authority that the time is now to step out in front of this mess.

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Revitalizing Sunrise Highway: WALC Recommendations

sunrisehwySunrise Highway has long been a safety concern for residents of Nassau County, and the news that the New York State Department of Transportation was to focus on safety improvements along the notoriously dangerous roadway — which saw eight pedestrian deaths, 94 collisions involving motorists and pedestrians and 32 collisions involving motorists and bicyclists between 2010 and 2012 — was well-received. However, NYSDOT had undertaken the planning process for a $3.8 million pedestrian safety plan for Sunrise Highway without any local community input.

AARP New York, in partnership with Vision Long Island and Tri-State, reached out to the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (WALC) to conduct three walking audits with community members along the highway. In June, internationally-renowned traffic safety expert Dan Burden led Nassau County elected officials, planners, advocates and residents through Valley Stream, Baldwin and Freeport, guiding the group through an in-depth examination of how design directly impacts behavior on roadways and discussing ideas to make Sunrise Highway safe for all users. WALC then gathered the input, along with Dan Burden’s observations, and generated a series of recommendations for how to transform the corridor into a Complete Street.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

Albany Councilwoman Leah Golby | Photo: albanyny.gov

Albany Councilwoman Leah Golby | Photo: albanyny.gov

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

WINNERS

Councilwoman Leah Golby and the Albany Common Council  – Councilwoman Leah Golby was successful in securing Common Council approval of a red light camera ordinance which stipulates that “All funds in excess of the budgeted revenue… shall be transferred to a Traffic Safety Fund.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – The mayor signed off on a transit tax benefit bill this week, which will save employers and employees beaucoup bucks each year while also encouraging greater use of public transit.

Hoboken, NJ Mayor Dawn Zimmer – In a move to ease the issues associated with free parking, the City is moving to add more parking meters, the revenue from which would contribute to transportation infrastructure funding.

The Harbor Ring – The advocacy organization’s rally for a bike/ped path across the Verrazano Bridge saw an impressive turn-out of elected officials, local organizations, advocates and residents.

Berlin, CT - After a long wait, the completion of the Depot Crossing transit oriented development project was celebrated this week.

Hudson/Bergen Light Rail Commission – The coalition of 12 mayors from Hudson and eastern Bergen counties came together to support an extension of the HBLR to Englewood.

Montclair, NJ bicyclists – The city has unveiled its first bike depot with 24 protected spaces for bikes at the Bay Street train station.

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