CTfastrak to Hold Informational Open Houses, Starting Tonight

CTfastrak, Connecticut’s new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, is rapidly gearing up for its opening day early next spring. The new service will provide a connection between the cities of New Britain and Hartford along an exclusive dedicated busway. In preparation for CTfastrak’s launch, ConnDOT is ramping up its public outreach to help potential riders learn to navigate the new system with a series of open houses throughout the next two months in communities along the new system’s route. The new sessions will provide scheduling information and include the planned route maps. The sessions will include a model of the new ticket vending machines so that riders can get comfortable with the new off-board proof-of-payment fare system, similar to the New Jersey Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and MTA Select Bus Service fare systems.

The first open house will be held tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hartford Public Library on Main Street, and the next event dates are as follows:

  • Thursday, December 4 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Old State House, 800 Main St, Hartford
  • Tuesday, December 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. at CCSU ITBD Center, 185 Main St., New Britain
  • Wednesday, December 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Elmwood Senior Center, 1106 New Britain Ave., West Hartford
  • Monday, December 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Newington High School, 605 Willard Ave., Newington
  • Wednesday, December 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Waterbury City Hall, 235 Grand St., Waterbury
  • Tuesday, January 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Municipal Center, 196-200 N. Main St., Southington
  • Wednesday, January 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Plainville Public Library, 56 E. Main St., Plainville
  • Wednesday, January 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Cheshire Town Hall, 85 S. Main St., Cheshire
  • Thursday, January 22 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Bristol Public Library, 5 High St, Bristol

 

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Connecticut Gov, Transportation Advocates and State Officials to Talk Jobs Access

Transportation advocates, Governor Dannel P. Malloy and state officials will gather tomorrow, December 3, for the “Getting to Work:  Transportation and Jobs Access for the 21st Century” event, hosted by the Capitol Region Council of Governments,Connecticut Association for Community Transportation, Transit for Connecticut, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, the Connecticut Construction Industries AssociationRegional Plan Association, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Robert Puentes, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and director of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative, will kick off the event as the keynote speaker.  Panelists, presenters and guest speakers include Christof Speiler of the Reimagining Houston METRO project, Lyle Wray of Connecticut’s Capitol Region Council of Governments and several influential state, local and municipal leaders. The two panel discussions “The Importance of Transportation to Jobs Access” and “Attracting New Riders:  Using Technology to Get Around” will highlight opportunities and barriers surrounding the use of public transportation in the state.

Click here to view the full program for this free event.

“Getting To Work” – Forum on Transportation & Jobs Access in the 21st Century
Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 9 a.m. to 12 noon (Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.)
Legislative Office Building, Room 2C, 300 Capital Ave, Hartford

It’s not too late to sign up to attend! To RSVP, call (860) 693-0368 or send an email to mary.cact@yahoo.com.

 

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Can the Reinvention Commission Recommendations Unite Our Fractured Regional Transit System?

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 7.48.16 PMJust in time to feast on before the Thanksgiving holiday, the final report of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Transportation Reinvention Commission was released today, identifying seven key strategies to help the agency plan, prepare for and fund the next 100 years of transit investments.

While various outlets will focus on the funding, customer service and project delivery overhauls, there are key recommendations that acknowledge the interconnectedness of the MTA with transit systems and facilities in the tri-state region, a region where transit agencies and authorities operate independently of one another otheroften in a vacuum. Given Tri-State’s regional role and our seat at the Reinvention Commission roundtable, we’ve highlighted the recommendations from the report that have implications for all beneficiaries of the MTA’s bus, subway and rail systems in the agency’s three state service territory:

Prioritize new fare media to facilitate seamless travel across the region. [Strategy Three, p.37]
With commuters from all three states using multiple transportation modes and systems, integrating fare media across various agenciesMTA, NJ Transit, PATH, NICE, Bee-Line, Tappan Zee Express, etc.would provide seamless connectivity and ease of transfer.

Increase connectivity between MTA and other regional transportation providers. [Strategy Four, p. 42]
The MTA network operates in a region with other transit agencies and facilities, yet transit planning is often siloed within state and agency jurisdictions. This often leads to fractured approaches to transit needs that impact more than one agency (e.g. capacity/infrastructure constraints at Penn Station; outdated Trans-Hudson tunnels, terminals and tracks)

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We’d Be More Thankful If…

macys-parade-600x450

Photo: people.com

Before we succumb to the increasingly aggressive Christmas creep, we’d like to take a moment to honor another important holiday coming up. No, not National Cookie Day (but that’s coming up on December 4 — mark your calendar). We’re talking, of course, about Thanksgiving.

We’ve got a lot to be thankful for here at MTR, like New York City’s lower default speed limit, the passage of a vulnerable users bill in Connecticut, and New Jersey legislators pushing forward Port Authority transparency. And while some may be thankful for declining Thanksgiving gas prices, it’s worth noting that the number of travelers is skyrocketing.

Yes, there are plenty of reasons to be thankful, but we’d be a lot more thankful if:

Traffic deaths weren’t a requirement for getting safety improvements on our streets — “Let’s wait until someone is struck and killed before we make traffic safety improvements,” said no one ever. But unfortunately, that’s often what it takes to get local governments to fix unsafe street conditions.

New York and New Jersey’s elected officials had to commute via bus or train — We feel pretty confident that if the Port Authority Bus Terminal or Penn Station were part of the daily commute for our states’ leaders, the Gateway Project would be moving forward with real funding, the city’s bus terminals would receive more than a one percent funding priority in the Port Authority capital programand NJ Transit service would be more reliable.

Connecticut cities started acting like cities — Hartford is planning to add over 1,400 new parking spots in the Downtown North district, New Haven’s Route 34 West project looks like something you’d see in a suburban office park, and Stamford’s new Street Smart program doesn’t address the downtown area’s wide arterials that shun pedestrians and bicyclists.

New Jersey drivers were any good at math – We can’t help but add to the pile of disparaging things that have been said about New Jersey drivers. Increasing the state’s gas tax—the second lowest in the nation—by 25 cents per gallon would cost the average driver an additional $292 each year. Last we checked, that’s less than half of what the average NJ driver pays in extra repair costs due to poor roads.

» Continue reading…

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$1 Billion and Counting: New York’s Non-MTA Transit Capital Needs

NYPTA's New Report Identifies $1 billion in capital needs for non-MTA transit

NYPTA’s New Report Identifies $1 billion in capital needs for non-MTA transit

Yesterday, the New York Public Transit Association (NYPTA) released their report “Five Year Capital Program for Upstate and Downstate Transit” which outlines the critical capital investment needs for non-MTA urban transit systems across the state. While the MTA first issued a multi-year capital program more than 30 years ago, NYPTA’s report represents the first ever comprehensive attempt to develop a five-year capital plan for New York’s non-MTA systems.

And the need is substantial. There are more than 100 systems covering nearly every county in the state, and carrying over 550,000 passengers each and every day. Yet, the projected capital deficit is $577 million. Making matters worse, these system are using capital funds for operations, accelerating the wear and tear on facilities and equipment. The lack of capital investment and dedicated capital and operating funding streams over the years has led to outdated systems that break down, disrupt service and incur higher costs when transit providers attempt to regain a state of good repair. Unfortunately, existing revenues are projected to cover just 43 percent of these identified capital needs.

The report details $1 billion in upcoming infrastructure needs between 2015-2019, with over 80 percent of the identified need going solely to repair and replace existing core system assets. The remaining 20 percent is slated for expansions and upgrades, such as bus rapid transit, to accommodate record transit ridership—for example, the report notes that ridership is up seven percent in the Capital District.

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Connecticut Cities Join — and Climb — the Ranks of Bicycle Friendly Communities

Image: simsbury-ct.gov

Simsbury moved up from Bronze to Silver in 2014’s rankings. | Image: simsbury-ct.gov

Two Connecticut cities were named Bicycle Friendly Communities by the League of American Bicyclists this week. Both New Haven and New Britain received Bronze-level designations, joining Farmington, South Windsor and West Hartford.

The Bicycle Friendly Communities program evaluates communities based on how welcoming they are to cycling from the entry level (Bronze) to all-star (Diamond). Bicycle Friendly Communities often have Complete Streets policies, active cyclists groups, bike lanes, relatively low crash rates, and higher than average percentages of people who regularly bike to work.

New Haven‘s selection as a Bicycle Friendly Community is an obvious one: the Elm City has strong local bike advocates, adopted the state’s first local Complete Streets policy, published its own Complete Streets design manual, and has had visionary leadership in its Department of Transportation for the last several years. Former Director of Transportation Jim Travers launched the City’s Street Smarts campaign and oversaw a tenfold increase in marked bike routes, while his successor, Doug Hausladen, is seeking to speed up the implementation of traffic calming projects and separated bicycle facilities.

New Britain launched a bike connectivity study in 2013 and has been working on promoting its bicycle-friendliness in recent months. With CTfastrak — the region’s first true bus rapid transit system — set to open in 2015, local leaders see the benefit of an improved cycling network in becoming a more multi-modal — and less car-oriented — community.

The Town of Simsbury, which became a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community in 2010, was the only Connecticut town that advanced in the rankings this year, becoming the first in the state to receive the League’s Silver designation.

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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.

Congresswoman Grace Meng | Photo: Facebook

Congresswoman Grace Meng | Photo: Facebook

WINNERS

New Jersey Assembly – There was not a single vote cast against either of the two Port Authority transparency bills that were passed during last Thursday’s Assembly hearing.

Congresswoman Grace Meng The Congresswoman is supporting the Liao family in their efforts to obtain justice against the driver who killed three year-old Allison Liao.

Central Park users  The City has announced a speed limit reduction to 20 mph for the park, among other safety improvements. Banning cars, unfortunately, is not one of them.

Traffic safety advocates The NYC DOT introduced its new comprehensive, interactive Vision Zero View tool the same day that the NYC Department of Health announced that it has begun making traffic-related bicycle and pedestrian injury data available on its website. Here’s hoping other departments pick up the pace with tracking crashes!

Queens Boulevard users  The speed limit for one of NYC’s most notorious speedways will be dropped to 25mph.

New Haven businesses Some companies in the New Haven area are providing shuttles for employees and staggering work schedules in an effort to alleviate congestion and ease commutes.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal – The Connecticut Senator has renewed his call for a full restoration of the federal commuter tax benefit.

» Continue reading…

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New Jersey Groups Call for Permanent Fix to State Transportation Problems

The Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee will hold its fourth and final special hearing regarding the state’s Transportation Trust Fund on Thursday morning as part of the 99th Annual New Jersey State League of Municipalities Conference, now underway in Atlantic City.

Navigating the transportation funding debate is complicated. While the public debate has focused primarily on increasing taxes and creating additional revenue streams, this is only part of the discussion. Clear and concise answers to some of the most complex questions regarding bonding, debt, current and future transportation projects are essential to an informed conversation by all stakeholders from the bus rider to the state’s transportation commissioner.

With skepticism and frustration regarding the condition of the state’s transportation assets and systems, a clear explanation of the accounting behind the soon-to-be bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund is required.

For these reasons, Tri-State, along with New Jersey FutureRegional Plan Association (RPA), New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) New Jersey State Joint Council today released a list of questions to guide a transparent and informed discussion about transportation funding between state lawmakers and the public:

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PATH Riders’ Council Tackles Key Issues, but Concerns about Transparency Linger

Image: panynj.gov

Image: panynj.gov

Next week will mark the third meeting of the recently-formed PATH Riders’ Council, which gathered for a mostly introductory meeting in July, followed by a September meeting where the group began getting down to business. The meeting minutes list the following focus areas, which MTR called attention to in a post published prior to the September meeting:

  • Technology (displays, info, communication with riders)
  • Service (frequency, capacity, expansion)
  • Communications (communication with riders, feedback loop to riders)

The public minutes also reveal an interesting mandate from PATH Director/General Manager Stephen Kingsberry to the Council, who references the MTR post:

Reminded PRC members that they should not be responding to members of the Press directly as representative of PATH and/or divulging sensitive information discussed during closed session meetings; he referenced the article by Vincent Pellecchia, “A Full Plate for the PATH Riders’ Council

To be clear, the “article” referenced was not prepared nor written with input from anyone on the Council, but rather guided and informed via the public meeting minutes from the July meeting and published media coverage of the meeting.

» Continue reading…

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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.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer | Photo: schumer.senate.gov

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer | Photo: schumer.senate.gov

WINNERS

New York City Health Department — The department’s Center for Health Equity released its first report, which recommends ways to increase “active transportation” for students in areas with high obesity rates, such as adding bike racks and creating and expanding bike lane networks.

New York City Councilwoman Margaret Chin — The councilwoman is calling for enforcement of traffic safety laws to protect pedestrians and cyclists, and has also announced legislation calling on the Department of Transportation to perform a study of the safety impacts of major truck routes through the city.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer — In his continued effort to “restore parity between commuters and drivers,” the Senator is again pushing to expand the commuter tax benefit to those who use mass transit.

Connecticut commuters — Metro-North’s new train schedule went into effect this week, which means more trains more often for those traveling between New Haven and Grand Central.

Port Authority Bus Terminal commuters — There have been some dramatic improvements to bus service operations at the facility, resulting in a 23 percent increase in the number of buses during rush hour and a 50 percent decrease in customer complaints. Still have issues you’d like to discuss with officials? Make sure to attend tomorrow evening’s PABT Commuter Chat session.

» Continue reading…

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