Fix-it-First Investment Takes Priority in NJ’s FY 2015 Transportation Capital Program

NJDOT logo colorNew Jersey’s 2015 Transportation Capital Program reveals the state is spending less on unsustainable expansion projects and more on maintenance and preservation. According to Tri-State’s analysis, the FY 2015 Capital Program is dedicating the highest share of funds towards road and bridge maintenance and the lowest percentage of funds to expansion projects in recent memory.

Expansion projects in the 2015 Capital Program comprise only 3 percent of funds and maintenance/preservation projects comprise nearly 32 percent. By comparison, expansion projects made up 10 percent of the 2014 Capital Program funds and maintenance/preservation projects 25 percent; in 2013 expansion projects accounted for about 12 percent of funds and maintenance/preservation projects nearly 30 percent.

In 2015, for every dollar spent on roads or bridges, about 7 cents will go towards expansion while nearly 80 cents will go toward maintaining existing assets. In 2014 and 2013, about 25 cents on every dollar going to road or bridge projects went to expansion, and about 63 cents went to preservation.

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RSVP Now for a Forum on Transportation with Connecticut’s Candidates for Governor

Republican candidate for governor Tom Foley (left) and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (right) will talk about transportation issues this Monday in North Haven. | Photo: Hartford Courant

Republican candidate for governor Tom Foley (left) and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (right) will talk about transportation issues this Monday in North Haven. | Photo: Hartford Courant

Seats for this Monday’s Gubernatorial Forum on Transportation are filling up fast. Don’t miss this chance to hear Governor Dannel Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley explain their positions on transportation issues in Connecticut and respond to questions from the audience. RSVP here.

The forum takes place Monday, September 15 at the Best Western Plus in North Haven. Registration and continental breakfast begin at 8:30 a.m. and the forum will start at 9 a.m. The cost of attendance is $10 per person.

The Gubernatorial Forum on Transportation is hosted by Transit for CT, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, CT Fund for the Environment, Regional Plan Association, CT Association for Community Transportation, CT League of Conservation Voters, Capitol Region Council of Governments, and Connecticut Construction Industries Association.

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Suffolk County Ranked Worst Place for Bicyclists by Bicycling Magazine

“While people may think of flat, wide-open suburbs as conducive to cycling, the roads are really not built for cyclists.” | Photo: Newsday

New York City has been receiving great praise this week for securing first place in Bicycling Magazine‘s America’s Best Bike Cities 2014, but there’s another side to this Best Bike Cities list that hasn’t been as widely reported. The nation’s worst place for biking is also here in the tri-state region, and despite not being a city per se, its reputation is bad enough to land it the title of “worst place to ride:”

So where is the worst place to ride? Well, it’s right near New York — Suffolk County, Long Island. Again, the magazine’s thinking was counter-intuitive, Strickland said: While people may think of flat, wide-open suburbs as conducive to cycling, the roads are really not built for cyclists.

“Really, right now, the worst city is in the suburbs,” Strickland said. “We picked Suffolk to be emblematic of that.”

“Suburban streets were made to move people out of their homes to stores, or out to work,” not for bicycles, he said.

The magazine found that Suffolk County is always one of the most dangerous places in the United States to ride a bicycle. In 2008, the county was the site of 23.8 percent of  all fatalities to cyclists in New York state, despite having less than 8 percent of the state’s population.

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Making Good on Campaign Promise, Mayor Martin Launches Stamford Street Smart Initiative

Stamford Mayor David Martin announced the City's "Street Smart" campaign Tuesday. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Stamford Mayor David Martin announced the “Street Smart” initiative Wednesday. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Stamford Mayor David Martin announced the creation of a new  public safety and awareness initiative on Wednesday. “Stamford Street Smart” will take a “multifaceted approach” to traffic safety and is being led by the Mayor’s office in collaboration with the Stamford Police Department, Operations Department, Stamford Public Schools and community organizations.

The program’s launch was timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year. Sergeant Andrew Gallagher, who heads the Stamford Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Unit, reported that his division on Wednesday had stopped dozens of motorists for distracted driving — a key focus of Stamford Street Smart – and even a few for passing school buses.

Stamford suffers from a sort of dual personality: on some blocks, Stamford seems to be a walkable urban center with several new mixed-use developments; on other blocks, Stamford is more like an automobile-dominated edge city with wide, high-speed streets that make getting around on foot or by bicycle a challenge. So it’s good news that the initiative will focus not only on enforcement and education, but on engineering as well. 

Mayor Martin and Director of Operations Ernie Orgera said the City will review all 205 of Stamford’s signalized intersections, and has already begun to install flashing “No Turn On Red” signage. The City will also repaint crosswalks and re-synchronize the City’s traffic signals — something  that hasn’t been done in 20 years.

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Bronx SBS Success Story Boosts Hopes for Woodhaven Full-Featured BRT

Chicago's Ashland Ave. BRT is looking to replicate  center median-aligned exlusive bus lanes, similar to Cleveland's Healthline BRT. Woodhaven Blvd.'s 10-lane width can easily accommodate similar features. Image: transitchicago.com

Chicago’s Ashland Ave. BRT is looking to replicate center median-aligned exlusive bus lanes, similar to Cleveland’s Healthline BRT. Woodhaven Blvd.’s 10-lane width can easily accommodate similar features. Image: transitchicago.com

All seven of New York City’s Select Bus Service (SBS) lines have proven to be successful, demonstrating improved service, increased ridership, street safety improvements, as well as economic and environmental benefits. Adding to the pile of success stories, the New York City Department of Transportation and the MTA recently released a progress report on the Bx41 SBS line along Webster Avenue in the Bronx, which, like all other SBS routes, has yielded significant improvements for neighborhoods along the line.

Thanks to changes such as off-board fare collection, signal timing improvements and dedicated bus lanes, the Bx41 SBS is operating up to 23 percent faster than the Bx41 Limited route that it replaced. Faster bus travel times have also led to decreased bus delays, with an average time savings of 8.5 minutes per trip. Additionally, total Bx41 ridership has increased nearly 25 percent since it was upgraded to SBS in June 2013. Unsurprisingly, all these improvements led to 97 percent of riders reporting as “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the service.

As NYC DOT and the MTA take steps toward achieving Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious call for a “world-class” bus rapid transit network of 20 routes, all eyes are now on Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens for the next roll out of enhanced bus service.

Though it will be Queens’ first SBS route, its story is familiar: according to feedback from recent community workshops and a 2008 NYC DOT Woodhaven Boulevard Congested Corridors study, the boulevard is plagued with slow and unreliable buses, traffic congestion and dangerous conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike.

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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 City Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Mark Levine | Photo: council.nyc.gov

New York City Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Mark Levine | Photo: council.nyc.gov

WINNERS

Margaret Chin and Mark Levine – After several traffic crashes involving pedestrians in recent weeks, New York City Councilmembers Chin and Levine are calling on the New York City Department of Transportation to implement safety improvements in their districts.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop – Mayor Fulop’s Administration is working to “help tame the streets of the state’s second-largest city” by initiating a trial run of a car-free zone along Newark Avenue.

Berlin, Meriden, New Britain and Stratford, CT – The four communities were collectively awarded $6.6 million in state grants and loans to clean up brownfield sites for transit-oriented development projects.

Companies embracing bike share – Companies ranging from American Express to General Motors are incorporating bike share programs into their workplaces to encourage employees “to get out and be active during the workday.”

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A Better Formula for Safer Streets in Connecticut

Armed with federal money, Connecticut is cracking down on dangerous driving by launching two driver safety campaigns this week.

Monday kicked off the first phase of the state’s speeding crackdown: speeding on rural roads, where ConnDOT says “most speeding-related automobile deaths occur.” This campaign comes with a pool of money available to local municipalities for increased enforcement, special equipment and training. Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said,“The fact is, when speeding is involved in a fatal crash it is never an accident. We can change this deliberate behavior.”

And today is the first day of the statewide “U Drive. U Text. U Pay,” initiative, during which more than 25 towns and cities across the state will launch individual enforcement campaigns targeting texting drivers. A ConnDOT spokesman said that the state received the grant “because of its strict distracted driving laws and steady enforcement.”

It is great that ConnDOT is championing increased enforcement and education to encourage safer driving, but these measures alone will not make the state’s roads safer. ConnDOT must also increase funds to implement the state’s Complete Streets law. According to ConnDOT’s 2010-2013 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), the state only spent 1 percent of its total transportation dollars on walking and biking infrastructure. Connecticut should also adopt the more progressive NACTO roadway guidelines and update its own Highway Design Manual, which is so outdated that it contradicts municipal Complete Streets efforts.

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Speed Camera Controversy in Nassau County Shows Speeding Bigger Problem than Realized

A "mobile unit" speed camera on patrol in Bethpage. | Photo: Newsday

A “mobile unit” speed camera on patrol in Bethpage. | Photo: Newsday

Late last month, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano dismissed almost $2.5 million in speed camera violations because roughly a quarter of the 40,000 tickets issued were found to be issued in error. The 56 speed cameras are to be active during school events and placed anywhere within a quarter of a mile of school.

Today, with schools back in session, those speed cameras go live again, this time with Nassau County’s elected officials calling for greater signage and giving motorists a ‘heads-up’ as to the cameras’ locations. But the real story about Nassau County’s speed cameras is being missed: speeding is an even more chronic problem in Nassau County than people initially thought.

Even if you remove the roughly 10,000 disputed tickets from the total speed camera tickets issued, the remaining 30,000 tickets, issued in just a month at a handful of locations, accounted for more speeding tickets than were issued by Nassau County police officers in all of 2012, according to Governor Cuomo’s Traffic Safety Committee.

Instead of letting motorists know where not to speed by identifying the locations of speed camera technology, Nassau County’s elected officials should hold those who routinely and deliberately jeopardize lives and threaten public safety accountable by advocating for additional speed camera technology and more flexibility to combat what is clearly an epidemic of dangerous driving on Nassau County’s roadways.

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Capitalizing on Existing Infrastructure: LIE HOV Potential

LIE HOVLast month, the Long Island Business News included a special section about the Long Island Expressway, analyzing the history of the project, to the land use patterns it fostered along the corridor

The special report examines the history of the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane which turned 20 years old this year. Over the past three decades, the nearly $900 million HOV lane has helped encourage carpooling along the notoriously congested I-495 corridor by requiring cars to have at least two occupants. Additionally, it has encouraged greener vehicle options allowing access to the HOV lane for single drivers displaying a ‘Clean Pass Vehicle’ sticker.

But as we look towards the next twenty years for the HOV lane, how can this nearly billion dollar investment be better utilized?

According to 2013 NYS Department of Transportation data counts at Exit 50 (Bagatelle Road), the HOV2+ lane during the 9 restricted hours (6-10am and 3-8pm) accommodated 31 percent of all people moving along the LIE on 25 percent of lanes designated as HOV.

While this number may seem impressive, what is more heartening is that these lanes can accommodate a much greater percentage of people. While 31 percent of people using the LIE avail themselves of the HOV lanes during restricted times, only 16.6 percent of vehicles are using the HOV lane.

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NICE Bus Riders Calling for a ‘Fair’ Increase

An anonymous rider, with three children, shares their desire for how they'd like to see their extra 25 cents be invested in the NICE bus system. | Photo: Long Island Bus Riders Union

An anonymous rider, with three children, shares their desire for how they’d like to see their extra 25 cents be invested in the NICE bus system. | Photo: Long Island Bus Riders Union

It took a dire financial deficit in the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) Bus budget to finally persuade Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to increase the county’s contribution to the system from the state mandated minimum. But even a 70 percent increase in the county’s contribution wasn’t enough to protect riders from yet another fare increase to maintain escalating costs of existing service. This past May, NICE CEO Michael Setzer announced that NICE would be implementing a more than 10 percent increase in fares for cash-paying riders to close the funding gap.  Cash paying riders are often the lowest-income riders of a system, usually purchasing fares in small increments due to limited funds. They will now pay $2.50 per ride to get to work, ironically beginning on Labor Day.

The public hearings held by the Nassau County Bus Transit Committee to discuss the fare hike were almost impossible for riders to attend.

In response, the Long Island Bus Riders Union is launching a My FAIR Increase Campaign. In recent weeks the group has been polling bus riders to see how they would like their 50 cents more per day, or $125 more per year, be invested in the system. Those demands will be delivered during a demonstration by riders at NICE headquarters on Tuesday, September 2. They will also be delivered to Nassau County officials during the next meeting of the full legislature on Sunday, September 8.

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