MTA’s Capital Plan: A (Partial) Eye Towards Long Island Railroad’s Future

LIRR MTA CPWith 83 million passengers a year, the Long Island Rail Road is the busiest commuter railroad in the nation and the economic engine for Long Island. It is also the nation’s oldest commuter rail system, and as such, the MTA’s proposed 2015-2019 Capital Program allocates nearly 10 percent of total expenditures to the system with a focus on better maintenance of core infrastructure to create a more resilient system

More than 60 percent of the proposed LIRR allocation will go to maintaining the basics—rolling stock, stations, track, communications/signals, power, shops and yards, bridges and viaducts—but the plan also targets service improvements that will get the system ready for its new access point in Manhattan: Grand Central Terminal.

At the moment, Penn Station is the only Manhattan stop for LIRR, and the station is at capacity during crucial points of the day. The completion of East Side Access will provide a much-needed second access point into Grand Central Terminal, enabling increased service opportunities and system redundancy. To get ready for that future day, the Capital Program proposes expanding capacity at Jamaica, a critical transfer station, and adding train storage and track capacity at key locations.

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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.

Hoboken, NJ Mayor Dawn Zimmer | Photo: http://www.dawnzimmer.com/

Hoboken, NJ Mayor Dawn Zimmer | Photo: dawnzimmer.com

WINNERS

New York City Council – The Council passed two important bills yesterday: one instituting a commuter tax benefit and another setting the city’s default speed limit to 25 mph.

The Business Council of Fairfield County vice president of public policy and programs Joseph J. McGee – McGee pulled together five mayors from Fairfield County, CT and Westchester County, NY to discuss how improving their transportation systems is vital to their cities’ growth.

Hoboken, NJ Mayor Dawn Zimmer – The mayor’s big thinking includes Complete Streets redesigns of Washington Street and Sinatra Drive and a joint-city bike share program with Weehawken.

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TSTC Releases Second Annual LIRR “Laggy” Analysis

Overcrowding MTA Flickr

Fast-tracking projects such as the Double Track and and re-booting the Third Track project will reduce congestion, delays and overcrowding, and boost the region’s economy. Photo: MTA Flickr

Tri-State Transportation Campaign released its second annual Laggy Analysis, which ranks the 11 branches of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) according to the greatest lost economic productivity, delay per rider and total lost time.

Tri-State’s analysis found that late, cancelled and terminated LIRR trains led to $68,545,440 in lost economic productivity from July 2013 through June 2014 . For the second consecutive year, the Babylon branch contributed the most to lost productivity and lost time due to delays. The Port Jefferson branch had the greatest levels of delay per rider at 22.3 lost hours annually.

The LIRR is an economic lifeline for Nassau and Suffolk County’s economies. Nearly 300,000 riders rely on the LIRR to travel between Long island and New York City for work, and the system contributes up to $50 million daily into the region’s economy. Delays on key LIRR branches held the railroad back from contributing even more to the region, with overall increases in lost economic cost, hours lost and delay per rider compared to last year’s analysis.

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TSTC Analysis: Speed Kills Near Nassau County Schools

nassau school zone

Newsday‘s Editorial Board said of the speed camera controversy in Nassau County: “No one reported an epidemic of serious accidents in school zones recently.”

However, a TSTC analysis reveals that there is in fact a high risk of being struck by a vehicle within a quarter mile of a school Nassau County. In 2012 alone, among the 37 pedestrians killed on Nassau County’s streets, 14 were hit within a quarter of a mile of school, accounting for nearly 40 percent of total pedestrian fatalities countywide. Though not everyone killed in these areas were school-age children, such a high probability of pedestrian deaths occurring near schools should raise concerns about potential traffic dangers for children, and call for more dedicated measures to enhance pedestrian safety.

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Hoboken and Weehawken Seeking Bike Share Input

Bike-Share-locations-mapHelp improve bike access and mobility in Hoboken and Weehawken! Where would you like to see a bike share station: near your favorite restaurant, at a movie theater, in the park, in front of your office building?

As the cities prepare to launch the first phase of a 300-bicycle joint bike share program this fall, the public has a key opportunity to identify where they’d like bike share stations to be located. Suggestions can be input directly into this map.

By adding bike share, Hoboken and Weehawken are taking the next step to increase transportation choices for residents, making it easier to access the PATH, ferries and buses, and to more easily travel between and within the two cities. Hoboken and Weehawken will join only a handful of New Jersey communities that currently offer bike share: Collingswood, Camden County, and Rutgers New Brunswick.

The deadline for feedback is Wednesday October 8.

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Rate the Ride: Aaron’s Adventure

LIBRU RtR 2Bus riders in Nassau County are facing unrelenting fare increases and unmet service needs, while the County Executive completely reneges on a commitment to help fill the NICE Bus deficit. State legislators ignored pleas from elected officials and advocates for increased county transit funding and let the state’s legislative session end without securing additional funds to support last year’s wildly successful weekend service expansion on Suffolk County Transit.  If state and local representatives in these counties can’t advocate for the frustrated bus riderswho can?

To draw attention to the importance of Long Island’s public transportation system and the struggles its riders face, the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union is hosting its first-ever “Rate the Ride: Aaron’s Adventure” event. Aaron Watkins-Lopez, a LIBRU organizer, and other BRU members will be embarking on a two-day journey to traverse Long Island from Jamaica, Queens to the North and South forks of the Island using only the bus systems. The trip will begin on Wednesday, October 15 at the Jamaica Station and end at the East Hampton Long Island Railroad Station on Thursday, October 16. During the endeavor, the group will be live Tweeting, Facebooking and blogging their struggles and successes, as well as their conversations with other riders they encounter along the way.

If you’d rather join in than tune in, please contact Aaron Watkins-Lopez at awlopez.lijwj@gmail.com or (516) 724-6145 for more information on how to join the ride.

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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.

Jersey City, NJ Mayor Steven Fulop | Photo: Wikipedia

Jersey City, NJ Mayor Steven Fulop | Photo: Wikipedia

WINNERS

Metropolitan Transportation Authority – The MTA has taken a giant step forward by designing its proposed 2015-2019 Capital Program as an image-rich, stat laden, user-friendly update to its unappealing 2010-2014 Program.

New Hyde Park, NY Village Trustee Donald Barbieri – Barbieri led a successful effort to finally complete Operation Main Street, a project to redesign Jericho Turnpike with safety upgrades, after 12 years.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop – The mayor is seeking to attract New Yorkers to visit Jersey City by bringing Citi Bike to the town.

Connecticut vulnerable users - The state’s Vulnerable Users Law, which mandates a fine of up to $1,000 for any motorist “who fails to exercise reasonable care” and severely injures or kills a bicyclist, pedestrian or other vulnerable user, goes into effect today.

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MTA Capital Program Offers Metro-North Riders New Access

mta_cp_mnrMore than 275,000 daily commuters on Metro-North received good news in the MTA’s newly-released 2015-2019 Capital Program: the agency is moving forward with Penn Station Access, a $743 million project which has spent decades on the drafting table. Benefits of Penn Station Access include:

  • a one-seat ride with substantially reduced travel times to Manhattan’s west side for New Haven Line customers
  • expanded job access for Manhattan’s growing west side and more options for New York’s growing population of reverse commuters
  • improved capacity and tri-state connectivity, improving links between Metro-North, LIRR, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak
  • cost-effective use of existing tracks, and no new tunnels
  • four new stations in under-served Bronx neighborhoods expanding transit options and economic and residential development near Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point

This new service can’t begin until after completion of the $10.2 billion East Side Access, which will free up track space at Penn Station. Once complete, it will alleviate congestion at Mott Haven Junction, a system bottleneck where the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven Lines all converge.

And in addition to service enhancements, the project will also bolster the transportation system’s resiliency for extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy. Mott Haven Junction, for example, is particularly prone to flooding so increasing redundancy between Manhattan and points north a key fix that can’t be built soon enough.

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Event Reminder: Sunrise Highway Safety Meeting This Thursday

crossing-freeport

The walking audit group led by traffic safety expert Dan Burden crossing Sunrise Highway in Freeport. | Photo: Samantha Thomas/WALC

This past June, AARP partnered with Tri-State and Vision Long Island to bring internationally-renowned traffic safety expert Dan Burden from the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (WALC) to the notoriously dangerous Sunrise Highway. His visit included a series of walking tours through the communities of Valley Stream, Baldwin and Freeport. AARP is hosting a follow-up community meeting this Thursday to discuss the recommendations that WALC has generated and next steps for ensuring that Sunrise Highway is safe for all users.

The New York State Department of Transportation is in the process of developing a $3.8 million pedestrian safety plan for this corridor, but unfortunately the agency has not reached out to local communities for input into the plan. This community meeting is an opportunity to organize thoughts and efforts moving forward with the intention of influencing NYSDOT’s planning.

The meeting will be held this Thursday, October 2 at 7 p.m. at the Freeport Public Library. Please RSVP your attendance by visiting http://aarp.cvent.com/sunrise or by calling 1-877-926-8300.

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Does Nassau County Executive Mangano’s Budget Renege on a NICE Bus Funding Increase?

Photo: Newsday/John Paraskevas

It appears that any additional funding for NICE bus is going to come from a fare hike — not from Nassau County’s budget. | Photo: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Nassau County Legislators are set to hear testimony on County Executive Ed Mangano’s proposed 2015 budget at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, October 1, at the County Legislature in Mineola. Most of the attention surrounding the release of the $2.98 billion budget earlier this month has been centered on the County Executive’s proposed property tax hike. But another issue seems to have gone unmentioned: it appears the County Executive is reneging on his commitment to increase funding for Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE).

In order to help fill a 2014 NICE funding deficit of $3.3 million, Nassau County agreed last spring to increase its funding for the bus system by $1.8 million. This 70 percent increase in funding would bring the County’s total contribution to NICE up to roughly $4.4 million. According to the recently released budget proposal, however, the County’s contribution remains stagnant at $2.5 million a year. Instead, the budget estimates that the system will generate $51.4 million in farebox revenue — a nearly 13 percent increase over NICE’s 2014 farebox revenue estimate of $45.6 million.

How this revenue jump will occur is not outlined in the budget, and seems far-fetched given that NICE annual ridership in 2013 was at a 15 year low, according to the National Transit Database. And through July, ridership is only slightly higher than that of 2013.

What is clear is that the County Executive seems to be trying to get out of his commitment by relying on a 4 percent fare hike anticipated in 2015. A 4 percent fare hike would, according to a Tri-State estimate, raise $1.8 million: the exact amount of revenue that Nassau County committed to providing to NICE.

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