Throwback Thursday: Snow Still Blocking Manhattan’s Eighth Avenue Bike Lane

Back on Monday, March 9, 2015, we learned about a giant pile of snow blocking the protected bike lane on Manhattan’s Eighth Avenue, just around the corner from TSTC’s midtown headquarters.

We figured it would be cleared right away — after all, New York was recently named America’s Most Bike Friendly City. But Wednesday morning came and that pile of snow was still there.

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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 Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak | Photo: njleg.state.nj.us

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak | Photo: njleg.state.nj.us

WINNERS

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak — Amid threats of another fare hike, State Senator Lesniak is introducing a bill to give commuters a greater say over NJ Transit decisions.

New York State Assembly — The Assembly wants to limit state aid to the Tappan Zee Bridge project until the state gives up the details of its financial plan, and has proposed increasing funding for statewide transit systems.

Bridgeport, Glastonbury, Hartford, Simsbury, South Windsor and Stamford, CT   Six Connecticut municipalities have signed on to the USDOT Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets, more than New York and New Jersey combined.

Linden, NJ — The City Police Department has received a $200,000 grant from the New Jersey Safe Routes to School program for safety improvements near School #1, including the addition of bike racks and sidewalks.

New York City Councilmembers Donovan Richards and Helen Rosenthal — The transportation sector is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in New Yorka threat to both the environment and residents’ healthand the councilmembers want YOUR help in the fight against violators of the City’s anti-idling law.

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Amtrak Policy Reform Could Bring True High-Speed Rail to the Northeast Corridor

Amtrak got a bipartisan nod of approval in Washington last week in the form of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (H.R. 749), which authorizes $7.2 billion in federal subsidies for Amtrak and other rail programs through 2019, including $1.7 billion a year over four years.

While it’s not the boost in funding needed to match ridership gains, it could be considered a win in this congress. The vote was 316 to 101—with all Democrats who voted being in favor, and the conservative contingent casting against. A last minute action alert from conservative groups—Heritage Action and Club for Growth—called, unsuccessfully, for a no vote, identifying this as a “key vote” against which legislators’ performance would be judged. Given that Democratic votes were needed for passage, even the usual attempts to privatize and defund the system were unsuccessful.

There were several bits of policy reform of note:

  • Local officials in the 19 states that contribute financially to Amtrak service would have “a seat at the table” on decisions relating to changes and budgets for service.
  • Amtrak would need to be more transparent with the financial information it provides to state and local governments.
  • There will be some “streamlining” of environmental and other regulations on construction projects.
  • Amtrak will need to address the operating losses for food service on trains.
  • A pilot program will be launched allowing pets on board, for a fee.
  • A requirement that Amtrak take “a hard look” at the access needs of wheelchair users, bicyclists and other non-motorized transportation.
  • Profit from the Northeast Corridor (NEC), which usually subsidizes unprofitable routes across the country, would be reinvested in the corridor.

This final bullet can’t be overlooked, as it could ultimately lead to faster service. A feasibility study must be completed in six months that will analyze the possibility of a new and better Northeast Corridor.

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New York Legislative Alert: Call Your Leaders Today to Demand Greater Support for Transit

Today is a key advocacy day for transit riders statewide as legislators in Albany are in the final stages of putting together their one house budget bills, and the New York Public Transit Association (NYPTA) is asking every transit stakeholder to make their support for transit known. This is a critical time to reach out to State Senators and Assemblymembers and demand an increase to state transit operating assistance (STOA) and capital funding for both upstate and downstate transit systems, which face a collective capital need of $33 billion over the next five years. Governor Cuomo’s Executive budget keeps STOA flat and proposes little new capital funding for these systems, despite increased ridership across the state.

NYPTA asks that you specifically urge them to support:

  • $25 million increase in STOA for upstate transit systems in 2015-16.
  • $17.4 million increase in STOA to downstate suburban county transit systems in 2015-16.
  • $100 million in capital funding to address transit infrastructure needs for both upstate and downstate suburban county transit in 2015-16.
  • Fully fund the 5 year capital program for the MTA and for all other transit systems.

NYPTA’s 2015-16 state budget recommendations:

  • Increase state transit operating aid to upstate transit systems by $25 million and to downstate suburban county systems by $17.4 million.
  • Provide $100 million in state capital funding for the first year of the upstate and downstate suburban capital program.
  • Develop a plan to fund the 5-year statewide infrastructure needs of the MTA and all other transit systems.
  • Provide additional transition funding from non-transportation resources to assist rural transit systems in dealing with the impacts of state Medicaid transportation changes.

For more information, please contact Bob Zerrillo, NYPTA Policy Director, at rzerrillo@nytransit.org or 518-434-9060; and Bob Reid, Legislative Counsel for Reid McNally & Savage at bobr@lobbywr.com or 518-465‑7330.

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The Usual Suspects: Analysis Shows Little Progress on the Region’s Most Dangerous Roads

MDR-web-headerThe latest analysis from Tri-State Transportation Campaign, released this week, finds that 1,266 pedestrians were killed on roads in Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York in the three years from 2011 through 2013.

The Most Dangerous Roads for Walking analysis found that Jericho Turnpike (Route 25/Middle Country Road) in Suffolk County, Long Island, is the region’s most dangerous road for pedestrians for the second year in a row. Twenty pedestrians were killed along this road during the three-year period.

New York isn’t the only state experiencing deja vu: In New Jersey, U.S. Route 130 (Burlington Pike) was the state’s most dangerous road for a fifth straight year, and U.S. Route 1  has earned the title of Connecticut’s most dangerous road for seven consecutive years.

In New York City, both Grand Concourse in the Bronx and Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue saw 10 pedestrian fatalities each during the three-year period. New York City had quite a few roads appear among the most dangerous overall in this year’s analysis: Woodhaven Boulevard and Queens Boulevard had 10 fatalities each, while Manhattan’s First Avenue and Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway each saw seven pedestrian deaths during the three-year period.

Thirteen roads saw at least eight pedestrian fatalities between 2011 and 2013:

  • SR-25 (Jericho Turnpike, Middle Country Road, E Main St, Main Rd) – Suffolk County, NY (20)
  • SR-24 (Hempstead Turnpike, Fulton Ave, Conklin St) – Nassau County, NY (11)
  • Grand Concourse – Bronx, NY (10)
  • Flatbush Avenue – Brooklyn, NY (10)
  • U.S. Route 1 – [statewide] CT (9)
  • Burlington Pike (US-130) – Burlington County, NJ (9)
  • Merrick Road – Nassau County, NY (9)
  • Woodhaven Boulevard – Queens, NY (9)
  • SR-110 (New York Ave, Broadhollow Rd, Broadway)  – Suffolk County, NY (9)
  • U.S. Route 30 (White Horse Pike, Admiral Wilson Blvd) – Camden County, NJ (8)
  • U.S. Route 9  – Middlesex County, NJ (8)
  • Queens Boulevard – Queens, NY (8)
  • SR-27A (Merrick Rd, Montauk Hwy, CR-85, CR-80, Main St) – Suffolk County, NY (8)

So what can be done to improve pedestrian safety on the region’s most dangerous roads? A few of TSTC’s recommendations:

New York

  • Establish $20 million in dedicated funding for pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure—annually, and on top of what is already being spent in the state budget or in New York State Department of Transportation’s Capital Program
  • Increase New York City’s contribution to transforming arterial roadways and fully implementing Vision Zero in the city’s budget and capital plan.
  • Amend NYSDOT’s “Preservation First” policy to include new bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and pass legislation that would amend the State’s Complete Streets law to include maintenance and repair projects

New Jersey

  • Identify new, long-term, sustainable revenue sources, such as an increase in the state’s gas tax, to replenish the state’s bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund
  • Double the state’s investment in programs that fund pedestrian improvements, such as the NJ Transit Village Program ($1 million to $2 million) and Safe Streets to Transit ($1 million to $2 million)
  • Dedicate federal transportation funds, through NJDOT and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, to build and connect regional trails, such as the Circuit in southern New Jersey and roads that provide access to such trails

Connecticut

  • Implement recommendations of existing studies on Route 1, such as those completed by the South Western Regional Planning Agency and the Greater Bridgeport Regional Council
  • Complete the upcoming Highway Design Manual update in a manner that is consistent with the state Complete Streets law and ConnDOT Complete Streets policy
  • Fully fund and implement the $101 million pedestrian and bicycle capital program in the state’s 5-year transportation “ramp-up” plan

Find interactive maps, fact sheets, press releases and a summary of the analysis at tstc.org.

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Thursday Winners (& Losers)

We’re sorry to deliver Winners & Losers a day late  we were busy getting our annual analysis out. Have you seen it?

New York City Councilmember Brad Lander (top) and Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson  (bottom) | Photos: NYTimes (top) and WNYC (bottom)

New York City Councilmember Brad Lander (top) and Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson (bottom) | Photos: Karsten Moran/NYTimes (top) and Stephen Nessen/WNYC (bottom)

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

WINNERS

New York City Councilman Mark Levine — Disappointing politics have limited 125th Street bus lanes to the east of Lenox Avenue, but Councilman Levine is fighting back by launching a petition to bring service west of Lenox.

Sea Bright, NJ bicyclists — The town council passed a resolution in support of NJDOT’s Route 36 traffic signing and striping concept plans, which includes both north- and southbound bike lanesconnecting existing bike routes in surrounding towns.

Hartford and New Haven – Job growth is on the rise in Connecticut’s urban cores – a good sign for CTfastrak and Hartford Line ridership — while Connecticut suburbs are losing jobs.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – Mayor de Blasio has pledged $250 million to improve four of New York City’s most dangerous outer-borough arterials.

New York City Councilmember Brad Lander and Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson — Despite strong pushback from legislators opposed to NYC’s Right of Way law, Lander and Thompson are seeking harsher penalties for drivers who injure or kill pedestrians or bicyclists, and have announced a Driver Accountability Task Force.

Farmingdale, NY Village Board — The village board unanimously approved a proposal to rezone downtown for mixed-use development, giving the green-light to a Farmingdale transit-oriented development project.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. — Ahead of the four new Bronx Metro-North stations announced in Governor Cuomo’s Opportunity Agenda, the Borough President is calling for areas near the stations to be rezoned for transit-oriented development.

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Last Chance to Speak Publicly About the PANYNJ’s Cross-Harbor Freight Alternatives

Tomorrow is the last of seven public hearings hosted by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to discuss the Cross Harbor Freight Program NEPA Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement. While this is your last chance to provide verbal feedback on 10 alternatives to move freight across the New York Harbor, you can still submit comments on the DEIS through March 20 by following the above link. The details for the meeting are:

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (rescheduled from January 29)
    Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard, Room 23, Kew Gardens, NY 11415

Alternatives to the current systemwhich moves more than 90 percent of the region’s freight by truck, contributing to myriad local and regional issuesare being studied in the DEIS. Five of the “rail tunnel alternatives” being studied would create a direct rail connection across the harbor, allowing freight to move directly from New Jersey to Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau and Suffolk Counties by rail instead of trucks.

The public is invited to weigh in on all aspects of the draft study, including the alternatives the Port Authority will be studying further. Don’t miss this last opportunity to make your voice heard in support of the Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel alternatives, which would be a quadruple win to reduce the economic, environmental, transportation and societal costs of our truck-dependent freight system.

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Connecticut Uniquely Positioned for Congestion Pricing, but Legislators Must Seize the Opportunity

A study on electronic, variable-rate road pricing for Connecticut is underway, but will the state's elected leaders be receptive to congestion management? | Source

Connecticut has a unique opportunity to pursue variable-rate road pricing, but will the state’s elected leaders be receptive to this congestion management strategy? | Source

If last week’s hearing on tolls at Connecticut’s borders did anything, it strengthened the position that implementing tolls for the sole purpose of generating revenue is a bad idea. And if anything else grew out of the hysteria, it might be additional support for congestion pricing.

As the Connecticut Post pointed out this morning, Connecticut is one of only 15 jurisdictions in the nation that has been granted an exemption by the Federal Highway Administration from the general prohibition of tolls on Federal-aid roads. Connecticut’s exception falls under the Variable Pricing Pilot Program, which is “intended to demonstrate whether and to what extent roadway congestion may be reduced through application of congestion pricing strategies.”

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Distractions Driving Connecticut’s Toll Conversation

Tolls at the borders would raise revenue, but they would do little to address congestion on Connecticut's most congested corridors. | Source

Tolls at the borders would raise revenue, but they would do little for Connecticut’s most congested corridors. | Source

Modern, all-electronic tolling systems don't require old-fashioned toll booths. | Source

Modern, all-electronic tolling systems don’t require toll booths. | Source

There’s been a lot of talk about about bringing highway tolls back to Connecticut these last few days. The state outlawed tolls after seven people were killed in a fiery crash at a toll both on Interstate 95 in 1983. That tragedy has left Connecticut residents skeptical of tolls, and justifiably so. But  in recent days, a lot of the discourse surrounding tolls has been misinformed, which has led to some confusion. And that’s not good for lawmakers who are trying to deal with serious congestion problems on some of the worst roads in the nation, not to mention an underfunded 30-year transportation plan.

Tolls at the borders

A bill introduced by State Rep. Tony Guerrera, which would bring tolls to interstates at Connecticut’s borders, was the main topic of conversation at a Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday. Guerrera, the committee’s co-chair, “says the legislation is needed to pay for highway projects because the state’s gas tax isn’t raising enough money.”

The argument for placing tolls at the border is that out-of-state residents would shoulder some of the load — as much as 75 percent, Guerrera argued. Connecticut residents pay tolls when they drive to New York and Massachusetts, so let the folks clogging up Interstates 84 and 95 between the Boston and New York metro areas pay their fair share, right? It’s good political calculus — especially since Guerrera represents Newington, Rocky Hill and Wethersfield, which are smack dab in the middle of the state (and would be minimally impacted by tolls at the state’s edges).

The argument against border tolls hinges on the fact that they disproportionately impact residents (and the economies) of border towns like Danbury and Enfield.

Both arguments are perfectly sound. The problem is, it’s wrong argument to be having.

Rep. Guerrera is right: the state’s gas tax isn’t bringing in enough revenue to maintain the state’s transportation system. But reinstating tolls in order to raise revenue misses the point of tolling. The goal of bringing back highway tolls must be congestion management.

When you look at tolling from a congestion management perspective rather than a revenue perspective, it completely changes the map. Instead of locating tolls in a way that aims to minimize its impact on intrastate travel, they should be placed A) where there’s a great deal of congestion, and B) like the proposed Move New York plan, where there are alternatives to driving available.

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“Not a Crisis,” You Say?

Photo: Mel Evans/AP

Source: Mel Evans/AP

Anyone trying to make sense of all of the bad news for New Jersey transportation this weekthe lack of transportation talk in Governor Christie’s FY2016 budget address, the 8.4 percent cut to the transportation budget, more debt to fund transportation, the threat of the first NJ Transit fare hike in yearsnow has their answer.

Last night, Governor Christie said of the soon-to-be-insolvent Transportation Trust Fund, “I’m hopeful that the Senate president and the [state Assembly] Speaker and I will be able to come to a resolution sooner rather than later, but, you know, again, it’s not a crisis at the moment, because we’re funded pretty well now.”

Let’s be honest here. This is a legitimate crisis; New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund is set to run completely dry on July 1, 2015, which has disastrous implications for the state, given that:

  • one in three New Jersey bridges is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete
  • the poor condition of New Jersey roads costs drivers nearly $2,000 a year
  • New Jersey’s rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities is more than double the national average
  • expansion of mass transit is at a standstill due to lack of funding

And yet, Governor Christie’s now proposing to cut the transportation budget by 8.4 percentabout $119 million less funding than the current fiscal year. Given the state’s needs, if anything, the budget ought to be increased.

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