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Posts from the "NYMTC" Category

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Mapping Out a Route for the Hudson River Greenway in the Bronx

The plan for the Hudson River Greenway in the Bronx includes improvements in the next three years in blue, the next decade in purple, and the years beyond in red. Image: NYMTC

The plan for the Hudson River Greenway in the Bronx: Improvements for the next three years are in blue, the next decade in purple, and the years beyond in red. Click to enlarge. Image: NYMTC

In 1991, Governor Mario Cuomo signed the Hudson River Valley Greenway Act, setting in motion the design and construction of a continuous walking and biking route along the river, from Manhattan to Saratoga County. More than two decades later, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council — the NYC-area regional planning agency — has come up with a preferred route for the greenway through the Bronx and parts of Yonkers, which would fill the gap between the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway and the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Westchester County.

The study, funded by a $1 million earmark from Senator Charles Schumer in the 2005 federal transportation bill, involved years of workshops, meetings, and analysis by NYMTC and lead consultant The RBA Group to identify a route. Tweaks are still being considered, and NYMTC anticipates ironing out the final details by the middle of next year. This study, while comprehensive, simply outlines a preferred route and provides cost estimates. Bronxites looking to walk and bike on their section of the greenway are still a long way from seeing shovels in the ground.

Some residents of Palisade Avenue are worried that the greenway plans could ruin the bucolic nature of their street. Image: NYMTC

Some residents of Palisade Avenue are worried that the greenway plans could ruin the bucolic nature of their street — by adding sidewalks. Image: NYMTC

The route, running from the Henry Hudson Bridge to Yonkers, is broken into three phases, covering the next three years, the next decade, and beyond.

The first phase creates a physically-separated greenway path along Palisade Avenue and in Riverdale Park between 232nd and 254th Streets. North of 254th, it would create an on-street route along Palisade Avenue, 261st Street, and Riverdale Avenue to Yonkers. South of 232nd, an on-street route is planned along Palisade Avenue and Kappock Street to the Henry Hudson Bridge.

At last month’s Community Board 8 parks committee meeting, residents of Palisade Avenue raised concerns about the potential changes. Currently, the street, which carries two-way traffic and has on-street parking on its east side, does not have any lane markings. The report recommends building a sidewalk along the west side, striping a yellow centerline and adding shared lane markings for cyclists, while maintaining on-street parking.

Residents at the meeting were worried that sidewalk construction would require land takings and alter the wooded, alpine nature of the area. NYMTC is considering other options, including a painted area on the street that designates pedestrian space instead of a sidewalk. “We understand the residents’ concerns about the bucolic nature of the roadway,” said Gerry Bogacz, NYMTC’s planning director. Some residents requested that the plan relocate the greenway’s on-street route one block east to Independence Avenue, but Bogacz was less receptive to that idea.

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TSTC: NYC’s Regional Planners Underestimate the Shift Away From Driving

New York's regional planners say driving on the area's roads will increase 12.3 percent by 2040. The same planners won't commit to a goal of reducing this number. Image: NYMTC

Tomorrow, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, the regional planning body that coordinates transportation investments in New York City as well as Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland counties, is set to adopt a slate of plans outlining the region’s transportation future. But according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the assumptions underlying these plans rely on data that’s quickly becoming outdated. TSTC warns that regional planners could be setting the stage for big road projects instead of trying to curb traffic in and around NYC.

NYMTC uses a complex model that crunches numbers on population, employment, transit service, road capacity, and other factors to derive its projections, which it updates every four years. The latest round of projections [PDF] show two encouraging signs: Transit ridership is expected to grow more quickly than driving, and driving is projected to grow more slowly than the population. By 2040, NYMTC projects a 13.4 percent population increase, a 12.3 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled, and a 20 percent jump in the number of transit trips.

This is a change from the previous round of projections, which anticipated that increases in driving would outpace population growth. NYMTC projected in 2009 [PDF] that the regional population would grow 15 percent by 2035, while VMT was expected to grow slightly faster, at a 16 percent clip.

“The demographics are showing that people are driving less,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Ryan Lynch said. “The report to a certain degree recognizes that, but I think the plan could be a little more aggressive.”

A series of reports, most recently from U.S. PIRG, have called attention to the fact that the average American has been driving less and less each year since 2005. In New York state, driving per person has fallen 10.4 percent from its 2006 peak, a far bigger drop than NYMTC projects for the coming decades.

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Astorino and Vanderhoef Can Block Transit-Less Tappan Zee. Will They?

County Executives Rob Astorino and C. Scott Vanderhoef have the power to stop Andrew Cuomo's transit-free Tappan Zee Bridge in its tracks. How far will they go in support of transit?

County Executives Rob Astorino and C. Scott Vanderhoef have been two of the most consistent and vocal advocates of restoring transit to the plans for a new Tappan Zee Bridge. They have understood that Westchester and Rockland County commuters need a way to travel east-west without a car and need congestion relief on crowded I-287.

Now, Astorino and Vanderhoef have a chance to show that their support for Tappan Zee transit is more than rhetorical — or they can to accede to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plans to double down on the auto-only bridge design that hinders the economic vitality of the Hudson Valley.

On July 10, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council will vote on whether to include Cuomo’s transit-free Tappan Zee in the region’s long-range transportation plan, as required by federal law. NYMTC operates by consensus, and both Westchester and Rockland Counties have a seat on its board. If either Astorino or Vanderhoef were to object, the state’s rush toward construction could be slowed. That gives them a big bargaining chip to push for better transit across the bridge.

Using such a veto would be particularly appropriate given how much the public still does not know about the plans for the new Tappan Zee Bridge. The Cuomo administration still has not revealed how it would pay for the $5.4 billion bridge, nor has it adequately explained why it stripped transit from plans for the bridge without any public input.

“One ‘no’ vote could effectively stop a NYMTC project from moving forward,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Veronica Vanterpool. “Given the many concerns surrounding this project, such as financing, debt, environmental issues, and transparency, it would seem that many NYMTC members might want to seek answers to these before approving the Tappan Zee Bridge project in the Regional Transportation Plan on July 10th.”

Whether the county executives will use all their power to push for Tappan Zee transit remains to be seen. Astorino has not yet decided how to vote next month, said spokesperson Donna Greene. “A new bridge needs to be built as soon as possible and a new bridge has to be built to position the county for the future,” said Greene. “We don’t want it to be obsolete the day it opens.”

Vanderhoef’s office has not yet responded to a Streetsblog inquiry on the issue.

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As Local Governments Innovate, State DOT Still Focused on Roads

This map shows many of the projects in the region’s transportation improvement program, revealing the priorities of the area’s transportation agencies for the next five years.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) has released a draft of its transportation improvement program, or TIP [PDF], providing a window into the investment priorities of the region’s transportation agencies over the next five years.

The TIP is a list of projects that are eligible to receive federal funding. It’s not a budget and is frequently amended, so it is best understood as a set of projects transportation agencies have in the pipeline that indicates broad spending priorities, rather than a rigid timeline for planning and construction. While dates and dollars are attached to each project, nothing is set in stone.

The public can comment on the TIP through July 8 by e-mailing Christopher Hardej at NYMTC, the regional planning agency.

Transportation advocates say the draft TIP shows how the state DOT is lagging behind local transportation agencies when it comes to progressive planning, which reflects the agency’s budget constraints as well as its internal culture.

“Most of the innovation is coming from local governments,” Steven Higashide of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign told Streetsblog after reading through the draft TIP. “The bulk of the state DOT’s portion are these large rehab projects that have been on the books for many years, so that limits room for other types of project.” The rehab of the Gowanus Expressway, for example, is allocated over $92 million in the TIP, and the replacement of the Kosciuszko Bridge is given around $550 million. Read more…

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Canal Street Report Recommends Wider Sidewalks, Smarter Parking

The only thing more congested than Canal Street might be Canal Street's sidewalks. Photo: via Flickr.

The only thing more congested than Canal Street might be Canal Street's sidewalks. Photo: Bertrand Duperrin via Flickr

Canal Street, to put it mildly, is due for a makeover. The street is clogged with traffic from the Holland Tunnel and the un-tolled Manhattan Bridge. Pedestrians jostle for space on the packed sidewalks, and they’re especially at risk of getting hit by a car, according to the city’s Pedestrian Safety Study.

Fortunately, the funds are in place for an eventual reconstruction and re-imagination of the street, thanks to federal World Trade Center emergency relief aid. To help determine how to design Canal Street, which must strike a balance between serving the local community and the regional transportation system, NYMTC, the region’s metropolitan planning organization, has been engaged in a nearly decade-long process of studying the area and drawing up recommendations for the corridor.

In a report released last Thursday [PDF], NYMTC recommends making Canal Street friendlier for pedestrians by adding significant amounts of sidewalk space. But larger changes, in particular the creation of a carpool lane in the Holland Tunnel, weren’t included. According to the NYMTC report, NYCDOT has agreed to use the recommendations to inform its plans, though a DOT spokesperson said only that the agency was reviewing the findings.

The Canal Area Transportation Study process began in 2002, and the first phase ended with some relatively small improvements to the area, like high-visibility crosswalks, new signage, and temporary improvements near Allen Street. Since 2005, the second, larger-scale phase of the study has been underway, bringing together all the regional transportation agencies as well as others with a stake in the project.

The NYMTC team studied a wide array of congestion-busting ideas for the corridor. Some, like two-way tolling on the Verrazano Bridge or congestion pricing, were dismissed because they required legislative approvals well outside the project’s scope. Transit expansions, like bringing the PATH train north from the World Trade Center or building light rail on Canal, were rejected as too costly. Some ideas were nixed because they lacked community support or because they conflicted with New York City’s Street Design Manual. Other ambitious proposals, like keeping traffic off side streets including Pell, Doyers, Mosco, and Mulberry, were referred to the appropriate agency for further study.

What’s left still has a lot to like.

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U.S. DOT: We’re Looking to Build Communities

Earlier today, New York's transportation establishment got a feel for the livable streets vibe that's been emanating from Washington this week. Vice Admiral Thomas Barrett, Deputy Secretary at U.S. DOT, was on hand to deliver the keynote at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council's annual meeting. Here's one passage that stood out:

The one-size-fits-all transportation project is going to have to give way to one that’s more tailored to preserving and enhancing the qualities -- the sustainability, the environmental qualities, the community values -- that make each city, each county across this country special. We're looking to sustain and build communities -- reinforce them in ways that work.

After the meeting wrapped up, I spoke to Tri-State Transportation Campaign director Kate Slevin to get her take on Barrett's remarks. "Building communities is very different than building roads," she said. "It's more about creating places that attract people."

Kind of gets you wondering whether there's a secret backchannel between Ray LaHood and the fine folks at Project for Public Spaces.

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“Kheel Plan II” to Revive Free Transit Proposal for ’09 Races

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“In for a penny, in for a pound” is how the Brits express what we Americans less elegantly call “the whole hog”: why do something halfway when you might as well go all the way?

That’s the thinking behind Ted Kheel’s free-transit proposal. If an $8 congestion fee, as unsuccessfully proposed recently by Mayor Bloomberg, infuriated drivers, Kheel reasons, then let’s go the whole hog and charge $16 to drive into Manhattan. Drivers are already as mad as they’re going to get about any congestion charge. With $16, we won’t stir up twice as many hornets, but we’ll raise twice the revenue — enough to finance universal free transit throughout the five boroughs and disarm the faux-populists who sank Mayor Bloomberg’s more modest plan.

In retrospect, it seems clear that Bloomberg's plan appeared to too many people to be “all stick.” There wasn’t enough direct and concrete payoff, for anybody, to attract wide public support. The Kheel Plan remedies this defect with the very considerable, tangible, obvious "carrot" of free transit.

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Gerson: Proposed Pricing Plan Misses the Mark

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Council Member Alan Gerson says the congestion pricing plan ignores the car-choked Canal Street corridor


Yesterday we noted that District 1 City Council Member Alan Gerson was the only Manhattan representative to indicate that he would vote against the congestion pricing plan in its current form, according to an "unofficial roll call" conducted by the New York Times. We contacted Gerson's office to find out why, given the upsides for a district in which 79 percent of households are car-free, which is saddled with chronic gridlock and which, ostensibly, will someday benefit from the pricing revenue dependent Second Avenue subway line. An aide told us the council member's staff was "trying to get a correction," and has submitted this letter to the paper:

Dear Editor:

Your article, "Traffic Plan In Trouble", misstates my position. I have consistently stated that I would support congestion pricing if the Bloomberg Administration enhances or modifies the commission's plan in four critical areas, on which the plan remains silent or deficient: the Holland Tunnel/ Canal Street corridor; bus management, including clean engine standards for all the buses the plan will bring into lower Manhattan ; non-pricing traffic management, which carries over into non-pricing hours; and equity among city residents. I have proposed detailed recommendations, based on community and expert input. Implementing the commission's plan without those enhancements or changes will worsen congestion and pollution on many streets, including the canal street corridor. Meetings are scheduled to discuss these proposals. I remain optimistic that the City Council and the Administration will reach agreement on the best possible traffic plan for all New Yorkers.

At our request, Gerson's office also sent over the council member's eight-page position paper on congestion pricing [PDF], in which he describes the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission report as "deeply disturbing."

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Highlights of Monday’s Traffic Commission Meeting

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Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky's claim that congestion pricing "smacks the middle class" was not challenged by reporters after Monday's meeting despite a recent IBO report that says otherwise. Brodsky said a carbon tax would be fairer and praised Mayor Bloomberg for suggesting it.

Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Bruce Schaller has clearly been busy. At Monday's Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission meeting he presented more than a dozen separate congestion pricing scenarios. Having run each of them through NYMTC's state-of-the-art regional traffic model, Schaller delivered estimates for how each of the various pricing schemes would impact total vehicle miles traveled, costs and revenue.

Commission chairman Marc Shaw introduced the day's discussion by saying that "Everything's still on the table" while acknowledging that some of the scenarios Schaller was modeling were "obviously controversial." Shaw also went out of his way to express disappointment that the New York Times had chosen to editorialize against the idea of East River Bridge tolls "before we've even had a public discussion about it."

Schaller's Powerpoint presentation is available in its entirety below. There were a lot of numbers and transportation policy jargon but here are a few notable points:

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Highlights of Yesterday’s Traffic Commission Meeting


Deputy Commissioner Bruce Schaller's team at the Department of Transportation has been taking ideas offered up by Traffic Mitigation Commission members and running them through NYMTC's regional traffic model. Schaller's job is to help the Commission determine how effective each of these ideas will be in cutting traffic and reducing total vehicle miles traveled in New York City. To keep its $354.5 million federal transportation grant, the City must reduce VMT 6.3 percent using road pricing.

Schaller presented his findings at yesterday's Commission meeting. You can flip through his presentation above (though, I recommend clicking through to the Slideshare web site and viewing the larger version). Since the first and most important slide is too small to read, here is the list of the traffic reduction ideas that Schaller's team has been modeling either as alternatives, supplements or modifications to Mayor Bloomberg's original proposal (you'll note that Lew Fidler Tax'n'Tunnel plan didn't make the cut):

  • Night delivery incentives
  • Telecommuting incentives
  • Increasing the cost of parking in the CBD
  • Taxi stands
  • Surcharge on taxi and livery fares
  • East River Bridge tolls
  • License plate rationing
  • Required carpooling
  • Creation of High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes
  • Changing the northern boundary
  • Charging to drive on the FDR and West Street
  • Changing the hours / variable charges
  • Changes to the toll credit policy
  • Exempt hybrids.

Aside from Assembly member Richard Brodsky's continued treatment of the scrupulous, forthright Schaller as the quintessential evil government bureaucrat (Brodsky knows exactly how important it is to attack the credibility of the "Keeper of the 6.3%"), the highlight of yesterday's hearing, for me, was an exchange towards the end on government employee parking permits.

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