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Posts from the Andrew Cuomo Category


The Link Between Bridge Toll Dysfunction and Unsafe Streets

Did “toll shopping” figure in the death last week of cyclist Kevin Lopez in Long Island City?

Cuomo's intransigence on toll reform puts thousands of New Yorkers in drivers' cross-hairs. Photo: Families for Safe Streets

Cuomo’s intransigence on toll reform puts thousands of New Yorkers in drivers’ crosshairs. Photo: Families for Safe Streets

We don’t know for sure. But there’s a good chance it did, judging from a remark made by a passenger in the Mercedes that struck Lopez’s bicycle on Queens Plaza North near 29th Street around 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28, causing him to crash and die eight days later, in New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital.

Lopez, age 20, was bicycling to his home in Long Island City from classes at nearby LaGuardia Community College, where he was studying business administration, according to the Daily News. Press reports have Lopez cycling west on Queens Plaza North rather than on the adjacent Queensboro Bridge Greenway, perhaps preparatory to crossing Queens Boulevard. The Mercedes driver was apparently also westbound on Queens Plaza North where it feeds into the Queensboro Bridge when he struck Lopez’s bicycle from behind.

Immediately after the collision, the passenger, Shann Mon, 39, told DNAinfo that he and the driver were “heading back to Harlem after picking up medicine at a pharmacy.” Who knows if that’s true, let alone which pharmacy in Queens or where in Harlem. But from many parts of western Queens to most locations in Harlem, the Triboro Bridge appears to offer a quicker drive than the Queensboro.

For example, from 36th Avenue and Crescent Street, around 10 blocks from the crash location, to Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and 129th Street, the QB route is longer by 1.9 miles and 5 minutes than the Triboro route, according to Google Maps queried for the same time and day of the week as the actual crash. The catch is that the Triboro route entails a $5.54 toll ($8.00 without E-ZPass), whereas the Queensboro is untolled. That free ride leads thousands of Queens-to-Manhattan drivers to divert each day to the QB from their “natural” path via the Triboro or the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Mon’s Mercedes-driving pal may have been one of them.

Toll shopping is as old as toll roads and bridges. But the incentive to detour to toll-free routes in the five boroughs has escalated as the MTA has raised tolls relentlessly on its bridges and tunnels — a process driven in part by the absence of tolls on most entrances to the Manhattan Central Business District.

Some gridlock-averse drivers opt for the relatively underutilized Brooklyn Battery and Queens Midtown Tunnels and the Triboro Bridge, but they are far outnumbered by toll-averse drivers. Chronic traffic congestion on the free East River bridges is the result.

The overflow traffic on the Queensboro, Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn bridges isn’t confined to the spans. It spills onto the bridge approaches on either side of the East River — in Long Island City and East Midtown, in Downtown Brooklyn and Chinatown, in Williamsburg, Little Italy and the Lower East Side, snarling streets and putting pedestrians and bike riders in harm’s way.

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Cuomo and Christie Play Chicken With Trans-Hudson Train Commuters

It’s been almost five years since New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed the ARC tunnel. Things haven’t improved since.

The existing two-track rail tunnel, already at capacity, has continued to shoulder growing ridership comprised mostly of NJ Transit commuters. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy added a dose of corrosive salt water to the century-old tunnels. Amtrak warns that one or both of the tubes must shut down in the next couple decades, forcing trains going both directions to share a single track. Commuters got a taste of this nightmare scenario just weeks ago when high-voltage power cables in the tunnel failed, cutting service to and from Penn Station.

Moving those commuters onto buses is unlikely. Like the rail tunnel, the Port Authority Bus Terminal is both falling apart and at capacity. Replacing and expanding that facility would cost up to $11 billion — a number the Port Authority is struggling to come to terms with.

Amtrak’s plan for a new tunnel, known as Gateway, has stalled without backing from Christie or his New York counterpart, Governor Andrew Cuomo. This morning, Senator Charles Schumer of New York pushed the governors to take the first of many necessary steps to getting the project built. Schumer wants a new partnership, which he’s dubbed the Gateway Development Corporation, to build the tunnel.

The partnership, comprised of Amtrak, the Port Authority, the MTA, and the two states, would be able to access a wide range of funding sources. “Amtrak can’t access federal mass transit funding. The Port Authority and regional transit agencies can’t access federal railroad dollars the way Amtrak can,” Schumer said, reported the Observer. “We’ll only get Gateway done by adding up several pieces of financing, with an eye toward getting the maximum amount possible from the federal government.”

Neither governor has yet agreed to the partnership. Last month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asked the governors to meet with him about the Gateway project, but the two executives want cash from the feds, not just loans, before they’ll commit to anything.

In fact, the governors — neither of whom hesitates to spend big on highways and airports — have tried to portray the rail tunnel between their two states as somehow not their problem.

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The Politics of Road Pricing: Andrew Cuomo vs. Actual Polls


Andrew Cuomo styles himself as a guy who gets stuff done. That’s what muscling through the Tappan Zee Bridge double-span boondoggle and the multi-billion dollar LaGuardia renovation is all about. But when reporters ask Cuomo about funding transit by putting a price on NYC’s free bridges, he likes to portray himself as a helpless bystander, stymied by politics.

Quinnipiac poll results released this morning again show that public resistance to a toll swap as envisioned in the Move NY plan (higher tolls on East River bridges, lower ones on outlying MTA crossings) is not nearly as deep as Cuomo makes it out to be. The survey of 1,108 NYC voters found 44 support Move NY-style toll reform to fund transit, while 49 percent oppose, replicating the findings of a poll this May.

Two weeks ago, the same governor who wrangled marriage equality through Albany told a Syracuse-based radio station that he is “dubious” about the political prospects of Move NY. “The outer boroughs were very opposed to this plan last time,” Cuomo said. “I don’t think there’s been a change of heart.”

In fact, the Q Poll reveals the absence of stiff opposition to Move NY in every borough. In Staten Island, there’s even a 61 percent majority in favor of the plan. Only in Brooklyn does opposition to the plan exceed support by more than 10 points, 52 to 41 percent.

These are numbers that a politician who wants to take on the big, systemic problems plaguing NYC’s streets and transportation system could work with, especially since we know that public opinion of road pricing improves after implementation. Sure, getting New York’s state legislators in line won’t be automatic. But let’s not pretend the greatest political obstacle to road pricing is the “outer boroughs” when it’s Cuomo himself.

The new Q Poll is a great hook for one of Streetsblog’s favorite graphics: Public support for road pricing initiatives increases after implementation. Graph: FHWA/CURACAO


Andrew Cuomo Is Building a Legacy Fit for 1950

This is Cuomo's infrastructure legacy. Rendering: New NY Bridge/YouTube

Behold: Andrew Cuomo’s infrastructure legacy. Rendering: New NY Bridge/YouTube

The Times noted last week that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s infrastructure legacy will be defined by two mega-projects: the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge and the rebuilding of LaGuardia Airport. Cuomo clearly relishes building big things, but bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to infrastructure. These projects will shape the region for decades. New Yorkers should be prepared for some devastating consequences.

First, there are the effects of the projects themselves. Instead of building a high-quality transit connection across the Hudson River, the governor halted the transit planning process and forged ahead with an extra-wide highway bridge. While the Cuomo administration eventually promised a Bus Rapid Transit network, so far that’s only resulted in a modest plan to expand existing express bus service.

Instead of transitways, the new bridge will have four car lanes in each direction, plus room for more. That’s a recipe for more driving and more sprawl, particularly in Rockland and Orange counties, where population is expected to soar 34 percent over the next 35 years, more than double the rate of the rest of the region [PDF].

While Cuomo’s Tappan Zee replacement is a sprawl machine for the suburbs, his LaGuardia Airport revamp is poised to generate more car traffic in an already-congested urban area.

Details of the LGA plan are scarce, but Cuomo is calling for the construction of additional car parking to handle the increased capacity of the airport. Those garages will be more of an enticement than the lackluster transit options the governor is proposing. The LaGuardia AirTrain will require most air travelers to go out of their way to Willets Point, the second-to-last stop on the 7 train, before getting on a connection to the airport. Not only would that push more riders onto the crowded subway line (the LIRR is another option but offers scant service to Willets Point), it would actually be slower than the buses that already serve LGA.

Then there’s the opportunity cost. While Cuomo secures funds for his favored projects — $4 billion (or is it $8 billion?) for LaGuardia, plus another $4 billion for the Tappan Zee — others are left waiting.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal, for instance, is bursting at the seams. Delays in the trans-Hudson rail tubes are only going to get worse. The Port Authority and Amtrak are sounding the alarm about the need to get started on these projects. So far, Cuomo has paid them lip service — but they’re not getting the attention and resources the governor has lavished on the Tappan Zee and LaGuardia.

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Here Are Six Times the MTA Was a State Entity Under Cuomo’s Control

It’s his authority. Image: NYGovCuomo/YouTube

Yesterday on WCNY’s “Capitol Pressroom,” Susan Arbetter hosted Governor Andrew Cuomo for a discussion of the MTA capital program. Lately, the governor has been pushing City Hall to fund a greater share of the authority’s investment plan. Arbetter, pressing the governor, asked a simple question: “Isn’t the MTA a state entity?”

“It’s not, actually,” Cuomo replied. “It [covers] a metropolitan downstate region.”

The answer, of course, is nonsense. The MTA’s own list of board members reminds the public that “all board members are appointed by the governor, some on the recommendation of city and county officials.” The chair of the authority serves at the governor’s behest. The MTA is chartered by the state, and taxes levied by the state help fund more than a third of its operating budget.

The governor controls more than just board appointments. At the MTA, the governor calls the shots. Perhaps these recent events will remind Cuomo that the MTA is a state entity under his control:

  1. When storms threaten the region, the governor is the one who shuts down the entire transit system.
  2. He smiled for the cameras and brokered a labor deal between Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the MTA.
  3. Early in his first term, he cut the Payroll Mobility Tax, one of the authority’s major sources of funding.
  4. Last year, he cut tolls for Staten Island motorists in an election-year ploy, then stuck the MTA with half of the bill.
  5. His budgets regularly include diversions of MTA operating funds to cover expenses in the state’s budget.
  6. Ten days ago, his own budget office directed the MTA to trim the size of its capital plan, which it did [PDF].

The list goes on. While it’s nice to see Cuomo committing to fully funding the (slightly reduced) capital program, it’s hard to take his latest comments seriously until he acknowledges the need for a new source of revenue. Generating billions of dollars over five years is no simple task.

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If Crowded Old Airports Are “Un-New York,” What Are Crowded Old Trains?


The governor leaps into action.

Andrew Cuomo’s big infrastructure announcement with VP Joe Biden today was, if nothing else, a tidy encapsulation of how little the governor cares about the big problems facing New York’s transportation systems.

For days the governor’s office had been hyping his appearance with Biden. Was Cuomo finally about to tell New Yorkers how he’s going to modernize the trains and buses that millions of people count on every day? Nope. It was all about a $4 billion plan to modernize LaGuardia Airport, including the plus an AirTrain connection from the airport to Willets Point that’s projected to cost a billion dollars without saving most people any time.

Cuomo’s big pitch: LGA, with its ancient infrastructure, uncomfortable crowding, and chronic delays, is “un-New York.”

Okay, fair enough. So what does that make the subways, with their eighty-year-old signals, overflowing platforms, and chronic delays?

Just a few days ago, Cuomo wouldn’t even entertain the thought of enacting the Move NY plan to cut traffic and fund transit in one stroke. The logical conclusion from today’s announcement is that, in Cuomo’s eyes, Move NY doesn’t address a glaring lack of New York-ness.

New York’s failure to impress tourists who fly Delta is a problem Cuomo wants to personally address. New York’s crushing traffic congestion, unpredictable subways, miserably crowded platforms, and slow buses are just part of the city’s charm.

Classic New York! Photo: Move NY


Cuomo to NYC: Eat My Dust, Plebes

Governor Andrew Cuomo says it’s up to New York City to fund his MTA — and indicated the city will have to do it without the funding mechanism that makes the most sense: the Move NY toll reform plan.

Even after coming up with an additional billion dollars or so, the MTA is still looking at a gap of close to $14 billion in the five-year capital program. If nothing is done to close the gap, New Yorkers can expect to pay higher fares as subways get more crowded and service interruptions become more frequent.

The MTA is a state agency controlled by Governor Cuomo. But Cuomo and state lawmakers failed to address MTA funding during this year’s legislative session. On Wednesday Cuomo said the city is on its own.

“The way you fill a gap is by providing resources to fill the gap,” Cuomo helpfully explained. “And that’s what the MTA has been asking the city. Can they help close the gap?”

On Tuesday, the de Blasio administration signaled that it is at least interested in Move NY, which would raise billions for transit while making bridge tolls more rational and reducing traffic in the Manhattan core.

But City Hall can’t make that happen on its own. Cuomo is the one official in New York who could put toll reform front and center. Nevertheless, on the issue of maintaining the transit system that keeps New York City alive, the governor characterized himself as a spectator.

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Albany Alert: Urge Governor Cuomo to Amend or Kill Hit-and-Run Bill

District attorneys are calling on Albany’s three men in a room to amend or kill a bill that would affect future cases against drivers who leave the scene of a serious crash.

Prosecutors and advocates have for years asked lawmakers to address a loophole in state law that gives hit-and-run drivers an incentive to leave the scene. Since the penalty for DWI is more severe, drivers who flee the scene and sober up can essentially game the system — assuming police track them down at all. In New York City, most hit-and-run crashes go unsolved.

This session, the Assembly and State Senate passed a bill (A5266/S4747) to create the offense of aggravated leaving the scene, a class C felony, but it places a bevy of conditions on when the charge may be applied.

As passed, the charge may be applied only when a driver leaves the scene of a crash resulting in the death or serious injury of more than one person. It must be determined that the crash was caused by reckless driving, and the driver must be driving without a valid license due to a prior DWI or leaving the scene conviction, or have a prior conviction for leaving the scene or DWI in the last 10 years. 

The bill’s sponsors are Assembly Member Fred Thiele of Bridgehampton and Senator Rich Funke of Fairport.

Madeline Singas, acting district attorney in Nassau County, is opposed to the bill. Maureen McCormick, Nassau vehicular crimes chief, says her office and other prosecutors are in touch with Thiele and Funke about amending it and are asking Governor Cuomo to either not sign the current bill or veto it outright.

“The chapter amendment we are seeking — and the bill sponsors support — would simply elevate the current felony levels for leaving the scene,” McCormick told Streetsblog via email. “The E felony [New York’s least severe felony category] for leaving where there is serious injury would be elevated to a D and the D felony for fatalities would be elevated to a C.”

The bill could be sent to Governor Cuomo for his signature at any time. Transportation Alternatives is urging people to contact Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and the governor’s office to ask them to amend or veto the bill.


Governor Cuomo Won’t Ride the Subway, But Cardboard Cut-Out Cuomo Will

The advocates at the Riders Alliance have been campaigning for many months to get Governor Andrew Cuomo to ride the NYC subways. The governor’s office has refused to answer any of their inquiries. So on Thursday, they did the next best thing: They brought along a cardboard cut-out of his likeness to see how straphangers would react.

Subway delays are on the rise, but so far, Cuomo has failed to fund the MTA’s $32 billion five-year capital plan to fix tracks, modernize signals, expand capacity, and upgrade the equipment that moves New York City. It wasn’t hard to find straphangers who want better service to give fake Cuomo a piece of their minds.


Next Stop for Bill to Expand Bus Lane Cameras: Andrew Cuomo’s Desk

Last night, the State Senate followed the Assembly’s lead and passed a bill to continue New York City’s bus lane camera enforcement program and expand it to an additional 10 bus routes. The bill now awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

34th Street before bus lane cams. Video still: Streetfilms/Robin Urban Smith

The Senate voted 48 in favor and 11 opposed. The day before, the bill squeaked through the Assembly, 79-60, with former speaker Sheldon Silver joining Staten Island legislators in calling bus lane cameras “a trap for motorists.”

The existing program was enacted by Albany in 2010 and limited the cameras to six Select Bus Service routes. Without an extension it will expire September 20. The new bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Nily Rozic and State Senator Martin Golden, not only extends the program five years but also allows the city to choose 10 additional bus routes for camera enforcement.

Camera-enforced bus lanes have boosted local bus speeds on 125th Street by up to 20 percent, according to DOT.

Some of New York’s most important bus lanes predate Select Bus Service and aren’t allowed to have camera enforcement under the current law. The Fifth Avenue bus lane, for instance, was implemented in the 1980s. It carries 90 buses per hour during the morning rush and moves 78,000 people daily, according to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

The number of Select Bus Service routes has also grown beyond the limits of the current program. SBS on Webster Avenue in the Bronx operates without camera enforcement, and planned SBS routes on Utica Avenue, Woodhaven Boulevard, and along the Q44 route in Flushing and Jamaica will only be eligible for bus lane cameras if Cuomo signs the new bill.

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