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Posts from the "Chris Ward" Category

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Taking Stock of NYC Streets and Transit at Stringer’s Transpo Conference

When Scott Stringer held his first transportation conference five years ago, streets like this didn't exist in NYC. Photo of First Avenue: NYC DOT

Times have changed since Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer hosted a conference on transportation reform in 2006. Five years ago, New York City appeared to be on the verge of shaking off the traffic-first approach to street engineering that had dominated city transportation policy for decades. Whispers were in the air about a push to tame city traffic and fund the transit system by putting a price on congestion-plagued streets. Since then, plenty of innovation has come to NYC streets, while traffic congestion and transit funding remain core challenges.

Last Friday, Stringer’s office organized a sequel, providing an opportunity to take stock of the last five years and recalibrate the transportation reform agenda going forward.

As it happened, former DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall made brief remarks at the outset of the event, hosted at John Jay College, in her capacity as a vice chancellor of CUNY. The moment was ripe with irony. Five years ago, then-commissioner Weinshall made a splash at the first Stringer transportation conference, calling for bus rapid transit, parking reform, safe routes to schools, and new public spaces. In the past two years, Weinshall’s dogged attempts to eradicate the Prospect Park West protected bike lane have, if nothing else, underscored why she had to leave the department before progress could be achieved on all the promises she made in 2006.

On Friday morning, the stage belonged to her successor, Janette Sadik-Khan, who highlighted DOT’s long list of achievements and innovations:

  • Select Bus Service: Though the roll-out has been slower than originally anticipated and true bus rapid transit has eluded NYC DOT and the MTA, NYC now has three operating corridors of Select Bus Service, including 34th Street and First and Second Avenues in Manhattan and on Fordham Road in the Bronx, improving transit for tens of thousands of riders each day and attracting thousands more.
  • Bicycling: In 2006, the city promised to add 200 new miles of bike lanes, a pledge that has since been fulfilled and surpassed. Now New York sets its sights not only on advancing the number of bike lane miles, but creating innovative street designs that lead the nation in making cycling accessible to a wide array of city residents.
  • Parking: The DOT has piloted Park Smart, time-of-day variable pricing for parking spots in Park Slope and Greenwich Village and is on its way to expanding it into other parts of the city.
  • Safe routes to schools: The city has a robust program to improve safety near 135 schools in all five boroughs.
  • Public plazas: The big public space news of 2006 was that the city would add a ribbon of pedestrian space to the Times Square bowtie. No one could have predicted the city would add substantial public plazas at Times Square and Herald Square by reclaiming lanes from traffic.

For all the reasons to celebrate the progress on NYC streets, the conference also provided some sobering perspective on the state of the transit system.

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Cuomo Names Patrick Foye to Head Port Authority

Patrick Foye

As expected, Governor Cuomo has tapped Patrick Foye to replace Chris Ward as executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Foye, Cuomo’s deputy secretary for economic development and an MTA board member, had been considered a contender since shortly after Ward announced plans to step down.

An appointee of David Paterson, Ward was praised by sustainability advocates for sound fiscal stewardship and his awareness of the importance of transit and cycling to the region’s transportation mix. But Cuomo was reportedly never a fan of Ward, and Ward clashed openly with Cuomo and Chris Christie when the two governors raided billions in Port Authority funds, a move that precipitated a hike in tolls and transit fares.

Foye is a Republican who also worked with Democrat Eliot Spitzer as downstate chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation. Wrote the Observer in 2008: “Mr. Foye, once a member of the Conservative Party and a Republican donor, was brought in by Mr. Spitzer during his campaign. An acquaintance of both Mr. Spitzer and his wife Silda from his days at [law firm] Skadden Arps, Mr. Foye joined the governor in his rhetoric of parsimony with state dollars, keeping subsidy amounts to a minimum.”

Foye will take the helm at the Port Authority at the end of the month.

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Chris Ward: NYC Truck Traffic “an Economic and Environmental Crisis”

Truck traffic in Maspeth. Photo: slowpoke_taiwan via Flickr.

Speaking at the Municipal Art Society’s annual summit this afternoon, outgoing Port Authority chief Chris Ward said he wouldn’t be sending any parting shots at the New York region’s leaders, but he didn’t hold back from proposing some big and bold ideas. With only a few weeks left at the Port Authority, Ward issued a call for the construction of a cross-harbor freight tunnel and a rail freight distribution system for the city, as well as the abandonment of container shipping at the Red Hook terminal in Brooklyn.

“The city is bedeviled by intraregional truck trips,” said Ward. Having large diesel trucks criss-crossing the dense, congested region 364 days a year, he said, “is an economic and environmental crisis.”

“We must, we must finally realize small-scale rail freight distribution within this city,” he declared, noting that under his leadership, the Port Authority had acquired facilities in New Jersey needed to eventually build a long-desired cross-harbor rail freight tunnel. Beyond that, said Ward, the region needs to develop small, clean vehicles capable of carrying freight the last mile from rail stations to final destinations.

Ward also argued for a rethinking of the Brooklyn waterfront, which he called the last great challenge for the city from a planning perspective. “[The] Red Hook [shipping terminal] has to move down to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal,” Ward said. “Red Hook is the wrong location.” Container shipping there, he said, is both inefficient from a transportation perspective and standing in the way of the city’s other plans for the waterfront, including the eventual development of the southern portion of Governor’s Island. “You will not be able to get the needed amount of people, whatever the use is, to Governor’s Island as long as you have a container terminal there.” With the container port moved, he argued, new transportation infrastructure could connect Red Hook and Governor’s Island and spur major new development in the area.

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Amid Christie and Cuomo Raids, Port Authority Plans Huge Fare and Toll Hike

The Port Authority has planned massive fare and toll hikes for the PATH and its bridges and tunnels, made worse by billions taken from the agency by Governors Christie and Cuomo. Photo: Terraplanner via Flickr.

Crossing the Hudson River will get much more expensive under a proposed Port Authority plan to sharply increase tolls and fares on its four bridges, two tunnels and the PATH train. The increases are a result of the poor economy, the costs of rebuilding after the attacks of September 11, and the expensive repairs needed on the agency’s aging infrastructure, said the Port Authority. Left unstated was the enormous cost of raids on the agency by the state governments of New York and New Jersey.

Under the Port Authority proposal, the cost to drive a car across a bridge or tunnel would increase by $4 this September, with another $2 increase in 2014. Tolls will increase the most on the costliest users. By 2014, the peak E-ZPass toll would be increased by 75 percent. Off-peak tolls would be doubled.

Truck tolls will nearly double during most times of day, reflecting the exponentially greater wear and tear inflicted by heavier vehicles. The Port Authority also hopes to disincentivize cash payments by tacking on a $3 surcharge, rising to $5 in 2014, for those who haven’t switched to E-ZPass.

PATH riders will also be forced to pay. The base fare will rise from $1.75 to $2.75; with discounts, the average fare will increase from $1.30 to $2.00 per trip. PATH riders will be spared from additional fare hikes in 2014.

To sell the toll package, which needs approval from both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Chris Christie and is sure to be a heavy political lift, the Port Authority is broadcasting both its record of fiscal responsibility under popular but politically threatened executive director Chris Ward and the necessity of the projects the toll increases would fund.

The agency’s operating budget has been flat for three years, they said, while the capital budget has already been cut by $5 billion. That comes even as the costs of rebuilding at the World Trade Center have topped $11 billion and extra security requirements have added another $6 billion to the agency’s costs. The proposed toll increases, including those scheduled for 2014, would raise roughly $1 billion, according to the New York Times.

But Christie and Cuomo also bear responsibility for the Port Authority’s budget.

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If Cuomo Fires Chris Ward, NY and NJ Will Lose a Proven Leader

Chris Ward may only have a few months left as executive director of the Port Authority despite a record of success. Photo: Port Authority via NYT

Chris Ward may only have a few months left as executive director of the Port Authority. According to a report in the New York Post, Andrew Cuomo intends to replace the Paterson appointee this fall, once the ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks have passed.

Ward has been widely lauded for his stewardship of the Port Authority. Before Cuomo took office, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign urged him to keep both Ward and MTA chief Jay Walder in their positions. Now in response to rumors that the governor may fire Ward, environmental and transportation advocates are rallying to his side.

“The Port Authority is cleaner, greener and more efficient thanks to Chris Ward’s leadership,” said Tri-State Executive Director Kate Slevin.

“He stands up for the public interest, whether that’s with the real estate industry, the construction industry, or other agencies,” said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White. “He’s looking out for the public, whether that’s bus riders or bike riders.”

Rumors of Ward’s ouster come at an important moment for the Port Authority. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has for months been trying to use Port Authority funds to pay for local road projects that would normally be funded by the state department of transportation. If successful, Christie’s plan would transform the Port Authority from an agency dedicated to regional planning and long-term investment into a piggybank for the two states. Bus riders would be hit especially hard as potential investments in projects like a larger Port Authority Bus Terminal get postponed and neglected.

As executive director, Ward has perhaps attracted the most attention for his successful guidance of the World Trade Center reconstruction, which has made significant progress recently. His skills as a financial steward extend to the Port Authority’s transportation business as well. The development of a plan to build a new Goethals Bridge under a public-private partnership could serve as a model for future infrastructure projects across the region, said Slevin.

In an era of tight budgets, Ward put forward a 2011 budget for the Port Authority with no growth but didn’t lose sight of the need for investing in the region’s future. In part, Ward struck that balance by eliminating wasteful spending where he could find it. He cut consultant spending by 32 percent and overtime by 20 percent, said White, but “nobody would say that the Port Authority is doing less.”

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Cuomo Will Retain Jay Walder and Chris Ward

Erik Engquist at Crain’s has the good news. Governor Cuomo will keep two widely respected managers at the helm of the MTA and the Port Authority:

Jay Walder will be retained as MTA chairman and chief executive and Christopher Ward as executive director of the Port Authority, the source said. Both men have been informed that they will be staying on.

Get the full story over at Crain’s.

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Port Authority Chief Calls for Green Overhaul of Region’s Freight System

CarGoTram.jpgPort Authority exec Chris Ward pointed to Dresden's CarGoTram as a sustainable freight mover that the region could learn from. Image: Wikimedia.
In a region where passenger transportation is being reimagined, freight needs to catch up. That's the message Chris Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority, delivered in a "call to arms" at Baruch College this morning. After outlining the importance and challenges of moving freight, Ward put forward the beginning of a plan to rationalize cargo movement, calling for a combination of new infrastructure, new pricing schemes, and centralized distribution centers scattered across the New York region. 

Ward's speech marked the release of the Port Authority's report "Freight and the Region's Future," a preliminary document that is part of a multi-year analysis of goods movement. But before Ward began to offer solutions, he impressed upon the crowd the urgency of the problem, which he called "likely the number one economic challenge facing this region." 

Freight feeds the region, both economically and literally; one quarter of all trucks crossing the Hudson east are carrying food. But that lifeline is being choked by the region's own prosperity, argued Ward. In the next 25 years, he said, truck loads are expected to grow by 39 percent and vehicle hours of delay by 57 percent. In contrast, population and employment are expected to grow 15 and 19 percent, respectively. The region will need to shed that economic dead weight in order to continue to prosper, Ward argued.

What's more, freight movement uses some of the dirtiest vehicles on the road. Calling air pollution a "public health crisis," Ward wondered why "we tend to disassociate it from goods movement." Any discussion of emissions or sustainability needs to include freight.

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Port Authority Commits to Agency-Wide Plan for Better Bike Access

BikeRacksPATH_1.jpgBike racks, like these at the Grove Street PATH Station, could be a more common sight at Port Authority facilities. Image: City of Jersey City

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a huge player in the region's transportation system. It manages the PATH train, the world's busiest bus terminal, all the major airports and seaports, and the bridges and tunnels between New York City and New Jersey. Now the Port Authority is adding one more mode to its portfolio: the bicycle.

In a statement earlier this week, Port Authority executive director Christopher Ward announced the agency's intent to support cycling "wherever operationally and financially feasible." 

Ward's March 29 bulletin, posted by the Century Road Club Association, signals the Port Authority's new commitment to get behind the region's upsurge in cycling. Wrote Ward:

Bicycling is a rapidly growing mode of transportation and the New York-New Jersey region is facing increased demand for expanded bicycle infrastructure, safer bicycle routes, access to transit connections and secure parking facilities. While we recognize that many Port Authority facilities currently provide some accommodations for bicycle users, we need to prepare more systematically for the growing use of bicycles as a mode of travel within the regional transportation system.

Ward then listed ways in which the Port Authority plans to promote cycling, from rewriting rules about bike access to the Port Authority's bridges, trains, and terminals, to adding bike lanes and parking at new and existing facilities and developing multi-modal transit hubs. The Port Authority will also use its power as a major landlord in both states -- most famously owning the World Trade Center site -- to work with tenants on becoming more bike-friendly. A Port Authority bike master plan is due by the end of September.

For current and would-be cyclists in New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority is a very important ally.

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