City Transportation Commissioner Resigns
Dear riders -
City Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall just resigned. Below is a statement we released. You will see we hope there's progress on reducing traffic in the last three years of the Bloomberg Administration.
STATEMENT ON RESIGNATION OF
CITY TRANSPORTATION COMMISSIONER IRIS WEINSHALL
Thursday, January 30, 2007
The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign congratulates Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall on her new post at CUNY. The Campaign appreciated her leadership on such initiatives as:
- convincing City Hall to require at least two people in a car as a response to the traffic emergency in the wake of 9/11;
- working with the MTA to make "Bus Rapid Transit" a reality in New York; and
- expanding the Muni Meter program, which helps encouraged turnover in parking spots in busy commercial areas.
The commissioner's departure gives City Hall a chance to consider more initiatives to tackle the city's traffic woes. These include:
- more "traffic" calming measures including 15 mph speed zones, speed reducers, wider sidewalks and extended pedestrian crossing time;
- better enforcement of existing bus-only lanes by winning state legislation for more bus-mounted enforcement camera;
- tough enforcement of existing truck traffic rules; and
- getting City Hall to approve a serious review of the costs and benefits of charging cars for coming into the City's central business district.
A fuller description of these reforms can be found at: http://www.trafficrelief.org/charter.html
Posted Jan 31 2007 by Gene Russianoff
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Traffic Relief, Intro 199
Here's a look at testimony we will be giving on Thursday. It's in support of Intro 199, which would require the City to think about ways to reduce traffic, not just congestion.
NYPIRG STRAPHANGERS CAMPAIGN
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL
TRAFFIC PERFORMANCE MEASURES
January 25, 2007
The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign strongly supports Intro 199.
The bill would require the New York City Department of Transportation to develop and report new performance measures. These would be aimed at assessing and reducing the amount of traffic and accounting for how many people have changed switch from driving to other modes of service, such as transit, walking or bicycling.
Mayor Bloomberg recently launched a PlanNYC 2030 initiative geared to planning for a projected million additional city residents about 25 years from now. It is critical that we have the information to make smart choices. Since the City cannot build any significant number of new streets, we must plan to use the ones we have in a way that is healthier, safer and more efficient.
City DOT's current "vision statement" - found on its website - does not commit the agency to the goals embodied in the "performance targets and indicators" of Intro199. These include as "reducing traffic citywide" and "increasing the proportion of walking, biking and the use of mass transit to the central business district."
Instead, the vision statement concerns itself with "reducing congestion" and "enhancing mobility" through "parking enforcement, intersection control, street signage, traffic signalization, street lighting, and parking facility installation and maintenance."
These are the right goals, but a far too limited way of measuring and achieving progress on them. The statistics in the existing citywide measurement programs - Citywide Accountability Program Management, My Neighborhood Statistics, or the Mayor's Management Report - are too crabbed, with reporting of such numbers as operable street parking meters, construction permits issued, and summons issued.
You may "reduce congestion" by such laudable programs as better timed traffic signals, but if you reduce traffic or household exposure to emissions, you can change the quality of life in city neighborhoods.
Those are a few of the relevant targets and measures of Intro199, which should be adopted by the City Council.
Posted Jan 24 2007 by Gene Russianoff
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New Year's Resolutions
The state legislature in Albany is the place to go to get laws that improve transit.
Below is the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign's state capitol agenda for 2007. By the end of the session, we will let you know how we fared with a new governor, Eliot Spitzer.
Reactions? Other laws we should be considering?
Keeping transit fares affordable.
In 2003 and 2005, fare hikes hit MTA riders. The MTA projects large future deficits, rising from $805 million in 2008 to $1.8 billion in 2010. In large part, this is due to skyrocketing costs for interest. These have been triggered by the state's forcing the MTA to rely on billions of dollars in borrowing to make up for the loss of billions in state aid to repair the system. In the past, the state's approach has been to require all the beneficiaries of the most extensive transit system in the Western Hemisphere to help fund it. These have included: drivers (through gasoline taxes, tolls, and motor vehicle fees); consumers (sales tax): businesses (surcharge on the corporate franchise tax); real estate developers and homeowners (real property transfer and mortgage recording taxes; and transit riders (fares.) It should do this again. In addition, the MTA should seek to find meaningful savings through eliminating waste and promoting efficiencies. We agree with Governor Spitzer that a fare increase should be "the last resort." The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign will work with the Governor and Legislature to keep fares competitive and MTA fare discounts attractive.
End the practice of meeting transit state general obligations by using dollars already dedicated to the MTA.
Under section 18-B of the state's Transportation Law, the MTA should be receiving state general funds. But while upstate transit systems are deemed worthy of such support, the MTA is not. Instead, down state taxes that are already earmarked for transit, are used to meet 18-B state obligations. Currently, MTA New York City Transit receives $158 million in "18-B funds," which are in actuality coming from earmarked transit accounts. This should change.
Make the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) more accountable.
The MTA has been widely criticized for a lack of openness and accountability in its budget, finances and operations. In 2003, the MTA took a number of positive steps to increase its transparency, like putting out its preliminary budget five months early. The agency also agreed to new regulations by the State Comptroller, while the state legislature enacted a bill to promote the reform of public authorities. But more is needed. There should be an independent state Public Authorities Budget Office overseeing the MTA and a new, more independent Office of the MTA Inspector General.
Permit New York City to deploy bus lane enforcement cameras.
Pending legislation would allow New York City to make bus-only lanes move more quickly by enforcing them with bus-mounted cameras. These cameras are critical to improving bus service. For example, London has over 900 bus lane enforcement cameras on buses and 500 roadside cameras patrol the city's 700 bus lanes. The program pays for itself and commuters are now saving an average of 10 minutes in travel time. Bus use is up 7% and reliability 12.5% in the last year. These cameras are also essential to implement city and MTA proposals for a new kind of Bus Rapid Transit service. Right now, New York City has the slowest buses in America. Travel time on 19 city routes is longer than the scheduled Amtrak run between New York and Philadelphia.
Posted Jan 10 2007 by Gene Russianoff
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Transit Head Steps Down
Today, MTA New York City Transit President Lawrence G. Reuter said he planned to step down from his post in February 2007.
We congratulate Mr. Reuter on his decade-long service to transit riders during a period of challenging change and rebuilding for New York's subway and bus system.
We expect that Lee Sander - the new MTA CEO and Executive Director - and the MTA Board will choose a transit professional with the kind of experience Mr. Reuter brought to the job. The appointment of a new president for MTA New York City Transit should also serve to hold the new Spitzer Administration more accountable to the riding public.
The Straphangers Campaign had its disagreements with Mr. Reuter, ranging from announcements to subway car cleanliness to the adequacy of subway and bus service. But those disagreements do not stop us from acknowledging very positive trends that occurred under President Reuter's tenure. These include:
- President Reuter successfully implemented free transfers between subways and buses, ending the century old practice of "two-fare zones" and cutting fares for millions of New Yorkers.
- President Reuter also was successful in putting into effect a range of new fare discounts, including unlimited-ride MetroCards good for different time periods.
- As a result of these fare incentives, riders have flocked to the system in droves during his tenure, growing some 31 percent to 1.45 billion, between 1996 and 2005, and are now at their highest level since 1953. In turn, substantial amounts of new subway and bus service was added to meet this tidal wave of growth.
- Riders were also attracted by the great improvements in the system's condition in the last decade - with billions well spent on new subway cars and buses, track and signals, and subway stations.
Many challenges await the new MTA New York City Transit President, from improving labor-management relationships, implementing Bus Rapid Transit, providing continuing service while making major system repairs, and bettering communications with both the riding public and groups representing riders.
Posted Jan 3 2007 by Gene Russianoff
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