Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MTA moves to solar power

The MTA announced on Monday that it would begin installation of solar panels on the roofs of bus depots, warehouses and other structures in a nod to the environment. The authority hopes to generate 7% of its electric needs from renewable sources by 2015.

Peter H. Bass, director of environmental and energy policy for the MTA, said the cost of using solar power is expected to be about $1 million dollars more per year than if that power were purchased from Con Edison.

While the agency should be commended for this initiative, there are two things the agency could do today to benefit the environment and save money at the same time:

1) End the use of diesel locomotives throughout the system, except when absolutely necessary; e.g., when power has been cut and repairs must be made. The outdated diesel engines used by the MTA spew an incredible amount of particulate matter (one of the most harmful forms of pollution) into the atmosphere. The garbage trains that collect the trash from subway stations often use diesel engines.

2) Begin using plastic railroad ties throughout the NYCT subway and elevated lines. Plastic ties have several advantages over the wood ties that have traditionally been used; they are made of recycled materials and can be installed incrementally as needed, they have a longer life than wood ties, and they are not a source of pollution as are wood ties which are treated with creosote, a highly toxic substance.

The Long Island Railroad began installing plastic ties on the Montauk line in 2007, so the MTA is well aware of the benefits. Let's pressure them to implement these two common-sense measures.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Driver actually charged!

In the image shown above, © 2008 Sanborn, ©2008 Tele Atlas, from Google Earth™, traffic from Duane Street and the Brooklyn Bridge merges on to Centre Street (lower left), often at speeds higher than the limit of 30 mph. The courthouse steps are at top center of the photo. Increased enforcement would be particularly useful here.

As reported by Christine Hauser in the New York Times, six people were injured yesterday when an out-of-control 1999 Nissan Altima traveling north on Centre Street mounted the curb, destroyed a fire hydrant and a coffee vendor's cart before finally coming to rest on the State Supreme Court steps.

From Ms. Hauser's report:

"The police said six people were injured, including Lorenzo Bello, the 33-year-old man who was driving the 1999 Altima; his passenger; the coffee vendor, 26; and the pinned man, 32, whose right leg was injured. They were taken to hospitals in stable condition, but the police did not give their names.

Mr. Bello, who lives in Queens, was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment and driving with a suspended license.

Two pedestrians also were injured: a 35-year old woman who was hit in the left thigh and taken to the hospital in stable condition, the police said, and Maryanne Hom, 59, who said she jumped out of the way just in time."

At least the driver was charged.

About four hours later, a cab driver hit another pedestrian approximately 60 feet from the first accident. A witness at the scene said the victim flew 15 to 20 feet. No information about charges is available at this time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Some other things we could do to reduce traffic and improve transit; most without State approval

• Make all the major crosstown thoroughfares (Canal, Houston, 14th Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street, 42nd Street, 57th Street, 72nd Street, 79th Street, 86th Street, 96th Street, 106th Street, 116th Street, 125th Street, 145th Street, 181st Street, and finally, Dyckman Street) accessible to pedestrians, bicycles and buses (BRT) only.

• Do the same for every third or fourth avenue (First Avenue, Lexington Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Broadway, Ninth Avenue).

• Make all deliveries requiring trucks larger than a van take place between 6PM and 6AM.

• Do the same for major thoroughfares in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.

• Establish a dedicated force of 2,500 police to enforce the traffic laws, dedicate half of the increased fines collected to mass transit; the other half would pay for the increased enforcement.

• Eliminate at least half of the parking placards now in circulation.

• Double the parking tax; dedicate the increased revenues to mass transit.

• Triple the street parking fees; dedicate the increased revenues to mass transit.

• Impose a $1,000 per year tax surcharge on passenger vehicles registered within the city that get less than 25 mpg/city.

• Eliminate city sales tax on bicycles and bike equipment.

• Make the fine for traveling over 30mph in the city $20.00 for every mile per hour above 30—and strictly enforce it.

• Ban "schooling" behavior of cabs—hundreds at a time travel up Church/Sixth Ave en masse or down Columbus while people elsewhere can't find one. Cabbies income would rise, streets would be calmed.

• Get the cross-harbor tunnel built—we've been waiting since 1915!

And there's so much more that can be done—please post your ideas!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bloomberg bon mot

"Bloomberg says lawmakers against the plan will have to answer to New Yorkers when mass transit improvements they hoped for aren't available."
from Newsday.com

As if anyone has ever answered to New Yorkers regarding inadequate transit.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Congestion pricing money going to these guys?

New York City Transit bus rider report cards were to be made accessible on the MTA's website on April 1st. So far, as of April 5th, they've only been able to post report cards for Staten Island. I've informed them of this error via their online complaint process, but from past experience, I'm not holding my breath. Above, you can see the page that one gets when one attempts to rate one's line. I suppose that one can't vote if one's line begins with M, B, Q or Bx.

Do you really believe these people have the ability to improve service to the degree that congestion pricing requires? Has the MTA shown supporters of the current congestion plan some newly found yet hitherto unseen competency?

Mayor Bloomberg and his congestion-pricing coterie have been running around the corridors of Albany asking legislators what changes are necessary in order for the plan to be enacted. Aside from the changes that have been requested all along, I'd say a complete overhaul of the MTA and its operations might be in order.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Congestion pricing—a great idea, a terrible plan

I support congestion pricing, but have extreme reservations about this version they’re trying to ram down our throats. There are serious drawbacks to this plan; most importantly, it will not produce substantial reductions in traffic and pollution, nor will the plan provide sufficient revenues to enable the necessary improvements to mass transit necessitated by congestion pricing.

The plan may also be unconstitutional—how do you justify making outer-borough residents de facto second-class citizens of the city in which they live? What additional tax burden do Manhattanites living within the zone pay, that they should receive preferential treatment above and beyond other city residents? Yet the state assembly was the direct cause of this—the original agreement with the federal DOT did not specifically restrict congestion pricing to the borough of Manhattan (as I read it), but the bill approved by the state assembly and senate authorized the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission to devise a plan restricted to Manhattan. We outer-borough residents already receive inferior city services compared to Manhattan.

There are insufficient disincentives to discourage drivers coming from Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Long Island to forgo travel to Manhattan by car; most would receive a credit for tolls paid, and would only pay an additional $2.00 to enter the congestion zone. Do you really think that a $2.00 charge will stop drivers from coming? There are no incentives in the plan for the use of hybrid vehicles and other, non-polluting and alternative methods of transportation (how about eliminating sales tax on bicycles and helmets?). Only those who live within the congestion zone will benefit from improved air quality—those who live in neighborhoods outside the zone, who already suffer disproportionately higher rates of asthma and COPD due to high concentrations of particulate matter will continue to do so—the rates of asthma and COPD may even rise. As New York City has the highest rate of asthma in the United States and the Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx has the highest asthma rate in the world, I, and many others find this green-wash solution completely unacceptable.

New York City residents have the lowest car-ownership rates in the area, and account for the lowest percentage of drivers in Manhattan, yet the lion’s share of costs of this plan will inequitably fall on them.

I will not go into all the alternatives here, but many spoke out to the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, including myself, and that testimony is part of the record, and I urge you to read all of it—there are many excellent suggestions, most of which were ignored by the commission.

Please read my report on Traffic and Mass Transit in New York City, which I originally sent to Governor Spitzer in May of 2007, but I ask you to also read the letter to the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, which also appears here:


I also request that you read my other posts, too.

I’d like to point out that 40% of the City Council did not approve of this plan, and I would like to say, once again, that drastic reforms at the MTA (ignored in the plan) are necessary if congestion pricing is to be an effective means of reducing congestion, pollution and improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers, both upstate and down. Driver reform is also entirely necessary, and is also completely ignored in the current plan.

Please, don't buy into the current plan. Note that City Councilmember and Environmental Committee Chair James F. Gennaro voted against this proposal—he's well aware that this is a bogus bill that will only increase the tax burden on outer-borough residents, and will fail in providing the promised benefits of decreased pollution and traffic that we city residents deserve. It will only decrease congestion in select neighborhoods (if at all) while increasing pollution in most other areas, will only marginally improve mass transit; again, only in a few places, and will not benefit the majority of New York City residents. Write your state assemblymember, your state senator, Senator Bruno, Assemblymember Silver, and Governor Patterson, and let them know we need a real plan that benefits all the residents of New York City.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"...an opportunity to create a real five-borough plan has been missed..."—Councilmember Leroy G. Comrie, Jr.'s comments

I am very disappointed that this body was not able to come together to develop a real plan to help all New York City residents deal with the issues of congestion and health. The lack of outreach was evident and an opportunity to create a real five-borough plan has been missed. In my opinion, the residents of Queens will be unfairly taxed by the current congestion plan.

As a long-time member of this body — as an elected official and as a staffer — over the past 20 years I’ve heard numerous promises made by several administrations regarding improved public transportation and capital improvements in Queens, which were never delivered. And despite the assurances of this administration, I’ve seen nothing that will assure me that the projected benefits of this congestion plan will ever be delivered upon.

We have no control of the M.T.A.’s capital budget- they can change it whenever they want to. Several years ago, when the M.T.A. took over the private bus lines in Queens, there were promises made for additional express bus services. We still haven’t seen them. And the M.T.A.’s inability to open their real financial books to the public only reaffirms my belief that the people of Queens will be paying into a system that places executive perks over real transportation improvements. I have absolutely no faith in M.T.A. to be honest with New Yorkers.

I want to applaud my colleagues who stood against this plan, especially my colleague from Brooklyn, Council Member Lew Fidler. Real leadership comes not when you are agreeing with majority- that’s the easy part -but when you dissent as minority, based on your principles and your belief that what you do and how you vote is a true reflection of the community you serve.

Today, I cast my vote for the residents of Queens, who this evening will be packed like sardines on the E train to Jamaica Center. Who will be frustrated sitting in traffic on the Grand Central. Our economy is in recession and the mortgage crisis now threatens to erode the entire Southeast Queens community. Our federal government has seen fit to bail out billion dollar Wall Street firms, while real families in this City are losing homes and jobs. And the message from this Council, in the midst of this crisis, is to impose another tax. We are unwilling to raise taxes on the wealthy, but see fit to continue pricing working class residents out of the City.

I will not in good conscience vote in favor of this plan.