Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
The nation’s largest airlines reported no flights in February with tarmac delays of more than three hours, down from 60 flights in February 2010, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
Data filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, showed there have been only 16 total tarmac delays of more than three hours reported from May 2010 through February 2011 by the airlines that file on-time performance data with DOT, compared to 664 reported from May 2009 through February 2010. In February, the carriers also reported that .0400 percent of their scheduled flights had tarmac delays of two hours or more, down from the .0600 percent reported in January 2011
February was the 10th full month of data since the new aviation consumer rule went into effect on April 29, 2010. The new rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. The Department will investigate tarmac delays that exceed this limit.
During February, when large parts of the country experienced severe winter weather, the carriers canceled 4.9 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, compared to 5.4 percent in February 2010 and 3.9 percent in January 2011.
Monday, April 04, 2011
Albany, NY (April 4, 2011)
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he is seeking approximately $517 million in federal funding for eight projects that advance New York's high-speed rail plans.
"Days after my election as Governor, I began pushing for more federal money for high-speed rail because New York has projects across the state that are ready to go," Governor Cuomo said. "New York is embracing high-speed rail as a faster way to move people and products and drive our economy in the 21st century, and these federal resources would help us achieve these goals."
The projects cover an array of vital infrastructure upgrades across New York that will continue to lay the groundwork for wide-scale high-speed service in New York. The federal government has made $2.4 billion in high-speed rail funding available after it was returned by the State of Florida.
The projects include:
Northeast Corridor Congestion Relief: Harold Interlocking: The largest application is for $294.7 million for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Harold Interlocking plan.
Monday, April 04, 2011
If it seems a bit messier and a bit noisier, it's because street construction season is beginning. (We're also getting lots of reminders from US and local DOT's about watching out for those workers while driving). Weather's warming, projects are getting going. Yes, it's a seasonal industry, but in the Northeast, it sure was a looooong winter. -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation
Monday, April 04, 2011
This in, from Amtrak..we'll post more as get 'em...and more analysis later.
AMTRAK SEEKS $1.3 BILLION FOR GATEWAY PROJECT AND NEXT-GENERATION HIGH-SPEED RAIL ON NEC
Portal Bridge, Hudson River Tunnels, NY Penn Station among projects
WASHINGTON – Amtrak is applying for nearly $1.3 billion in recently available high-speed and intercity passenger rail federal funding to move forward with a series of infrastructure improvements -- including the Gateway Project --as critical first steps to bring next-generation high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor (NEC).
“The Northeast Corridor is a premier region in the country to advance the nation’s high-speed rail program,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman. “The Gateway Project improvements to increase passenger rail capacity and access into the heart of Manhattan are absolutely essential to make next-generation high-speed rail a reality,” he added.
A recent decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation to name the NEC a federally designated high-speed rail corridor allows Amtrak to apply directly for this funding.
Amtrak worked closely with its state partners to coordinate projects election in order to maximize the expected regional improvements. Each of the coordinated projects submitted by Amtrak and individual states are vital for the reliability and capacity of the current NEC network, and are critical building blocks for expanded and higher speed intercity passenger rail service.
Specifically, Amtrak is requesting funding for three Gateway projects including for a $720 million project to replace the more than 100-year-old movable Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey with a new, high-level fixed bridge. The Amtrak request is for $570 million with a contribution from the State of New Jersey of up to $150 million.
Monday, April 04, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) In case you missed it over the weekend (what, on a beautiful Saturday you weren't plunked in front of a screen?), here's my analysis of the poll Jim Brennan released on Brooklyn's Prospect Park West bike lane. (Never has a mile of roadway been so parsed. But anyway.)
Essentially, its results are identical to the Brad Lander survey taken in December. That shows a remarkable steadiness in public opinion, despite heated coverage in almost every form of media, and noisy and vehement arguing on both sides.
The bike lane remains the choice of the plurality of respondants...and if you add in those who want to keep it with (unspecified) changes, that turns into a big majority.
The analysis is here.
Monday, April 04, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) The software developer Roadify won the grand prize in the NYC government-sponsored "Big App Compeitition." The app has allowed users of the B-67 bus to "give' or "receive" information about bus arrival times, thus allowing the wisdom of the crowd to give faster, more accurate, and more true-to-life bus arrival times than the signs posted on MTA placards at bus stops.
Dylan Goelz, one of the founders of Roadify (whose slogan has been, "Put the Community in Commuting") says wining was "a complete shock." Roadify just recently launched a subway for all New York City subway lines.
Its prize-winning software also dispenses crowd-sourced parking and traffic information.
Other winners include Wheeels, which allows users to find, and potentially share, nearby car-services to say,the airport. and bestparking.com which allows users to find the nearest, best, or cheapest parking at any given time.
Brandon Kessler, who ran the competition, say transit and transportation apps mesh perfectly with the current "zeitgeist." He says: "milions of people are going too and from work . There's a a huge amount of lost efficiency, and frustration.' Kessler adds that billions of dollars can potentially be saved if straphangers can share real-time information about where a bus or subway is, versus where it's scheduled to be.
The NYC MTA is also pretty enthusiastic about the apps -- anything that can make the system easier to use redounds well to the cash-strapped transit system, which recently underwent huge service cuts and big fare hike.
"We need to improve real time information," MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said. We But don’t have resources to do everything, these apps will create things at no cost to us that really help our customers."
The MTA has already starting installing countdown clocks on some platforms and hopes to have 2000 by the end of 2011, and is experimenting with real-time bus information on its B-63 bus in Brookklyn, available through mobile phones. All of Staten Island will get the service by the end of the year.
Information on all the winning apps is here.
Saturday, April 02, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) The most interesting thing about Assemblymember's Jim Brennan's scientific poll of people living in neighborhoods around Prospect Park is how remarkably consistent opinion is on the two-way, protected bike lane. It was installed last June, reducing automobile traffic from three lanes to two. But there has been noisy discussion around it -- and a lawsuit to remove it -- ever since.
When Councilmember Brad Lander did a 3000-person survey back in December, 49 percent of respondents said they wanted to keep the bike lane as is, 22 percent said they wanted to keep it with changes, and 29 percent said they wanted to remove it.
When Brennan hired a national polling firm to do a statistically significant survey of how some park-bordering communities felt, 44 percent of respondents said keep it as is, 25 percent said it should be altered in some way,and 28 percent wanted to remove it.
Thus, in December of 2010, 71 percent of those surveyed wanted the bike lane to remain, 30 percent did not. Today, 69 percent of respondents want the bike lane to remain (albeit some want changes) while 29 percent wanted it removed. That difference is minuscule, and certainly well with the margin of error on Brennan's poll, 4.5 percentage points.
Given all the press that the lawsuit against the bike lane has gotten -- and all the opportunities for both sides to make their arguments, the sentiment has been remarkably consistent. Nothing is moving these numbers.
"This is only the most recent proof that bike lanes and this particular bike lane are and is popular,” Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson told me in in a telephone interview. “Sixteen points is a pretty overwhelming margin. If you have a sixteen point electoral victory they call it a landslide.” (Wolfson, having been a top aide in Hillary Clinton's campaign for President, knows something about elections.)
But if this were an election campaign, it's almost impossible to think of numbers holding like this. Some public officials have been loudly and vocally berating bike lanes -- the lanes have literally become a punch line. The tabloids have run anti-NYC DOT headlines for days in a row. Even the NY Times and NY Magazine have raised the question of whether bike lanes can turn New Yorkers against Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Apparently not. The Lander survey -- not scientific, but sampling a broad range of opinions using an array of techniques, the Brennan poll, and a recent Quinnipiac poll showing overall, 54 percent of New Yorkers say bike lanes are "a good thing" vs. 38 percent who do not -- would seem to indicate that, actually, bike lanes are one of the more popular things Mayor Bloomberg has done. (His education numbers by contrast, show only about a third of New Yorkers approve what he's doing in the schools.)
Now, this doesn't mean there isn't dissent. The Brennan poll probed depths of feeling, and found that both sides felt strongly about their positions, but more of those who are opposed felt strongly in their position. That's exactly the kind of feeling that gives rise to angry testimony at the city council, lobbying of elected representatives, and, even lawsuits.
But apparently, these strongly held beliefs are not persuading people on the other side.
Now, there were some interesting secondary questions in the poll. More people than not said the bike lane made traffic, presumably automobile traffic, worse. But that's what the members of Community Board were aiming for -- cars were speeding, they wanted them to slow down, they thought trimming Prospect Park West to two automobile lanes from three would have that effect. In general, slower speeds are experienced as more traffic-- whether you like to drive,walk, or bike.
What would be really interesting to know, and traffic engineers have studied this in elsewhere ,is whether making Prospect Park West a less auto-friendly street has affected the overall volume of automobile traffic in Park Slope.
Gridlock Sam one related to me a tale of how, when the West Side Highway fell down, he and the other engineers at City DOT were convinced that surrounding streets would be inundated with traffic -- and they were, for a while. But as they studied the traffic patterns over time what they found was that traffic was dispersing through the grid, and that a full 1/3 of it simply disappeared altogether as people switched to other modes.
A highway, former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist once argued to me, draws traffic.In fact, because drivers will go out of their way to take a route they see as faster. But if you remove a highway (as he did) it doesn't mean 40,000 cars traveling on the highway will suddenly be plunked down into the surrounding streets. Ultimately, what happened in Milwaukee is that traffic volume dropped as cars dispersed around the street grid.
Was Prospect Park West functioning in the same way, pre-bike lane,when it was faster to drive on? Were drivers going out of their way to take PPW versus, say, Seventh Avenue, two blocks over, a notoriously slow commercial street? (PPW is mostly residential.)
But back to the poll. Jim Walden, the attorney for the group suing to remove the bike lane, was clear in his dismissal of this poll: "Safety is not a popularity contest," he said.
But he couldn't resist parsing the numbers, anyway.
"Pedestrians feel less safe crossing Prospect Park West, as this poll decisively shows. But DOT's own data tell the same story, and the numbers don't lie: people feel less safe because they are less safe. In the end, safety is not a popularity contest.”
The poll does not decisively show pedestrians feel less safe: It shows most of the respondents -- a plurality -- feel neither safer nor less safe. In fact , 44 percent either feel no impact (38 percent) , or aren't sure (6 percent). Thirty three percent feel less safe, and 22 percent feel safer.
The lawsuit argues that the DOT manipulated safety data to make it look as if the bike lane were making the street safer.
Some other interesting numbers -- two thirds of respondents said they owned a car that they used regularly, while only a third said they biked regularly. Which means that drivers are for the bike lane in pretty big numbers.
Unfortunately, the poll didn't ask a follow up question to the 25 percent who said they were "in favor of altering the bike lane and traffic pattern to address driver and pedestrian concerns," so its impossible to know what those people meant -- putting in pedestrian signals, islands, and adding parking spaces, as Councilman Lander has advocated? Make the bike lane one-way, instead of two way, as some bike lane opponents have articulated?
The battle now really does move to the courts, as the court of public opinion seems to have weighed in. The first hearing is scheduled for May 18.
Except, somehow, I'm guessing we haven't heard the last word. From anyone.
Friday, April 01, 2011
A new poll finds a large plurality of people living near Prospect Park, Brooklyn, support keeping a two-way, protected bike lane as is along Prospect Park West.
Friday, April 01, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Assemblymember Jim Brennan of Brooklyn is out with a poll showing 44 percent of residents favor keeping the two-way, protected bike lane on Prospect Park West in place, 28% favor removing it, and 25% favor altering it to respond to pedestrian and driver concerns.
Brennan said, “I did the poll because I thought it would be helpful to get an accurate read on public opinion about the bike lane from a professional pollster using standard statistical sampling techniques."
The poll in many ways reflects the finding of a survey earlier conducted by City Councilmember Brad Lander, which found three quarters in favor of keeping the bike lane.. We'll have more analysis on this, but here's a summary. (Full poll at end of post)
48% said it was a change for the better, and 32% said it was a changes for the worse. 20% had no opinion.
Results break along demographic lines: Younger residents under 50 definitely support the bike lane (59%), while residents over 50 tend to oppose it (44%) rather than support it (36%). Younger residents favor keeping the bike lane as is (57%), while older residents are in favor of changing it (25%) or getting rid of it (39%) instead of keeping it (30%).
Friday, April 01, 2011
This just in:
We'll have more in a bit.
MTA, NASSAU COUNTY, STATE SENATE ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT
TO SAVE LONG ISLAND BUS SERVICE
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Nassau County and State Senate Republicans, lead by Senator Charles Fuschillo (R, Merrick) and Senator Jack Martins (R-C-I, Mineola), today announced an agreement to stave off proposed cuts to Long Island Bus that would have affected more than half of the bus routes in Nassau County.
“We have heard from many of our constituents that depend on Long Island Bus services to get to work, school or go shopping,” Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said. “They are very concerned that if these cuts go through, they will have no other way to get around. Fortunately, we were able to reach an agreement to avert the cuts and prevent any disruption in service. I want to thank Senator Fuschillo and Senator Martins for their leadership in responding to this issue.”
“A number of communities in Nassau County would have lost bus service entirely, leaving riders who live and work in those communities with no alternative way to get to their homes or jobs,” Senator Fuschillo, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said. “Riders are tired of hearing about problems, they want to hear solutions and we were happy to finally achieve a solution. I’m pleased that we were able to work together with the MTA and Nassau County to prevent the harmful service cuts as well as avoid layoffs.”
The MTA proposed cutting 27 of the 48 Long Island Bus routes this summer due to a lack of funding. The cuts would have impacted about 16,000 riders. The MTA was scheduled to vote on service cuts at its April board meeting. Several hundred Long Island Bus riders attended a public hearing at Hofstra University last week to express their concerns over the service cuts.
Friday, April 01, 2011
On April 1(!) Brian Lehrer asked listeners to weigh in on the proposal to transform the Holland Tunnel into a bike-only tunnel to be re-named the Charles Schumer Tunnel. Political perspective from Andrea Bernstein
What do you think about this bike lane expansion project?
Thursday, March 31, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) NY Congressman Anthony Weiner is seen as "a contenda" in New York's next Mayoral election (okay, in 2013, but people need something to talk about while we're waiting for spring).
The youngish outer-borough congressmember got lots of airtime (and kudos from the kind of people who vote in Democratic primaries for Mayor) for supporting a public option in health care reform.
But he has been in hot water in some communities for telling the New York Times that he said at a Mayoral dinner: "When I become mayor, you know what I’m going to spend my first year doing? I’m going to have a bunch of ribbon-cuttings tearing out your (expletive) bike lanes.” (He later tweeted that he was "joking.")
Then, Roll Call found he owed $2,180 in DC parking tickets -- an embarrassment since he's been particularly vocal about United Nations diplomats failing to pay their parking tickets. He jokes about it in this video at the Congressional Correspondents Dinner.
Via Azi, in the New York Observer Politicker
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Alex Goldmark and Soterios Johnson discuss the lastest on the ever-growing list of investigations into the safety of the burgeoning long-haul bus industry. Listen here.
Bonus: hear Senator Frank Lautenberg read the news bulletin.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
((Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) At the almost-end of the 2008 presidential primary season -- May, 2008 -- gasoline prices went through the roof , up to $5 a gallon in some areas of the country. The price hike prompted near-panic, along with car-pooling, more mass transit rides, more careful grocery lists (just one trip to the supermarket) -- and a very big policy debate.
As it happened, Hillary Clinton, fighting the last days of the primary, got behind a gas tax cut. Most economists dismissed the idea -- not only would the gas tax cut simply disappear in the rising price of gasoline, they argued, but it would also bankrupt the already broke highway trust fund.
Barack Obama did not get behind the gas tax cut, even though, as I trailed the two candidates through the rolling hills of Indiana, cutting the gas tax got some of the biggest whoops of any proposals during Hillary Clinton's speeches. Obama called it a gimmick.
He still thinks so, today.
"We’ve been down this road before," he told an enthusiastic audience of Georgetown University students at a speech (video here) on energy security today. "Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon. Working folks haven’t forgotten that. It hit a lot of people pretty hard. But it was also the height of political season, so you had a lot of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians waving three-point-plans for two-dollar gas – when none of it would really do anything to solve the problem. Imagine that in Washington.
"The truth is, of course, was that all these gimmicks didn’t make a bit of difference. When gas prices finally fell, it was mostly because the global recession led to less demand for oil. Now that the economy is recovering, demand is back up. Add the turmoil in the Middle East, and it’s not surprising oil prices are higher. And every time the price of a barrel of oil on the world market rises by $10, a gallon of gas goes up by about 25 cents."
Indeed, President Barack Obama has had a remarkably consistent position on energy through his campaign and his presidency, even as the political climate has dramatically shifted.
In September of 2008, I was watching Rudy Giuliani give his address to the Republican National Convention with Congressman Peter King. "Drill, Baby Drill," Giuliani said, as King cringed "we're not supposed to use the 'D-word,' we're supposed to say 'explore.'" Still - the genie was out of the bottle. The crowd roared when Giuliani said that, and when Sarah Palin picked up the refrain during her acceptance of the Vice Presidential nomination later during the Minneapolis convention.
But despite the popularity of that slogan, talking about developing solutions to climate change and oil dependency was, in those days, a much more bi-partisan issue than it has since become. Just two years later, In the elections of 2010, several Republicans won by practically spitting when mentioning Democratic support for what they called "cap and trade" legislation.
But Barack Obama? In 2008, he supported a combination of nuclear power, alternative energy, and mass transit use. Today? He supports a combination of nuclear power, alternative energy, domestic oil drilling (the "Drill,Baby, Drill) part of his policy, and mass transit use.
"Seventy percent of our petroleum use goes to transportation," he said today."Seventy percent."
His speech today (full text here) made a careful argument. We must, he posited, reduce oil consumption by a third in a decade. To get there, he proposed, first, the US must exploit its own supplies -- "as long as it's safe and responsible."
"When it comes to drilling onshore," he added, in a line of argument that might surprise some of his 2008 primary voters -- "my Administration approved more than two permits last year for every new well that the industry started to drill. So any claim that my Administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve “shut down” oil production might make for a useful political sound bite – but it doesn’t track with reality.
And, then, in an adroit Obama-esque intellectual maneuver, he added "But let’s be honest – it’s not the long-term solution to our energy challenge. America holds only about two percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. And even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every one of those reserves, it still wouldn’t be enough to meet our long-term needs."
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) President Obama is vowing the U.S. will cut oil consumption by a third in the next decade. Speaking before a group at Georgetown University, Obama said: "So today, I’m setting a new goal: one that is reasonable, achievable, and necessary. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third."
To achieve this, Obama said, he would take several measures: continue to expand domestic drilling, pursuing increased natural gas drilling while ensuring it didn't endanger oil supplies, and, as he put it, keeping nuclear power "on the table," because he said, nuclear power doesn't produce carbon. But he said that must be done safely.
His biggest proposals, however, were on the consumption side. By 2015, he said, all federal cars purchased will be hybrid or electric.
"The fleet of cars and trucks we use in the federal government is one of the largest in the country. That’s why we’ve already doubled the number of alternative vehicles in the federal fleet, and that’s why, today, I am directing agencies to purchase 100% alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles by 2015. And going forward, we’ll partner with private companies that want to upgrade their large fleets."
Obama noted that even if the US were to drill "every drop" of U.S. oil, US oil only accounts for 2 percent of the world supply, while the US consumes 25 percent of the oil. He also pointed out that 70 percent of US petroleum consumption comes from the transportation sector.
Most of the oil consumption part of the speech focused on alternative-fueled personal and commercial vehicles, but he did make reference to increasing mass transit options: " We’ve also made historic investments in high-speed rail and mass transit, because part of making our transportation sector cleaner and more efficient involves offering Americans – urban, suburban, and rural – the choice to be mobile without having to get in a car and pay for gas."
The administration has invested about $11 billion in high speed rail, and wants to spend more than $50 billion more.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
We meet here at a tumultuous time for the world. In a matter of months, we’ve seen regimes toppled and democracy take root across North Africa and the Middle East. We’ve witnessed a terrible earthquake, catastrophic tsunami and nuclear emergency batter a strong ally and the world’s third largest economy. And we’ve led an international effort in Libya to prevent a massacre and maintain stability throughout the broader region.
As Americans, we are heartbroken by the lives that have been lost as a result of these events. We are moved by the thirst for freedom in many nations, as well as the strength and perseverance of the Japanese people. And of course, it’s natural to feel anxious about what all this means for us.
One area of particular concern has been the cost and security of our energy. In an economy that relies on oil, rising prices at the pump affect everybody – workers and farmers; truck drivers and restaurant owners. Businesses see it hurt their bottom line. Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank. For Americans already struggling to get by, it makes life that much harder
But here’s the thing – we’ve been down this road before. Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon. Working folks haven’t forgotten that. It hit a lot of people pretty hard. But it was also the height of political season, so you had a lot of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians waving three-point-plans for two-dollar gas – when none of it would really do anything to solve the problem. Imagine that in Washington.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Using the NYC MTA's information page, or any of the apps based on it can be an exercise in imagined bliss. On the one hand, it's thrilling to get information on subway status, and whether a line is running before setting out for a subway stop. On the other hand, the information can come late, or be insufficiently detailed.
Here at Transportation Nation, we've often asked ourselves why subway information isn't crowdsourced. If the A train is delayed, hundreds or thousands of riders know it before the MTA relays that information. Now Roadify, the Brooklyn-based app outfit that started crowdsourcing arrival data for the B-67 bus, is adding all NYC subways lines to its crowdsourcing system.
True, the subways aren't wired. But Roadify's Dylan Goelz says the hope is that a combination of information coming in from above-ground riders, riders leaving the subway, and riders entering stations will create a more complete and immediate picture than the MTA's own info page.
Tell us how it's working!
Monday, March 28, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration is continuing to issue some 3500 parking placards to state legislators and state government employees. Those placards permit the bearer to park in most areas in New York City where others could not. Many of the permits say “this vehicle is on official police business,” even though they are frequently carried by officials with no law enforcement responsibilities.
The practice is not new – it’s so accepted that spokespeople for the Governor, Assembly Speaker, and Senate Majority Leader could not immediately say how the placards are distributed, who gets them, or why. But, according to Queens State Senator Tony Avella, who cut up his placard and then issued a press release about it, “it’s the kind of business-as-usual we promised to reform.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo was swept in last November -- a Democrat winning in a pro-Republican year around the country -- on a platform of bringing a new era of ethical responsibility to Albany, a notoriously dysfunctional state government. To the relief of many New Yorkers, he said he would "end business as usual."
Avella said he would not use his placard because, as a State Senator, he should experience New York the way his constituents do “and that includes looking for parking.” Avella also said “I’m not on official police business, nor is any politician who gets one of these on official police business.”
Other elected officials have said in the past that having the placards enables them to attend several community events in a day, and that driving around looking for parking would mean they couldn’t serve their constituents as effectively.
Despite repeated inquiries over the course of a week, Governor Cuomo’s spokesperson, Joshua Vlasto, did not explain why the placards refer to “official police business,” even though that is not the case.
Some years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg faced a controversy when it was revealed that there were some 140,000 placards in use by city employees. Those placards also used to refer to “official police business.” But the Mayor promised to reduce city placards by half, and changed the language for non-law enforcement officers to “this vehicle is on official city business.”
The placards were a potential embarrassment because nothing irks a New York City resident more than the whiff of a city official getting a privilege he or she does not. But also, making it easier for city employees to park is an inducement to drive to work at a time when Mayor Bloomberg is encouraging people to drive less and take mass transit more. Other mayors around the country have also been eliminating employee parking privileges for that reason, notably former Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, who took away the right of city employees to park free at meters.
When asked if Governor Cuomo would look at changing practices involving the state permits, Vlasto said in an email, “we are reviewing the matter.”
Right now, some 6000 placards are distributed by the state, according to the David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, which oversees the production of the placards. Some 3500 go to New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. Those placards say “State of New York Executive Branch.” A spokesman for that Division, Dennis Michalski, could not immediately say on Friday how the recipients of those 3500 placards are chosen.
In addition, Bookstaver said, some 2500 placards are distributed to the New York State Judiciary – and some of those – about a hundred, go to the New York State Department of Environmental Protection, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Waterfront Commission. Those entities do have law enforcement responsibilities.
Senator Avella was unsure how he was chosen to receive one. He said his placard was delivered to his Albany office, and that his understanding was that all State Senators received them. A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader, Dean Skelos, whose party regained power after two years on the outs, Scott Rief, said placards had been distributed previously by majority leaders as a perk, but he said that practice had ended. The Governor’s office did not offer clarification on how the placards are distributed.
The pro-transit advocacy group, Transportation Alternatives, has been working for many years to shine on light on the practice, which it says encourages the use of personal vehicles over other forms of transportation, a practice they say is environmentally harmful. TA’s Noah Budnick said “this is one of those things that recipients don’t question, because things have always been done this way. But widespread distribution of placards for people who don’t need them has got to stop.”
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration is continuing to issue thousand of parking placards to state legislators and state government employees. Those placards permit the bearer to park in most areas in New York City where others could not. Many of the permits read "This vehicle is on official police business," even though they are frequently carried by officials with no law enforcement responsibilities.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Speaking on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show today, deputy mayor Howard Wolfson gave New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration's most full-throated endorsement in recent months of the city's policy of expanding bike lanes and pedestrian plazas.
"The Mayor is foursquare behind the commissioner," Wolfson said. "He believes this is the right thing. At the end of the day, when you take away all the overwrought rhetoric, it's about providing choices to New Yorkers."
Wolfson was also asked to respond to anti-Prospect Park West bike lane attorney Jim Walden's charge, made yesterday on the Brian Lehrer Show, that the Quinnipiac poll showing 54 percent of New Yorkers think bike lanes are "a good thing" means "a very, very significant minority do not, and you can feel the pulse around the city and people are largely extraordinarily upset that the administration has been so fast and loose with the data, promised a robust study, and failed to deliver."
Wolfson said: (about a minute in) "If you had a political candidate who won by fifteen points in an election, you'd call it a landslide. And so fifteen points is a significant margin, especially considering some of the adverse press that bike lanes have gotten. And you do have a minority of people who don't like bike lanes -- and they're certainly entitled to that. In this instance they've hired an outstanding attorney with a very, very prestigious law firm to engage in legal process and that's fine too, people are entitled to do that.
"We have thousands of lawsuits filed against the city every year. If we let lawsuits or the threat of lawsuits deter us from heeding the will of the people, the vast majority of the people, in making positive change, we'd never get anything done in the city...In this instance the DOT did nothing wrong and I am quite confident of the outcome of the legal process that the minority of people opposed to this bike lane have chosen to engage in."
(Note: Walden and his firm, Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, are working pro bono.)
Brian also Wolfson whether it's "a coordinated strategy from city hall to have the NYPD enforce" traffic laws for cyclists in Central Park and elsewhere.
Wolfson: (about 9 minutes in) "We have a strategy of providing greater transportation choices for New Yorkers, that certainly includes bike lanes, and we have a strategy of insuring our laws are obeyed on the roads."
You can listen to the interview below.