Streams

Andrea Bernstein

Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:

Christie: I Haven't Reviewed Final Tunnel Numbers

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

WNYC

Speaking at a hospital ribbon-cutting in Newark, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is just returning from a multi-day midwest campaign swing with fellow Republicans, says he hasn't had a chance to meet with his staff or review the final numbers on the ARC commuter train tunnel from New Jersey to New York.

Comments [12]

No Light at the End of the ARC Tunnel?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Andrea Bernstein, WNYC reporter and director of the Transportation Nation blog, and Zachary Fink, state house correspondent for NJN News, discuss the possibility of money intended for a New York-to-New Jersey tunnel under the Hudson being redirected to New Jersey's roads.

What do you make of these developments? Are you an NJ->NYC commuter? How would this affect your day? Let us know!

Comments [45]

Lautenberg's Last-Minute Pitch: Port Authority Should Pay for Cost Overruns on ARC

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

NJ US Senator Frank Lautenberg is making a last-minute pitch: he wants the Port Authority to guarantee to pay for any cost overruns on the ARC tunnel, thereby taking NJ off the hook. It's a bit of a Hail Mary -- and complex, because Governor Chris Christie controls half the Port Authority. (Paterson hasn't made a position on ARC clear, and the Democratic Candidate, Andrew Cuomo, says he hasn't taken one yet.)

Here's the letter.

Letter to Coscia and Baroni PANYNJ

Read More

Comments [2]

Sources Say New Jersey Gov. Christie to Pull Plug on Hudson River Tunnel

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The $8.7 billion trans-Hudson river transit tunnel project is expected to be killed later this week by Gov. Chris Christie, according to several sources familiar with the project. Barring a last minute reprieve, Christie will announce later this week that he's pulling the plug on the ARC tunnel, which would have connected New Jersey to Manhattan.

Comments [33]

Christie: I've made no decision

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)

Thanks to Chicago Public Radio's Sarah Smith, we caught up with Gov. Christie in Chicago. He said:

Governor Christie at a Chicago political event. He said:

I have not made any decision I have not been given the information yet by my executive director of NJ Transit or my commissioner of transportation regarding what the real cost of the ARC tunnel going from New Jersey to New York is going to be, and until I get those real costs I can’t make a decision. But what I do know is this: I was alerted to the fact that there were potential for significant cost overruns. And New Jersey's broke. And the federal government's made it clear that New Jersey will be on the hook for any cost overruns on the project.

Well I gotta know what those cost overruns are gonna look like, and whether we’re going to have the money to pay for it or not. So that’s why I put a thirty day halt to construction said go back sharpen your pencils and come back to me. The thirty days runs up this week. When I get back to New Jersey tomorrow I’ll be meeting with my transportation commissioner and my New Jersey transit executive director and they’ll give me information and I’ll have to make a decision. But no I haven’t made any decisions yet at all.

Read More

Comment

Sources familiar with ARC tunnel: It's dead

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Three sources familiar with the $8.7 billion tunnel under the Hudson river from NJ, say, barring an unexpected, last-minute change of heart from Governor Chris Christie, the ARC transit tunnel under the Hudson river is dead. The sources say Christie will likely announce this week that he's restructuring NJ's portion of the money to go to roads. The FTA and the Port Authority will recoup their $3 billion each, though the Port's money will likely go into other regional projects.

Governor Christie's office, NJ Transit, the FTA, and the Port Authority of NY and NJ all decline comment.

More soon.

Read More

Comments [2]

As Trans-Hudson Transit Tunnel Teeters on the Brink, Mayor Bloomberg Says City Can't Help

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) -- Supporters of the federal government's largest transit new start are steeling themselves for an announcement that could come this week that NJ Governor Chris Christie will not fund a transit tunnel under the Hudson River, the nation's largest transit new start project in the works.

Christie has said he's worried the $8.7 billion project could run over by as much as $5 billion, and that if that's the case, he says NJ doesn't have the funds to back it. And he's said, with the NJ highway trust fund broke, the roads need the money.

But though this project has always been more a child of NJ than NY, NYC stands to benefit by one of the tunnel's promises -- doubling the number of New Jerseyans who live within a 50 minute transit commute of New York City. That brings more workers and shoppers to the city, and serves an off-stated Bloomberg goal of reducing carbon emissions.

Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, NYC won't step in and keep the project from dying, if that's what Christie decides.

"We are not party to this," the Mayor said at a City Hall news conference. "It is a Port Authority Project," he added, before saying some nice things about Port Authority staff. "They have their own financial problems, and they can afford some things and not others. "

The Port Authority, a bi-state authority, it should be said, is fully behind the project -- it's Christie who has indicated he may take his $2.7 billion and re-purpose it to roads.

The death of this project would be a major blow to the Obama administration, which has made quite clear that it believes that denser, more transit,oriented development, prioritized over road-based sprawl, is what's needed for a more sustainable future.

Read More

Comment

NY Mayor Bloomberg: "Enh" on Privatizing Parking Meters.

Monday, October 04, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Matt D. wrote on Friday about  Indianopolis's flirtation with privatizing its on-street parking.  Turns out former Indy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, now the Deputy Mayor of NYC,  is eying it too, as first reported in the New York Post.  But his boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, sounded a little iffy about the idea at a press conference on Governor's Island, in the NY Harbor.

"We're trying to think outside the box and look at everything," the Mayor said, preparing for the big BUT. "What we're not going to do is sell our birthright, take some money to balance the budget toady and leave our kids with a greater liability.  If the private sector can do something better than the public sector then we certainly would talk  to them. What's generally done with these privitization things is to take all the money for budget balancing, leaving those cities or states without assets and with an obligation going forward.  That's just terrible fiscal planning."

Read More

Comment

NJ Transportation Commissioner: Transit Money Could Go to Roads if Tunnel is Halted

Monday, October 04, 2010

(Matthew Schuerman, WNYC)

(This post has been updated.) A number of transit advocates suspect New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to use money allocated for a commuter train tunnel under the Hudson River and apply it to roads and bridges in his state.

His transportation commissioner Jim Simpson said today that wasn’t the plan, but it might come to pass.

Under questioning from state Senator Paul Sarlo, Simpson said he “hadn’t thought about it that way,” but he went on:

I don’t know but let’s look at the source of the money. You’ve got a billion dollars of federal money that comes to the New Jersey Department of Transportation that would normally be associated with highway projects. You’ve got that billion coming in—100 million a year—that is rededicated, flexed to ARC. So if ARC didn’t happen there’s a billion dollars for roads and bridges and things like that.

Simpson said the decision on the ARC tunnel—the acronym for the pair of tunnels that NJ Transit broke ground on last summer—would be made on its own merits. But he said if the tunnel’s canceled, using the money on road projects would be “the other end of the equation.”

Christie halted work on the tunnel Sept. 10 and is expected to decide later this week whether to cancel the project. He said the state didn’t have enough money to cover cost overruns from the $8.7 billion tunnel.

Simpson appeared at a hearing that the Joint Budget Oversight Committee called after the Christie administration cancelled more than 100 road and transit projects around the state. That halt came on Friday, because the Democratic-controlled legislature was refusing to approve a $1.7 billion bond deal that’s supposed to keep the construction projects underway until next spring.

After today's hearing, two Democrats broke ranks with leadership and voted, along with two Republicans on the panel, in favor of the borrowing. About 2,000 construction workers are expected to go back on the job Tuesday.

Read More

Comment

Deal reached on NJ Roads Funding

Monday, October 04, 2010

(Matthew Schuerman, WNYC) Thousands of New Jersey construction workers are expected to go back to work tomorrow after the legislature broke an impasse with Governor Christie.

The Joint Budget Oversight Committee voted 4 to 1 in favor of a 1-point-7 billion financing package that the Christie administration said was necessary to keep projects going until the spring. Democrats on the committee had refused to approve the financing last week, leading Governor Christie to suspend about hundreds of road and transit projects as of this morning.

Assemblywoman Nellie Pou from Paterson was one of two Democrats to break ranks with the party's leadership and approve the borrowing.

"I'm not happy the way things are working out," Pou said, " and I'm not happy with how we got to this situation, but my vote is yes for the purpose to making sure the right thing is done today and getting those jobs back in order.

Another Democratic Assemblymember, Louis Greenwald, voted against the measure, saying the state needed to fix the nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund before it borrowed more money.

The vote came as Governor Christie is mulling whether to go forward with another large transportation project -- a trans-Hudson tunnel which would increase NJ Transit's capacity, but which Christie fears may cost too much.

Read More

Comment

NJ Smart Growth Groups Hit Back on"Myths" about Trans-Hudson Tunnel

Friday, October 01, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  In a sign of how tense things are getting in New Jersey as planners and transportation groups await the outcome of Governor Christie's 30-day review of ARC tunnel spending, the planning group New Jersey Future, a project proponent and advocate for denser, more transit-oriented communities, has issued a newsletter debunking what it's calling "myths" about the tunnel, which will cross under the Hudson River.  (ARC stands for "access to the region's core.")

Planners have long advocated the ARC tunnel, saying it will double transit capacity, ease road congestion,  create some 6000 construction jobs, and increase real estate values along NJ transit lines.  But Governor Chris Christie, a Republican elected on a belt-tightening platform last fall, is behind a 30-moratorium on new contracts for the project, citing concerns about who will pay for cost overruns.

Christie has also hinted he's making roads a priority -- the NJ highway trust fund is broke, and Christie had made it clear he has no intention of raising NJ's gas tax.    In this context, regional planners  -- and even the NY Times editorial page --are expressing serious concerns the tunnel may be spiked altogether, with some of the money redistributed for roads.

Into this context comes the NJ Future bullet points -- the kind of thing you often see in political campaigns, maybe less so in planning discussions.

Here they are:

"* The ARC tunnel project cannot connect directly to New York's Penn Station, as some critics have insisted, because Penn Station has reached its capacity and there is no room to expand platform space.

* NJ Transit service cannot be extended directly to Grand Central Terminal because Manhattan's principal north-south water tunnel blocks an east-west connection.

* Amtrak is not planning to build its own tunnel under the Hudson River in the foreseeable future; in fact, Amtrak is counting on the ARC tunnel to provide it with additional capacity for decades to come.

Penn Station is Full
The National Association of Railroad Passengers and other critics contend that the additional NJ Transit service made possible by the ARC tunnel project should tie directly into New York's Penn Station, rather than terminate at a new "deep cavern station" more than 100 feet below 34th Street. NJ Transit would prefer this alignment, too - if it were logistically possible. Platform space at Penn Station has reached capacity, however, and

Read More

Comments [1]

New York U.S. Senator Schumer Touts Transit in New Ad

Friday, October 01, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's not often you see U.S. Senators touting aid to transit in television ads. Creating jobs? Yes. Helping constituents?  Sure. Indeed, many U.S. Senators aren't particular fans of mass transit -- if they're behind rail funding at all, it tends to be about more glamorous projects, like high speed rail. So it caught my attention when I saw this ad, for Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who is running is running against a virtual unknown, Hudson Valley businessman Jay Townsend.

The ad is referring to the transitcheck program, which allows transit users to pay up to $230 a month pre-tax for transit commuting expenses.   Before the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act passed, motorists could deduct $230 for parking, but transit users only $120, providing an obvious incentive to drive, particularly for suburban commuters whose monthly costs can be well over $120.   With Schumer's support, according to Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers' Campaign, the transit benefit was equalized, but that will expire on December 31 of this year.   Schumer, says Russianoff, is working on a fix.   "It's unusual for transit to be an issue in any election," Russianoff says, "but this cuts taxes for suburbanites, and they know it."   The ad pretty prominently features local commuter trains: the Long Island Railroad and Metro North.

It says something about the prevalence of transit users in the New York area that supporting transit can be a potent political issue -- some fifty percent of NY commuters use transit, and that includes the further suburbs. The Brookings Institution has found that only San Franciscans have nearly that level (about a quarter of area residents commute by transit) -- and everyone else, much less.

But Russianoff is happy -- and in the many years I've covered this issue,  he hasn't always been ready to praise Schumer.

This time he told me: "I'm Gene Russianoff, and I approve this message."

Read More

Comment

Are Politicians' Private Lives Off Limits?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

WNYC's Brian Lehrer, Andrea Bernstein and Bob Hennelly discuss the widely shared video of gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino's confrontation with New York Post's Fred Dicker, the persistent challenge to reinvigorate the upstate economy, the pension fraud case of Alan Hevesi, and more.

Comment

Expert: New York City Zoning Regs Won't Really Encourage People to Give Up Private Cars for Car Sharing

Thursday, September 30, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) (Updated)  New York yesterday changed its zoning regulations to clarify that yes, car-share cars can park in private garages. But Dr. Rachel Weinberger, a parking expert at the University of Pennsylvania, says, despite the city's glowing words about car-share, this plan might not really encourage people to give up their cars and use car share instead.  Weinberger's reasoning is this: cities like Toronto and Philadelphia have created incentives for developers to create car-share spots, by allowing them reductions in parking requirements (the requirement they build a certain number of spots for a certain size building.) Some developers really don't want to build extra parking, because of the cost, so allowing them to reduce the space they have to build, she says, is a real incentive to create a car-share spot.

But in New York "there's so much latent demand for parking," Weinberger points out, that there's no incentive to create car share spots over other spots. To encourage car share, she says, you can't just make ZipCars more readily available, you have to make owning a car less convenient.

NY's new resolution will reduce the number of spots for owner-car use somewhat, but not enough, she says, to be a "game-changer."

The change, she said, could "result in more driving, not less," but making it easier to pick up a car-share, but no harder to drive your own.

Got that?
Note:  This post was updated to reflect the fact that Weinberger didn't say the new regs wouldn't make car sharier easier, but rather said it wouldn't discourage private car ownership.

Read More

Comment

Back to the Swing Counties

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Andrea Bernstein, WNYC reporter and director of the Transportation Nation blog, revisited the Pennsylvania and Colorado counties she covered in 2008 to see how the voters' moods have changed.

Comments [13]

Election Report: Transit Advocate Coasting in Colorado

Thursday, September 30, 2010

(Golden, CO -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Here in the Western suburbs of Denver, where the suburbs meet the Rocky foothills, libertarianism reigns. Jefferson County is a classic swing county, one that has voted for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, where well-educated professionals look to Denver for work and the soaring mountains to the west for recreation. No one is particularly happy with incumbents here, and refrains of "I'm voting against anyone who's in office" echoed against the buttes that creep right up to town center.

The stimulus isn't all that popular, and in advertisements, having voted for the health care bill is akin to having voted to raise your taxes and their pay.

But when it comes to the race for Governor, somehow, the Democrat, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who is presiding over one of the largest transit expansions in the nation, is running away with it.

The reason, certainly,

Read More

Comment

NY Creates More (Potential) Parking for Car Share

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) A number of communities around the country, including Palo Alto, CA and Hoboken, NJ, have created special on-street parking for car shares, often by auctioning off the spots. New York City isn't going that far, but it's getting into the act (or a version thereof) by rewriting its 1961 zoning resolution to allow buildings to provide up to 40 percent of their parking garage spaces to car shares like Zipcar or MintCar. Buildings that are primarily residential can provide up to twenty percent.

The city believes the new zoning resolution -- which it calls a "clarification" of existing regs, which are silent on the issue -- will make it a lot easier for car shares to distribute their cars around the city, thereby encouraging car sharing and discouraging private car ownership.

The city planning commission couldn't exactly explain the maximums concept other than to say they "strike a balance," presumably between promoters of car share and residents who believe they'll have no place to park if more than 20 percent of their garages contained shared cars.

Richard Ull, CEO and Founder of New York-based Mint Cars-on-Demand, says the new regs "can only make my life a lot easier, though he acknowledges "we've never been blocked from a garage." But Ull did say that neighborhoods like Brooklyn's Park Slope, Williamsburg, and Brooklyn Heights are limited more by the lack of garages than by the ability of garages to allocate space to car shares.

The biggest benefit of the new regs, Ull says, is in the "city bringing attention to car sharing."

The resolution passed the City Council with only one negative vote, by Peter Vallone, Jr.

Read More

Comment

Non Profit Challenges Conventional Wisdom on Worst and Best Commutes

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) For 25 years, the Texas Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility Report has been the gold standard in traffic congestion rankings. It now has some competition from a group that has released its own report--with glaringly different findings.

"Driven Apart: How sprawl is lengthening our commutes and why misleading mobility measures are making things worse" was crafted by CEOS for Cities, a non-profit that is pushing more sustainable urban practices. Where the UMR looks at travel speed and amount of time spent in a vehicle, Driven Apart looks at time spent in cars during "peak" travel times--and concludes that the very cities the UMR ranks as worst are often, in fact, the best. That's because a longer commute, if partially traffic-free, is considered better than a shorter commute, with traffic all the way.

By this standard, the greater the sprawl, the better the commute. The more compact the city, the worse.

In a statement on their website, CEOs for cities says the UMR "actually penalizes cities that have shorter travel distances and conceals the additional burden caused by longer trips in sprawling metropolitan areas."

Read More

Comment

NY Third Party Candidate Charles Barron Opposes Congestion Charging

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Sorry for the confusion, folks. It turns out that even though NYC City Councilmember Charles Barron invited George Hiakalis to speak at his rally yesterday, and that Hiakalis supports a plan for London-style congestion charging, Barron himself does not. (Take a look my post from yesterday -- Barron nowhere says he's for it, although Hiakalis's presence strongly implied he did.)

In a follow-up conversation today, Barron told me he only supports the "free transit" part of Hiakalis's plan. 

Read More

Comment

NY Third Party Candidate, Now Running on Transit Platform, Opposed Congestion Charging

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) (Updated) Hat tip to Streetsblog for pointing out that Freedom Party candidate for Governor, Charles Barron, who is now running on a congestion pricing free transit platform, voted "no" when congestion charging came before the NYC Council (the vote wasn't binding, as the proposal needed state legislative approval -- and State Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver didn't let it get to the floor). We're reaching out to Barron for an explanation....

Read More

Comment