Amtrak is Broke and Dysfunctional-Except Here
After decades of mammoth losses, Amtrak, the national passenger rail carrier,
is really, finally, totally broke. To most of the country this does not
matter. But to the Northeast, Amtrak is a key part of the regional
transportation system; its tracks carry 300,000 commuters in the New York
region daily. Many of these passengers travel on New Jersey Transit, which
uses Amtrak tracks, electricity, switching and dispatching. Additionally,
because of 9/11 airport security delays, NYC to Washington travelers have come
to favor rail over air.
That the railroad is broken
is indisputable. It is the causes about which groups disagree. Amtrak
supporters point to Federal under-investment and inadequate operating support.
Amtrak critics, though, highlight bad management and restrictive work rules.
The one thing that everyone does agree on is that national politics and
contradictory directives from congress have crippled Amtrak's attempts to
offer more modern and rational service. In 1997, Congress imposed an operating
budget "self-sufficiency" rule on the railroad-a goal no other
railroad in the world is expected to achieve. Simultaneously, congressional
representatives made Amtrak continue offering money-losing routes.
The Bush administration says
it wants to end federal operating support for intercity passenger trains. The
result would be, that in most of the country, Amtrak would evaporate. But in
the Northeast, where intercity rail is critical, operating subsidies would
have to come from state governments. This would be a huge burden given that
these states are having a hard enough time adequately supporting their
existing public transit.
One expert predicts that
Congress will "punt" on Amtrak and keep it scraping along from year
to year. If so, New York City will suffer as passengers flee the train and
further clog area highways and airports.
Port Authority Looks to Improve Bike Safety at GW Bridge Approach
One of New Jersey's most popular cycling venues is Hudson Terrace (aka
"River Road"), which stretches for seven miles along the Palisades,
mainly north of the George Washington Bridge. River Road offers beautiful
views of the Hudson and rolling hills. Unfortunately, getting to the road from
the bridge is an incredibly frightening challenge. After hearing complaints
from T.A. and NJ cycling groups, the Port Authority has taken a look at
improving bicycling safety at the
NJ end of GW Bridge bike/ped path. Officials from the agency have been
extremely helpful and sensitive to the conditions faced by cyclists and have
agreed to review T.A.'s proposal to build a three-quarter mile long off-street
path between the bridge and River Road.
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New York City
Crackdown on Idling Trucks
State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer announced in June a legal settlement
with six trucking and bus companies whose diesel vehicles routinely violated
state and city idling laws. The companies-Frito-Lay, Greyhound, Community
Coach, Grayline City Tours, Leisure Lines and Suburban Trails, operate 1,500
diesel vehicles in NYC. In addition to paying $103,000 for tree planting, the
companies agreed to new training procedures and internal rules, and to pay
penalties of $1,000 to $5,000 for future idling violations. New York City law
prohibits letting a diesel engine idle for longer than three minutes. State
law allows up to five minutes. T.A. wonders why it has taken the State
Attorney General to do something about this ubiquitous NYC problem? Hello NYC
Department of Environmental Protection? Do you exist?
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Mid-Hudson Towns Say Tappan Zee Bridge Planning is Sham
Municipal leaders and other concerned Hudson Valley citizens are attempting to
pool resources so that they can question and independently verify findings and
conclusions from the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement study being conducted by
the NY State Thruway and Metro-North Railroad. Many lower Hudson municipal
governments have banded together in a coalition called GUARD: Governments
United in Action for Responsible Development. They are concerned that the
agencies have already identified a "preferred alternative"-a new,
bigger bridge with a commuter rail line on it-and are conducting a