July/August 1997, p.13

from Mobilizing the Region

The Region
Lex Line Sardine Fest
Two potential MTA mega-projects could radically alter the way East Siders travel. The East Side Access project would connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal via the 63rd Street Tunnel. The political runner-up is NYC Transit's Manhattan East Side Alternatives (MESA) study, which would build a Second Ave. subway uptown, and implement a busway or light rail in the Lower East Side and East Village. The LIRR-GCT connection project has strong backing from Gov. Pataki and Sen. D'Amato because of its suburban constituency and possible tie-in to an airport rail project. The MTA officially says that the LIRR-GCT is the only mega-project that's ready. But the MESA study is not far behind, and it is essential if the horribly crowded conditions on the 4, 5 and 6 are to be improved. This is especially true if 30,000 more riders are pumped onto the line from the LIRR connection.

The MESA study seeks to address overcrowding on the Lexington Ave. line with a Second Ave. subway from 125th Street to 63rd St., connecting the line to unused N and R express tracks under Broadway via the 63rd Street line. MESA also proposes a transit desig- nated right-of-way on the Lower East Side, terminating near South Ferry and at Union Square for either bus or light rail.

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In the Subways
Straphanger's Campaign Scores Big With "State of The Subways Report"
For the first time ever, the public has a base line with which to objectively rate improvements or deterioration in subway service. The news media responded to the report with a deluge of coverage, which is vitally important if subway budget and service cuts are to remain on the political radar screen. The Straphangers Campaign report rated six factors for 20 of New York City's 23 subway lines to establish an overall grade for each.

The State of die Subways study was prompted by die severe City and State cuts the subway operating budget has endured since 1994. Transit managers say they can do more with less, but is it true? The only real way to judge performance is to measure it. A Straphangers report on NYC's 42 most heavily traveled bus lines is forthcoming later this year.

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Spanking New Subway Cars
The Transit Authority announced its largest ever single contract, $1.4 billion for 1,080 subway cars to replace the 1950's-era 'red bird' IRT cars.  The cars will have features such as electronic voice announcements, street maps and signs.

Speeders Having More Fun

The CT House voted on May 27, in two separate bills, to raise speed limits on major highways to 65 mph and reduce speeding fines 25%, despite concerns it would cause more crashes, injuries and deaths. The bill, originally written to raise the limit to 60 rnph, was amended to 65 mph the day of the vote. A Courant poll of 500 residents revealed 86% favoring the higher limit.

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New Jersey
How Does Your Garden Grow? NJ Greens Launch Anti-Sprawl Campaign
The NJ Audubon Society and the State Federation of Sportmen's clubs launched a statewide petition drive this week to put teeth into the State Development and Redevelopment Plan. The groups intend to collect 10,000 signatures calling on legislators to "Save our Farms and Forests," by creating strong growth boundaries, zoning limits on subdivisions in agricultural and forested areas, and other sprawl preventing provisions.

The groups are mobilizing because voluntary compliance with open space preserving rules have completely failed because local officials cannot withstand pressure from big bucks developers. For a copy of the petition call NJ Audubon Society, 908-766-5787.