September/October 1998, p.7

Metropolitan

Cops in Bus Lane
The Straphangers' Campaign recently observed over a dozen parked cars in the bus lane near the NY Police Academy. Cars belonging to whom? None other than NYPD personnel! Chief of Personnel Michael Markman said area commanders have now been advised to keep the lane clear. Also, transit advocates have appealed for stepped-up bus lane enforcement elsewhere in the city but there is no obvious evidence of clearer lanes or better bus flow.

Newark Is One Tough Town (For Pedestrians)
Newark is the pedestrian danger capital of NJ, according to NJ Dept. of Law and Public Safety data. While the city contains only 3.5% of the state population, pedestrians were 29% of all traffic-related deaths statewide and over 15% of injuries. So many school-age children have fallen victim to car-violence in Newark that state education officials and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign asked Newark Mayor Sharpe James this spring to mount a major traffic calming effort. The city has not yielded. A project like "Safe Routes to School," developed by the Bronx Borough President and Transportation Alternatives, would help. (See p. 12.) Schools aside, Newark should involve traffic calming and people-friendly street redesign in its economic development strategy.

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"Bergen Arches" -NJ's Rail to Roads
Apparently, it's not enough that the NJ Department of Transportation will spend a staggering $2 billion more on paving what is left of New Jersey. The "Bergen Arches" plan proposes to add six lanes to the east-west Jersey City roadway feeding the Holland Tunnel. Yep, that's six more lanes of traffic directed into downtown Manhattan. Counter to intuition, Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler touted the project as "an expressway to New Jersey's future" in the Star Ledger. The highway, along with a $200 million extension to a new Turnpike exit proposed in the Meadowlands, is a prime example of why groups like the Tri-State Campaign feared a 4-cent gas tax hike and giving NJ DOT carte blanche to spend it. (Not surprisingly, the gas tax increase was killed by car-conscious legislators.)

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Free Ride: East River Bridges
New York City's Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro bridges are toll-free despite various proposals to charge even nominal fees to help maintain the bridges or curb the influx of autos from the outer boroughs into Manhattan. However sensible the support for tolling, the State Legislature and City administration still oppose them. Now - with record-setting numbers of cars entering the city and the related costs estimated at $21 billion - it may be time again to ask drivers to pay a portion of their fair share.

It is likely that the MTA's pending toll study will include an analysis of East River bridge tolls, and a determination of whether peak-period toll hikes will push drivers into off-peak usage. It's also likely that such an analysis will find that bridge tolls will reduce existing diversions from MTA facilities, providing some traffic relief in neighborhoods like Long Island City, the Upper East Side, Williamsburg and Canal Street. Unless the MTA study is subject to political bias, the benefits of tolling the East River bridges should be apparent. With the successful E-Z Pass system, introduction of tolling would be speedily efficient - a major concern cited previously by opponents.

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