May/June 1999, p.11

Metropolitan

Vantastic
Thanks to a court decision favoring the creation of more commuter van lines in the city, the iron triangle of bus, subway, and commuter rail is about to become a quadrilateral. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Louis York held that the City Council's power to review commuter van licenses granted by the Taxi and Limousine Commission violated state law.
A 1997 City Planning Commission study asserted that, with 361 licensed vehicles, there is a massive shortage of van lines in the transit-starved outer boroughs. The commission called for 61% more vehicles, increasing the number of commuter vans to 917. The City Council has used its oversight to squelch 98% of requests from van drivers for more licenses. TLC officials claim the council was less motivated by consumer protection than by the urge to please private bus companies and public transit unions.

Battling Governors Could Sink Shipping Leases
Squabbling between Governor Whitman of New Jersey and Governor Pataki of New York has prevented the Port Authority from renewing the leases of two major shipping lines in the Authority's shared harbor facilities. Whitman is keen to sign highly subsidized new leases for Sea-Land Service and Maersk Line, which base their local operations in Elizabeth. Observers see Pataki holding out for the Authority to spend more on aging JFK international airport and New York State's own rat-gnawed wharves.
If the inter-state dispute goes unresolved, Baltimore harbor is waiting in the wings with its own generous incentive offers to the two shipping giants.

Bad Grades No Surprise to Straphangers
NYC Transit recently gave itself bad grades for subway cleanliness and bus performance for the second consecutive quarter, agreeing with recent findings by the Straphangers Campaign.
Commuters now endure longer waits to squeeze into more crowded coaches, according to Slow Going, the Straphangers' second annual "State of the Buses" report released in April. Using NYC Transit data, the the transit advocacy group found that 36 of 40 key routes had more bunching and service gaps in 1998 than 1997. System-wide, four of every ten buses didn't arrive on time. The report attributed poor performance to growing street congestion and a new wave of riders, one million more per day in 1998 than 1997. They called on transit officials to add service and on city officials to do more to speed buses, including building more bus-only lanes and increasing enforcement in existing bus lanes. But some transit officials report that they've heard no serious talk about new bus lanes in years. NYC Transit's own statistics also support Subway Shmutz II, a Straphangers report released in February on deteriorating levels of subway cleanliness.

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Putting the City in Jersey City
Liberty Harbor North, a brownfield parcel in downtown Jersey City will be developed like a city, not a suburb, if developer Peter Mocco and new urbanism guru Andres Duany have their way.
The now-empty 80 acres have a view of Liberty State Park and will be served by two light rail stops, a water taxi dock, and the PATH train. Along with narrow streets to encourage slow driving and the mixed-use retail storefronts beloved of new urbanists, the stellar transit connections will lead to Duany's avowed ideal: communities where people don't "need a car as a prosthetic device." Mocco plans to obtain permits for the project within eight months and begin construction in two years.

Ironic Pedestrian "Improvement" in CT
As part of the Train Station Enhancement Program, the city of Stamford, Connecticut, has begun building an 8,200-square-foot enclosed walkway for rail commuters. The tube will accommodate train passengers who now must walk under a highway and through parking lots on their way to downtown's North State Street. Stamford, marked by car-oriented design and populated by steel-and-mirror corporate headquarters, was once in fact a typical New England railroad town - until urban "renewal" prompted the destruction of nearly all of downtown in the late 60s-early 70s.