Is there anything more frustrating than getting stuck in traffic? How about getting stuck in traffic because we lack a strong public transit system?
The recent electrical failure in New York crippled Metro-North's New Haven Line- part of the busiest commuter rail corridor in the nation. Calling the failure a "catastrophic event," Governor Malloy wants upgrades to the Metro North rail line so that it is never again reliant on just one power line.
But the stop-gap measures implemented during the failure accommodated little more than half of the usual number of rail commuters, forcing many more people onto our already congested highways
. As a result, we anticipate calls for highway expansion- more lanes, double-decker interstates.
That's why the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters
(CTLCV) is working to urge Governor Malloy to invest more resources into Connecticut's public transit systems.Will you join CTLCV in sending a message to the governor? Tell him Connecticut needs a more robust public transit system, not more cars polluting our air >>
The high-voltage line that failed had been in service six years beyond its expected 30-year lifespan. Connecticut also has aging and out-of-date rail infrastructure, including four moveable railroad bridges along the Metro-North line, that need to be replaced.
Senator Blumenthal got it right when he discussed the failure, saying: "We must invest in robust, redundant systems to ensure that our rail system runs on time, all the time. Service disruptions like the one this morning will be increasingly frequent and severe if the nation fails to make necessary investments. Such delays and disruptions cannot be allowed to become the new normal."
But if we want to see meaningful improvements to the state's public transit system, we need to make sure the Governor knows that there is strong support for doing so.Tell Governor Malloy we need a 21st-century transportation system that will protect the environment and spur the growth of a green economy. Add your name here >>
Metro-North's New Haven Line normally serves 125,000 riders each day. This latest commuter rail crisis presents an opportunity to build strong public support for an improved and expanded public transit system in Connecticut. Tell the Governor you are depending on his leadership to get the job done.
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Looking for a good beach read? We've got it for you! This issue is the first in a two part series on Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). CT's ten MPOs are responsible for transportation planning and will be the focus of a study over the next year by DOT to consolidate and re-draw their boundaries. Below, in part one, is our overview of MPOs. In our next CONNECTIONS newsletter we'll publish differing perspectives on the consolidation of MPOs by two people knowledgeable about these complex, planning issues.
And while you're sitting on the beach thinking about transportation issues, we encourage you to go to www.transformct.org
, This interactive website is part of an 18 month long visioning and strategic planning initiative by CT DOT. They want to hear directly from citizens about what you think needs to be done to achieve a first class transportation system. Transformct.org
is a very user friendly website so sign in and add your voice to the discussion and see what others are saying. Share what you care about; safer streets for walking or biking? increased train and bus service? perhaps more charging
stations for your electric vehicle?
We hope you find this special series on MPOs informative and interesting and as always we welcome your feedback and questions. Feel free to contact
Kirsten Griebel at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at 860-236-5442
if you have any comments, questions or news tips. Stay cool! Do You Know Your MPO?
This past session, the state legislature voted in favor of a recommendation from the Municipal Opportunities and Regional Efficiencies (M.O.R.E.) Commission to come up with a plan to consolidate the number of Connecticut's Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). MPOs are federally mandated transportation planning entities for the metropolitan areas. Additionally, there are Rural Planning Organizations that play a similar role in transportation planning for the rural areas of the state, except they do not get federal funding nor do they need to meet the stringent federal requirements for transportation planning.
While MPOs are federally mandated, states have discretion in how MPOs are organized. For instance, the Southern California MPO, the nation's largest, represents 191 cities and more than 18 million residents. Rhode Island has only one MPO for the entire state. In Connecticut, there are currently ten MPOs. Federal legislation allows MPO governing structures to vary greatly. In Connecticut, each MPO is governed by a single Regional Planning Organization (RPO) - not to be confused with Rural Planning Organizations - such as a Council of Governments (COGs), Council of Elected Officials or Regional Planning Agencies.
All of this goes back to the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1962 which created MPOs. At that time Connecticut had already formed RPOs, so the existing RPOs provided a logical structure to incorporate MPOs. It is important to recognize that while an MPO and RPO may share the same geographic area they are separate and distinct agencies created by two levels of government. The Regional Planning Organization is created by the Connecticut General Assembly and the Metropolitan Planning Organization is created by the United States Congress. Because of the geographic overlay of these entities we have become used to referring to both as a "region," which in most situations is fine. But transportation planning, engineering and reporting requirements have gotten more and more complex so it is necessary to separate the RPO and MPO activities and the funding sources. Simply put, in Connecticut, while an MPO may be run by an RPO it is not the only thing an RPO does, but transportation is the only thing an MPO does. Confused yet?! There's more...
The Impact of MAP-21
On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) to fund transportation programs with over $105 billion for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. MAP-21 requires new transportation performance measures and standards addressing big challenges such as safety, efficiency, repair, and maintenance needs, traffic congestion, freight movement, and environmental protection. These new transportation performance measures and standards will soon need to be met by state DOTs, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and providers of
The big thing to know with MAP-21 is that these new performance measures will require a certain expertise, level of staffing and analytical resources on the part of the MPOs. And most importantly
, MPOs must comply and go through a certification process by Federal Highway Administration in order to be eligible for federal transportation funding going forward.
So that brings us back to the state legislature's action to require the state to
look at consolidating Connecticut's ten MPOs to five (or fewer). This
recommendation was based on the theory that fewer MPOs would result in better transportation planning through shared resources while also conforming to the new federal performance measures thereby allowing Connecticut to be more competitive for federal funding. However, Connecticut is a land of steady habits and favorable to home rule and no one wants to have their voice lost in the critical process of transportation planning. Two things are clear;
with growth and travel demands, the transportation planning geographies in
Connecticut have changed significantly since 1962 and
there is a need for
more coordinated transportation investment and planning within the state on a
corridor and statewide level.
First, some background: Connecticut's MPOs today
Federal transportation legislation requires that a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) be designated for each urbanized area with a population of more than 50,000 people in order to carry out the transportation planning process, as a condition of Federal aid. MPOs were created in order to ensure that expenditures for transportation projects were based on a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive planning process. Currently there are ten MPOs in CT, soon to be nine (as reflected in the map) once the merger of the Middlesex and CT River Estuary into the Lower CT River Valley is complete.
So what about the northwest and northeast corners of the state? Based on the 2010 Census, these areas of CT are considered rural and are therefore treated differently by the federal government for transportation. These four Rural Planning Organizations receive their funding for transportation planning solely from CT DOT and do not need to conform to the same federal reporting requirements as the MPOs. More about what MPOs do:
There are five traditional core functions of an MPO
- Provide a fair and impartial setting for effective regional decision making.
- Identify and evaluate alternative transportation improvement options.
- Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), a twenty year transportation plan, including highway, transit, bike, pedestrian planning.
- Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), a four-year program of transportation improvements based on the long-range transportation plan.
- Involve the public in the four essential functions listed above.
In addition to the above, MAP-21 will now require the MPOs to be responsible for:
What might five consolidated MPOs look like?
- Traffic engineering
- Travel demand modeling
- Project design and delivery
- Transportation performance measures and asset management
There are a number of different ways Connecticut could consolidate MPOs. CT DOT will be studying the possible scenarios for new MPO boundaries over the next year. They are required to have their recommendations ready by July
2014. The final MPO adoption process may vary depending on the governing
structure of each municipality but the final step will require the Governor's
Here's just one possible scenario for MPO consolidation as presented to the State Legislature in April, 2013 by Tom Maziarz, Bureau Chief of Planning for CT DOT.
Next CONNECTIONS - Part 2: The debate: Benefits and drawbacks
to consolidating Connecticut's MPOs
Two perspectives provided by John Filchak, Executive Director, Northeastern
Connecticut Council of Governments and Linda Krause, Executive Director,
Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments on the benefits and
drawbacks to consolidating MPOs.
In an expansive new review
, titled, Our Built and Natural Environment: A Technical review of the Interactions Between Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Quality,
the Environmental Protection Agency argues that our built environment, or what they describe as, “patterns of development, transportation infrastructure, and building location and design," can have serious and substantial impacts on human health and the natural environment.
Our built environment, it argues, can either protect public health and the environment or, if not prioritized correctly, can have negative environmental impacts.
The report essentially contains three sections: The status and trends involving our current built environment, the effects those trends have, and the general effects that different development strategies have on the environment.
It starts by detailing how our current and past development trends have focused on population growth and car-based transport. In these cases, the environment has been put on the backburner, where concerns for such issues as biodiversity, water, health and public safety have only been concerns retroactively, if at all. The report states that this approach has, “destroyed, degraded, and fragmented habitat.”
Even with new, greener advances in technology, other factors have outweighed the environmental benefits. For example, “Although technology has significantly reduced per car vehicle emission, the approximate 250 percent increase in VMT [vehicle miles traveled] since 1970 has offset potential gains.” In other words, we are driving more environmentally friendly cars, but the sheer numbers of miles driven puts the net environmental benefit at zero.
Therefore, a newer and more expansive approach to our built environment is necessary and has to take into consideration the environmental impact of development.
This report also makes clear that it is possible to improve our environmental footprint without losing economic benefits.
Such improvements include refocusing developments away from sensitive land areas, improving preexisting development areas located around transit, incorporating walking, biking, and public transport in new developments, and building compacter and greener.
If these approaches are enacted, the report argues, it will help communities avoid using development methods that have been proven to be environmentally harmful as well as providing a framework where development and environmental consciousness can be linked.
This report comes just before the fourth anniversary of The Partnership for Sustainable Communities
, a federal partnership including the EPA, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Transportation (DOT), designed to “help communities improve access to affordable housing and transportation while protecting the environment.”
For more information and summaries on the new report, you can visit: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/built.htm
The past couple of months have yielded a proliferation of alternative transportation methods as an option to cars in communities all across the country. Most notably, bike share programs sprouting in New York
, and various other smaller cities
show the clear trend of cities and citizens recognizing the need for mobility choices.
Although these bike shares and other alternatives have been stigmatized as being fostered only within elite and white sections of these cities (this tend seems to hold true
) many cities are investing in affordable transportation that can reach a greater section of the populous.
One of these cities, Arlington, Virginia
has been at the forefront of a transit-oriented development (TOD) approach, helping to increase the walkability and accessibility of public transportation in their city.
A recent video
(below) by AARP titled, “Active Living for All Ages: Creating Neighborhoods Around Transit”, details the progress Arlington has made in connecting city development with the improvement of their public transportation bus system. Chris Zimmerman, part of the Arlington County Board of Supervisors, describes Arlington’s approach as, “having a development pattern that helps support public transportation and you have public transportation that helps support development.”
The result is an increasingly efficient way to help older citizens in the community stay active, as trips to various stores, doctors, and cultural centers become easier. It also provides cheaper way to travel for those who don’t have cars or can’t afford the burdening cost of gas. Communities are finding that providing mobility choices make sense- for the economy and the environment.
As politicians from around the country
agree that federal funds are needed to improve rail to relieve the extreme congestion along the Northeast Corridor (D.C. to Boston) personal stories about the growing inefficiencies experienced by riders abound. Usually these stories just make for a good joke around the water cooler but last week one particular passenger, who has a significant role in these transportation decisions, now has his own Amtrak story.
Attempting to travel on Amtrak from New Haven to Hartford for, ironically, a Transportation Forum being held on Saturday, Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA), the Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and ConnDOT Commissioner Jim Redeker, were halted as their train experienced troubles. With water dripping from the ceiling, no lights or AC, the train broke down and was forced to return to New Haven, making what was suppose to be a 45-minute train ride a two hour ordeal. The train never made the trip to Hartford and the passengers had to jump in a car to get to their destinations.
At the Transportation Forum Saturday, Congressman Larson opened the Forum with this story. While garnering a lot of laughs, Congressman Shuster's experience illustrates a very serious problem; the need for urgent, immediate investments essential to the proper functioning of the rail line as a reliable and efficient means of transportation.
In a recent press release
by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee they argue, “the NEC will require significant resources over the next 20 years in order to reach a state of good repair and to accommodate future growth.” With over 11.4 million passengers riding the NEC in 2012 and 2,000 daily commuter trains traveling on its tracks, it is paramount that more attention is brought to ways to improve our rail system.
You can read about our rail and other transportation policy recommendations here
CTLCV's Community Forums are sponsored in part by:
CTLCV has launched a new series of Community Forums based on our citizens' guide to transportation "Getting Where You Want To Go"
: Connecting and Preserving Our Communities With Better Transportation. These forums will provide an overview of the economic and environmental benefits of a balanced transportation system and offer you an opportunity to become engaged in the discussion about Connecticut's transportation system. For more information about the forums please visit our website
. If you are interested in having a forum in your community please contact Kirsten Griebel at 860.236.5442
or at email@example.com
Funding CT's transportation system continues to be an overriding issue and given the expectation that federal funding will significantly decrease over the next few years, the state needs to develop new sources of revenue. Tolling, congestion pricing, gas tax, user fees and a lockbox for these revenues are all being discussed. In February, the Transportation Committee held a very informative presentation by national transportation experts on the most up-to-date creative applications of tolling as a source of revenue and as a means of managing congestion. You can watch the CT-N video of the information hearing here
and the PowerPoint presentation is available on our Transportation Resources page.
With the 2013 legislative session in full swing, we have highlighted below some of the transportation related legislation that is still alive as well as some other good things that are happening around the state that will help move Connecticut in the right direction.
As always we'd like to hear from you. We welcome your feedback and news tips and hope you find this issue interesting and informative. For questions or feedback, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
. At The Capitol - Legislative Update
VULNERABLE USER BILLSB 191
, the Vulnerable User bill was passed unanimously by the Transportation Committee. This is a good step towards protecting people who choose to walk, ride a bike or horse, or otherwise travel outside of a motor vehicle on our streets. Providing safe streets for all users encourages people to consider other ways of getting around beyond jumping in their cars. We are hopeful that the bill will get to the floor of both chambers for a vote before the end of the session. Thanks to Senator Andrew Maynard and Senator Beth Bye for continuing their advocacy for this bill and we look forward to its passage in 2013.TRANSPORTATION FUNDING HB 6051
requires the Commissioner of Transportation to conduct a study to analyze the use of electronic tolls, the ability to limit the use of any toll revenue for transportation purposes only, and the reduction of the gas tax once tolls are in place. This bill was passed by the Transportation Committee along party lines. Tolling still seems to be a hot button for many legislators and citizens. However, a recent Quinnipiac poll
of CT voters, showed that there's a much higher level of support for tolls if all the tolls collected were put in a lockbox to be used only for transportation. That leads into the next two legislative proposals:HB 6039
requires that moneys in the state's Special Transportation Fund be used only for transportation purposes and not be diverted to the general fund and HJ 63
is a proposed Constitutional amendment that says no moneys contained in the Special Transportation Fund shall be used or transferred for any expenditure or purpose not related to transportation. Both of these so-called "lockbox" bills were passed unanimously by the Transportation Committee.
While it is unlikely that these bills will be adopted this year, it is an indication of the bi-partisan support for dedicated sources of revenue to bring our state's aging transportation system into the 21st Century.TRANSPORTATION AND ENERGYHB 6360
, the Governor's bill to implement the new Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES), was voted out of the Energy and Technology Committee. One positive aspect of the CES is that DEEP acknowledges the need to integrate the state's energy policies with transportation. While that is a good thing, the CES recommendations seem to be more heavily weighted to investing in electric vehicle and natural gas infrastructure as the way to decrease greenhouse gas emissions rather than emphasizing the need to reduce vehicle miles traveled by investing in public transit, bike and walk improvements and transit oriented development.
The complete report can be found at DEEP's website
. Information on the Transportation Sector starts on page 162.
Bike Walk CT Annual SummitSaturday April 27, 2013 from 9:00 AM to 2:30 PM EDTYale University, Linsly-Chittenden Hall63 High Street, New Haven, CT 06511The 2013 Bike Walk Summit will bring together people from all over Connecticut to talk about how to improve bicycling and walking in our state.
- Hear the latest biking and walking updates from around the state
- Learn how to navigate the funding maze and get projects built in your community
- Get detailed guidance on making your community or organization officially bicycle or walk friendly
- Network and socialize at our bike/walk tours of New Haven and the Summit Happy Hour
To learn more and register go to Bike Walk CT's
In response to criticisms that the Connecticut Department of Transportation is planning the $35 million Stamford Parking Garage replacement without adequate public representation, Governor Malloy announced the creation of a five-member advisory panel that will consist of commuters, residents, and businesses. While
financial bids and final proposals will remain confidential to safeguard the competitive process, the panel will be allowed to review sections of the developers’ proposals in order to weigh in on the pros and cons of potential projects.
The increased secrecy of development projects is one of the tradeoffs of using a less expensive public-private partnership (P3) to design and finance public projects. ConnDOT Commissioner James Redeker says the involvement of the private sector is a shift in practice motivated by a shortage of funding for large infrastructure projects. Publi-private partnerships have been done successfully elsewhere and can relieve the state from some of the financial burden of designing and building the garage itself. The Rosslyn Ballston Corridor in Arlington, VA
has had great success implementing P3's as highlighted in the new CTLCV transportation guide.
Commissioner Redeker ensures the advisory panel for the Stamford Parking Garage re-development was implemented as "a follow-up to our commitment to open up communication and make sure that customer interests come first." The details of how panel members are to be selected have not yet been determined.
Public comments on rebuilding the Stamford Parking Garage can be sent to DOT.Stamford.TOD@ct.gov
In 2001, 50% of school children ages 6-12 were driven to school in a private vehicle, up from 15% in 1969. This shocking statistic has far reaching consequences, from increased traffic congestion to higher obesity rates in children. International Walk to School Day seeks to address this growing problem by highlighting the need for walkable communities and getting kids excited about walking to school. This year’s event will be held next Wednesday, October 3. Last year, participation in this event reached a record high, with over 4,000 events registered nationwide. Inspiring kids to walk to school helps create a cleaner environment, gathers support for safe pedestrian infrastructure, encourages healthy physical activity, improves community spirit, and adds a necessary dose of fun to the life of a child.
Read more about International Walk to School Day here
Safe Routes to School is another initiative dedicated to promoting bicycling and walking to school. The program helps to increase the safety, convenience, and fun of biking and walking to school by providing infrastructure grants, training activities and technical advice to communities. Implementation of Safe Routes programs is an integral component of CTLCV’s policy recommendation to “make walking and biking easier and safer with low-cost and small-scale improvements.” Creating safer, more walkable communities through bicycle and pedestrian friendly roads will revitalize Connecticut, just as it has done in Portland, Minneapolis, and Pittsburg. However achieving this will require a shift from the reliance of cars in our culture. Teaching children to rely on their own physical abilities instead (and providing the infrastructural resources to do so) is the first step in making this change.
Learn more about Safe Routes to School here
. Did you know?
For every 100 students who walk or bike to school we can reduce CO2 emissions by 32,976 pounds and save 1,674 gallons of gasoline a year.
Last week's public hearing about Connecticut's state rail plan demonstrated the pressing need for investment in rail as part of the state's public transportation system. ConnDOT Commissioner James Redeker stressed the importance of a practical and prioritized rail plan. He stated that a long term rail plan is critical for future development, and is required by the Federal Railroad Administration for funding purposes. ConnDOT's plan highlights the need for investment in infrastructure for both passenger and freight rail, with a focus on maintaining and updating the existing lines. The full plan can be accessed here
Rail issues continued to be front and center the next day with a public hearing on the re-development of the Stamford Parking Garage adjacent to the train station. One piece of the current parking garage is in poor condition and needs to be re-built. The DOT is turning to private developers for a solution that involves reconstruction of the garage and transforming it into a transit-oriented development. Some commuters are concerned that moving a portion of the parking to a spot a quarter a mile away will create an unfair burden on those drivers. But, if done correctly, this project could encourage more people to walk or bike to the train station by building a mix of office, residential and retail next to the train station. Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Regional Plan Association, and the Business Council of Fairfield County released a statement regarding the Stamford Parking Garage that supports the DOT’s proposal in theory, but urges them to “seek diverse stakeholder input on the project moving forward.” See the entire press release here
The public discussion of planning for a state rail system and promoting mixed-use development within walking distance of transit stations, reinforces two policy recommendations in the recently released CTLCV Transportation Guide: support of transit-oriented development and investment in rail.
An up to date rail plan with set priorities will aid the construction of a coordinated and effective transportation network that guides development in the areas where it is most appropriate. When asked how the state rail plan determines which locations will be made priorities, Commissioner Redeker responded that ConnDOT's plan calls for investment in places where the forecasted density of development can be best served by transit. This in turn will promote economic development in these areas while preserving natural resources and limiting the environmental impact. On the long term, smart investments in rail will result in a cost effective, efficient alternative choice of transportation that will have positive benefits for Connecticut.
Now available to read or download the pdf online a www.conservationeducation.org
Connecticut’s transportation system costs us all; both economically and environmentally. CTLCV’s new transportation guide, Getting Where You Want to Go,
points out just how costly it will be if we don’t invest in a 21st Century transportation system that encourages public transit, bicycling and walking. Dependence on single passenger cars results in more highways being built and more pollution to our air and water. Add to that the financial cost of owning a car, buying gas, and maintaining roads and bridges - we simply cannot afford to do nothing.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The wealth of information in the transportation guide suggests that we do not have to choose between a sustainable and economical transportation system. The benefits of revamping Connecticut’s transportation system range from land preservation to job creation. The healthcare cost of high rates of asthma and obesity will decline as people begin to walk more and drive less. Seniors and disabled persons will no longer face isolation due to lack of access to transportation. Just as the costs of inefficient transportation impact everyone, the benefits of an efficient system will be felt by all.
Success stories from other states illustrate that this is possible and Connecticut has already begun to make progress by investing in the state’s first bus rapid transit system, planning development within walking distance of train stations, and making streets safer for bicyclists. Continuing along this path will lead Connecticut to economic growth, lower healthcare costs, and protection of our valuable natural resources. Making improved transportation a priority will ensure that we continue to reap these benefits. Did You Know?
For every $10 million of capital investment in public transportation there is a return of up to $30 million in business sales alone according to the American Public Transportation Association.