Home Buses Upstate Assembly reps kill City-endorsed BRT measures

Upstate Assembly reps kill City-endorsed BRT measures

by Benjamin Kabak

Rochester, New York, is so far away from New York City that a search for directions on Google offers up flight information before it provides driving instructions. Rochester, New York, is so far away from New York City that Google recommends a three-state drive that covers 333 miles and would take nearly six hours without traffic.

So it’s just another indication of how horribly inept New York State politics are that a Rochester representative to the New York State Assembly is now responsible for the fact that this city won’t be getting a viable method of enforcing bus rapid transit lanes any time soon. Gantt’s committee defeated a bill passed by the City Council with a home-rule endorsement that would have allowed the city to use cameras for BRT lane violation enforcement efforts.

Streetsblog’s Ben Fried has the skinny on this outrageous story:

Legislation central to New York City’s implementation of Bus Rapid Transit died in Albany yesterday, when the State Assembly transportation committee, chaired by Rochester Democrat David Gantt, defeated a bill authorizing bus-mounted enforcement cameras by a narrow 14-11 vote. Another traffic enforcement bill, which makes it easier to issue tickets for blocking the box, did make it through the committee.

“It’s really outrageous that after a year of pretty unanimous agreement about New York’s congestion problem, that all we’re left with is don’t block the box,” said Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives. “It’s pretty sad when that’s the best Albany can do.”

Without bus-mounted enforcement cameras, which have proven successful in London, getting transit up to speed on DOT’s five planned BRT routes faces significant hurdles. “It’s going to make it a lot harder to move buses faster through the city, without camera enforcement of the lanes,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “It’s going to hurt this experiment with Select Bus Service.”

While Gantt hasn’t — and probably won’t — return calls to Streetsblog, his own logical reasoning is being torn apart in the New York press. As Fried notes, the NYCLU had already addressed civil liberties concerns. And as the Daily News opined today, Gantt’s efforts show a clear personal bias: “Gantt is lead sponsor of a bill tailor-made to promote the technology of his pal’s client – while blocking Bloomberg and elected officials in other jurisdictions from using cameras provided by different vendors.” His faux concerns over civil liberties are, in other words, a load of garbage.

More infuriating however is that, much like the doomed congestion pricing bill, the committee did a quick show-of-hands vote before killing this bill. Yet again, some upstate politician so far removed from the reality of life in New York City has affected our roads, our public transportation policy and our quality of life.

In the end, New York City is at the mercy of people who have other interests and don’t live in the city. These are people who don’t know why we need bus rapid transit and aren’t content to let New York City’s own Council determine the appropriate courses of action. Instead, they’re happy to reap the economic benefits of New York City while utterly depriving the residents of much-needed transportation solutions such as bus rapid transit lanes. Last time, we had Sheldon Silver — a Manhattan-based representative — to thank; this time, we’ve got David F. Gantt.

At some point, these shenanigans have got to stop. As I’m just left annoyed and wondering when some real leadership will land in the state of assembly, can New York City secede in the meantime?

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Boris June 18, 2008 - 3:12 pm

This is outrageous. Whatever reasons he had against the bill, it is none of his business how people live in a city he doesn’t understand, and clearly doesn’t like. People like him- and New York politics in general- are the reasons why New Yorkers are consistently robbed blind while denied basic services. It is why we are so far behind London, Paris, even Moscow in terms of public transportation. It is a part of the continued pattern of disdain for American cities by the American suburbs.

Ever since having a guy from Rochester for a roommate, freshman year of college, I didn’t like Rochester. When I go up to Niagara Falls for Independence Day weekend, I will make sure I don’t stop anywhere within Gantt’s jurisdiction.

It’s unfortunate that his web page does not list an email address. Emailing is a lot easier than calling, but if it has to be done, it will be done.

Boris June 18, 2008 - 3:14 pm

On second thought…from vote-ny.org:

David F. Gantt
Elected State Representative District 133 New York

Party: New York State Democratic Party
Email: ganttd@assembly.state.ny.us
Website: assembly.state.ny.us/
Phone: 585.454.3670
Address: 245 Lyndhurst Street
Rochester, NY 14605

Alon Levy June 18, 2008 - 3:56 pm

Did Gantt oppose the bill, or did it just fail to make it out of committee?

Also, Silver’s from the Lower East Side.

Benjamin Kabak June 18, 2008 - 3:58 pm

Gantt opposed the bill, and had he favored it, he could have ensured it would pass. That’s what committee chairs do.

Julia June 18, 2008 - 5:23 pm

This is totally outrageous. I was so angry and surprised at this that I went and looked up the membership of the transportation committee, as well as some population data. Now I am angry but not surprised!

Of the 25 transportation committee members, only 9 are from NYC. Three of those represent Staten Island, and one represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn.

The deck is stacked against those of us from the four other boroughs. We stand to gain the most from transit improvements like BRT and congestion pricing. But even though we make up 40% of the state’s population, only 22% of the transportation committee represents us. What incentive do they have to give us anything? BRT will only create more traffic in the remaining lanes for drivers from the suburbs and Staten Island, who have TWICE as many representatives on that committee as the rest of NYC does.

Until the committee membership changes, I won’t hold my breath for any Assembly support for public transportation. And Ben, if you’ve made this observation before, I apologize for repeating. But it seems like the membership — including the chairmanship — of this committee has to be the next battleground for transit advocates. We’re not going to topple Shelly Silver, but maybe we can get some change here.

The Secret Conductor June 18, 2008 - 6:31 pm

Wow. Didn’t know that. So how do we advance the transportation system when most of the people voting on it will not benefit from it?

It just seems to me that all hope is lost on any significant changes. The only thing we have in our favor (if you can call it that) is rising oil prices. the more it goes up, the more people will pay attention to public transportation and the need to expand it.

Alon Levy June 18, 2008 - 8:01 pm

If only 22% of the transportation committee members are from the city, you can bet it’s because on some other committee a majority of members are from the city. Every legislator sits on the same number of committees; if a group is underrepresented in some committees, it’ll be overrepresented in others.

Boris June 19, 2008 - 10:30 am


Which way did the Staten Island members vote? I don’t think it’s fair to single out Staten Island. Our representatives might be knuckleheads, but that can’t be said about the rest of us. I think SI has the most to gain from projects like BRT, not the other boroughs. SI has the worst transportation infrastructure, both in terms of public transit options and in terms of roads. As for the 0.1% of SI drivers who will somehow end up on roads with BRT lanes in other boroughs, I think the effect on traffic will remain negligible.

I drive down the dilapidated Hylan Blvd (in SI) to work in NJ every morning and wonder if they are delaying repair because they are waiting for BRT approval or because they are just not going to repair it. Either way, it’s very frustrating.

Chris June 19, 2008 - 10:36 am

To quote the NY Times:

The Assembly co-sponsors of the bill who voted to hold it, all Democrats, were Michelle Schimel and Harvey Weisenberg of Long Island, Sam Hoyt of Buffalo, Janele Hyer-Spencer and Matthew Titone of Staten Island and George Latimer of Westchester County.

There you go. Way to go, Staten Island. Way to make us proud.

Boris June 19, 2008 - 10:48 am

Another quote from this article:

It might seem unusual for lawmakers to vote against a bill they support, but it happens with some frequency in Albany, where political expediency often trumps ideology.

So maybe they did support the bill, whatever that means.

I don’t think I’ve lived in Staten Island long enough (about 2 years) to vote for these politicos, but if I did, please shoot me.

Todd June 18, 2008 - 7:23 pm

This story made me sick. It’s gone beyond ridiculous at this point…

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