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?