NY: NY groups seek better transportation through car limit bills

May 15, 2024
The group of about 40 rally participants pitched legislation that mandates proposed state projects seeking to expand highway capacity undergo an assessment of the total number of miles traveled by vehicles on them as a way to increase funds for public transportation.

May 14—ALBANY — A coalition of transportation equity advocates gathered at an entrance to the Capitol, pushing for lawmakers to advance legislation mandating that state and local highway projects align with goals to drop the number of yearly vehicle miles traveled in the state by 20 percent by 2050.

The legislation mandates that proposed state projects seeking to expand highway capacity undergo an assessment of the total number of miles traveled by vehicles on them. Under the bills, if those highway projects don't align with the 2050 vehicle miles traveled reduction goals, officials would require compliance or efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled. The legislation lists those efforts as including expanding and improving public transportation, as well as enhancing infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and "micro-mobility" transportation like electric bikes and scooters.

The group of about 40 rally participants at the end of the Empire State Plaza concourse leading to the Capitol included nonprofit leaders and members from Albany, Rochester and parts of Long Island. Many pitched the legislation as a way to increase funds for public transportation, holding signs that said "New Yorkers for Transportation Equity."

During the rally, Danyta Jefferson, head of the Albany chapter of the Vocal-NY nonprofit, pushed for transportation routes connecting rural areas, added routes to reduce long walks, extended bus hours, among other initiatives.

"We don't need improved highways, we don't need improved bridges. What we need is improved sidewalks, walkways for people," Jefferson said. "What we need is shelters on those bus stops. What we need is a transfer system. What we need is for people who are low income, for them to have some type of free or decreased transit."

Some speakers at the event discussed struggles faced by themselves and other community members with their area's public transportation system.

Albany resident Lukee Forbes described challenges with buses not serving certain areas for his night shift at the Red Lobster restaurant in Colonie, leading him to ask a friend for a ride home. Suffolk County resident Marilyn Tucci shared an experience of seeing a rider on her bus commute being denied service for not having exact change.

Both versions of the measure, introduced by Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a Brooklyn Democrat, and Williamsville-area Assemblywoman Karen McMahon, are still in committees. Deputy Assembly Speaker Phil Ramos, who spoke at the event alongside Gounardes, called the bills, which he said address "economic development in poor communities," a "high priority" for leadership.

"Creating the political will starts with the committee members," Ramos said. "These advocates here are meeting with many of the key players here in Albany to move this."

"I'm sure if we get this on the floor for a vote, that we will have sufficient votes to make this a reality," he said.


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