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TRANSIT SYSTEM NEWS
A threatened strike on New York's Long Island Rail Road was averted on Thursday when the transit authority and labor unions reached a tentative contract deal, bringing relief to thousands of riders who had been dreading a painful commute. The announcement came after Governor Andrew Cuomo urged leaders from the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the eight unions representing about 5,400 rail workers to meet at his New York City office to resolve their differences.
The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) will hold a series of public meetings to gather feedback on proposed fare products as part of its New Fare Collection System that will feature smart card and mobile ticket technology. A key feature of CDTA’s new system is the ability to use smart cards and mobile ticketing technology that offers new payment options and increased flexibility. The proposal focuses on stored value debit (Pay As You Go) and Frequent Rider (similar to Rolling Swipers) options.
There's no doubt about the pedigree and transit qualifications of the professionals on Governor Andrew Cuomo's M.T.A. "reinvention commission." The question is whether its eventual recommendations will actually be implemented, once the stories have been written and the commission disbanded. The head of the commission says he and his colleagues aren't there in the service of any political exercise. “I don’t think any of these very busy people, any of these very important and smart people, would be involved in this if they didn’t think that these recommendations would be carried out,” former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood, the co-chair of the 24-person commission, told Capital in an exclusive interview. “They’re not there just to spin their wheels. They’re not there just to hear themselves talk or to listen to other people.”
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a $10.9 billion extension of U.S. transportation funding through May 2015, a measure aimed at averting cutbacks in August in federal money for road, bridge and transit projects. The measure, paid for largely through revenue generated by pension accounting changes and higher customs user fees, passed on a 367-55 bipartisan vote, despite opposition from outside conservative groups. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that "as soon as I can get to it," the Senate would begin considering a similar, $10.8 billion measure with some alternate funding provisions in the coming days.
The AFL-CIO is warning Congress not to rest on its laurels about a likely deal to temporarily extend federal transportation funding into next spring. The measures are intended to prevent a bankruptcy in transportation funding that has been predicted to occur next month absent congressional action. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Tuesday that he was glad Congress was moving to prevent the bankruptcy, but he added that he wanted them to focus on passing a long-term transportation bill. “Congress is heading toward a much needed, albeit short-term, fix for the Highway Trust Fund,” Trumka said in a statement. “But let’s be clear: while a short-term extension averts the immediate crisis, it is not a solution,” he continued.
President Barack Obama announced a new program Thursday to attract more private money to help pay to build new roads and bridges as he criticized Congress for refusing to approve a more lasting source of funding. The new program is designed to encourage collaboration between state and local governments and private-sector investors, expand the market for
public-private partnerships and make greater use of federal credit programs. Obama argued that the U.S. is losing its competitive edge to other countries that spend freely on infrastructure upgrades
OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
NASHVILLE -- The transit executive hired to lead the Metropolitan Transit Authority said he is ready to take on building more public support for the city’s proposed $174 million bus rapid transit line. Stephen Bland, former president of the New York Public Transportation Association, whom the Nashville MTA board voted unanimously to hire Wednesday as its new CEO, said he plans to engage with both supporters and detractors of the Amp transit line with a goal of making it better. “It could really be a model for how transit develops in the Nashville region,” Bland said.
PITTSFIELD -- The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is the new owner of the Berkshire Line, the first step toward the possible return of passenger rail linking the county with New York City. The MassDOT Board of Directors on Wednesday authorized agency Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey to execute an agreement to buy the railroad tracks from the Canaan, Conn.-based
Housatonic Railroad Company for $12.13 million. "Studies have shown that a Berkshire County rail connection to New York City would be a winner, with more than one million rides annually," said Davey in a prepared statement."
BALTIMORE -- Users of the Maryland Transit Administration's bus system will be able to track buses in their area via their smartphones and other mobile devices starting this fall, one of many changes announced Monday as part of the agency's multiyear bus improvement plan. The changes are part of the agency's Bus Network Improvement Project, which was launched last summer with the goal of improving service using the input of local residents. Changes under the program will be rolled out through next year, officials said. The initiative is part of Gov. Martin O'Malley's goal of doubling transit ridership in the state by 2020.
NEW YORK – If you travel by plane or train, you’ve probably heard the voice. But unlike the electronic voices heard on phones and other places, this one has a face. CBS2 News reporter Lee Cowan profiles 63-year-old Carolyn Hopkins of northern Maine -- the woman behind the voice at airports telling us to "watch your bags" or "the next uptown train will arrive in... one minute."
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