Transpo Bills Gummed Up By State Senate Dysfunction
After spending the last five weeks affirming Albany’s status as the nation’s most dysfunctional state capital, the State Senate will have one last extraordinary session this Wednesday before calling it a year. The chamber is not expected to pass much in the way of transportation bills. (The Assembly wrapped up its session last month.) Here’s a short summary of unfinished livable streets business which the Senate and Assembly will leave behind until the 2010 legislative session.
At the end of his coup, Pedro Espada made out with a $41,000 salary perk. New York City bus riders aren’t smiling.
Hayley and Diego’s law. Named for two toddlers killed this January by a negligent van driver in Chinatown, this bill would stiffen penalties for drivers who injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists. The day before a major advocacy event in Albany, at which the children’s mothers and other victims’ relatives were planning to appear, State Senators Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate declared their intent to conference with Senate Republicans, throwing the legislature into chaos. The event didn’t happen, and the bill is still in committee in both houses.
- Camera-enforced BRT routes. This is the same bill that Rochester Democrat David Gantt killed in his transportation committee last year. It would enable New York City to enforce 50 miles of exclusive BRT routes by mounting cameras on buses. Similar cameras have sped bus trips in London significantly. Between the protracted MTA funding debate and the Senate’s utter collapse, however, the campaign to convince Gantt of the need for this bill never really got off the ground. Transportation advocates plan to push for the bill again in January.
- Complete Streets. There’s a bill in both houses that would require transportation projects to include pedestrian and bicycle access. AARP and the New York Bicycle Coalition have campaigned strongly for the bill, which is sponsored by the transportation committee chairs in each house. The bill did not come up for a vote in Gantt’s committee, however, so it looks like we’ll be waiting until next year for any movement on this one.
There is one piece of legislation related to safer streets potentially en route to becoming law this week: The safe driving bill that passed the Assembly last month. Martin Dilan, chair of the Senate transportation committee, wants to move the bill this week, said his Albany office. Aimed primarily at young and inexperienced drivers, the bill would penalize distracted driving, including texting while driving, but it does not rise to the level of an outright texting ban. A provision inserted in the Assembly would prevent police from issuing a ticket for "inattentive driving" unless the driver was observed committing another violation at the same time.
Distracted driving contributes to more than 10,000 crashes per year in New York State. Apparently, Albany doesn’t think that’s a big enough hazard to justify pulling drivers over.