Hawkins Supports Strengthening Public Transportation in Greene County, Upstate NY

Howie Hawkins - Green for Governor
Media Release
www.howiehawkins.org - www.gpny.org

For Release: October 29, 2010
For More Information:
Howie Hawkins, 315 425-1019. 315 317-5084 (c)
Mark Dunlea, 518 860-3725


(Catskill) Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, discussed his plans to improve transportation in upstate New York at a stop today in Catskill NY. The talk was organized by Brian Kehoe, a Green who is an elected Village Trustee in Catskill.


Hawkins also discussed his plans to generate a $25 billion surplus to fund a Green New Deal, with a WPA-style public jobs program; full funding of education; investments in renewable energy to deal with climate change; and a single payer Medicare for All system. He would pay for it with progressive income tax reform (a return to NY's 1970 state income tax system would generate $8 billion while cutting taxes for 95% of New Yorkers); a 50% bankers bonus tax ($10 billion); and a halt to the rebate of the $16 billion state stock transfer tax to Wall Street speculators.


Hawkins said that the Greene County's Transportation Needs Assessment was a good start. He supports the recommendation to create a permanent Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) to transition coordination efforts from the planning stage to implementation and to develop a coordinated transportation system for Greene County. He agrees with the need to expand the Greene Transit System to provide a viable commuter service to downtown Albany, Hudson, or Kingston and to cross the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to Columbia County.


Hawkins supports increased state and federal subsidies for public transportation.


Hawkins said that his transit investment priorities for Upstate New York includes:


Complete Streets: Hawkins supports retrofitting urban, suburban, town, and village streets for safe pedestrian and bicycle use through sidewalks, cross-walks, crossing signals, traffic calming, speed bumps, multi-use paths, street trees, pedestrian refuge medians, protected bike lanes, and other safety measures.


Hawkins noted that New York State spends fewer federal dollars on pedestrian and cyclist safety projects per capita than most other states. Ranking #44, NY spends 1% of federal funds ($0.73 per capita) on pedestrian safety, while 22.5% of New York traffic fatalities are pedestrians (over 21,000).


The dedicated funding for pedestrian and cyclist safety should focus on retrofitting existing roadways and designing new roadways for safe use by pedestrians and cyclists. The top priority for retrofitting roadways for pedestrian and cyclist safety should be for school children walking and cycling to and from school.


Urban Mass Transit: Expand, rebuild, and electrify metropolitan bus and rail mass transit.


Cross subsidize public transport from gasoline and carbon taxes to keep fares low or free.


Prioritize access for low to moderate income communities for commuting to jobs. Promote free transit to downtown districts to reduce traffic and encourage compact development.


Interurban Rails: While high-speed wide-gauge rail is getting federal support and should be encouraged, New York State should undertake to rebuild the interurbans, the electrified narrow gauge rails that once connected virtually all the upstate cities and towns. They grew and thrived from the 1880s until the 1920s when government policy favored concrete roads for automobiles over the interurbans, often seizing their rights of way for highway construction. Most of interurbans that survived this assault did not survive the Great Depression.


Hawkins said the resources for these priorities would come from a combination of sources:


  • Dedicated funding sources like the gasoline and carbon taxes
  • Increased general fund revenues from the progressive tax reforms
  • Bonding and loans from a state-owned bank dedicated to financing a sustainable green economic recovery.

For federal transportation funding, the US tax on gasoline has been reduced to $19 per 1000 miles driven, half of what it was in 1975 and the lowest it has ever been since the tax was instituted in 1929 in inflation-adjusted dollars. For immediate increased funding, the federal gas tax, which is dedicated to transportation funding, should be raised. More of it should be spent on expanding mass transit and pedestrian and bicycle enhancements of roads, instead of roads and highways dedicated strictly to cars and trucks.


Pending a federal gas tax increase, New York should increase its gasoline tax to help fund mass transit and highway maintenance.


A better and more equitable solution would be a carbon tax. It would tax fuels based on their carbon content. The revenues would be rebated to consumers on a per capita basis, with perhaps a portion of the revenues dedicated to investments in the efficient use of clean renewable energy, including mass transit. The tax would be escalated gradually, giving businesses and households predictable prices that will incentivize investments in energy conservation, efficiency, and renewables.


Ideally a carbon tax should be harmonized internationally. Next best would be a federal carbon tax.


In the meantime, New York State should implement a state carbon tax, as British Columbia has done, to get a jump start on the conversion to clean energy and a world class system of convenient, low-fare mass transit and multi-use roadways throughout the state.


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