Trails Across New York
Strengthen local economies, promote public health, and increase clean transportation options
In 2019, PTNY announced the launch of the Trails Across New York campaign. This effort seeks to build off of the momentum of the Empire State Trail's planned completion in 2020 and support ways to turn our statewide trail system into a true network, connecting local trails with the main spine of the Empire State Trail and cementing New York's position as the nation's leader in multi-use trails.
PTNY supports efforts by the Trust for Public Land and the New York Bicycling Coalition to extend the Empire State Trail out along the length of Long Island, connecting the more than 2.8 million residents of Nassau and Suffolk Counties with the rest of the state by multi-use trail.
Trails Across New York envisions a future in which all New Yorkers will be located only minutes from a trail and ideally will be able to access that trail easily and safely by walking or bicycling. Throughout the state, trails, bicycle boulevards, and Complete Streets will be acknowledged as essential and mainstream elements of community infrastructure, much as utility lines and sidewalks are thought of today.
New York State's trail-rich and trail-friendly reputation will attract visitors from across the nation and abroad to experience the historic communities and varied and beautiful landscapes accessible through the state’s trail network.
Accelerate trail network development through the completion of a statewide trails plan.
New York does not have a comprehensive, statewide plan for the future development of the multi-use trail network. As the Empire State Trail is set to be completed in 2020, now is the time to start planning for the next steps for multi-use trails across the state.
PTNY has worked with our partners in the state legislature to introduce legislation (A5035/S4416) that would authorize completion of a statewide multi-use trails plan. This plan would aggregate existing regional trails plans, inventory corridors suitable for the development of multi-use trails, and identify priority projects, with a goal of expanding the state’s multi-use trail network to serve all New Yorkers.
Establish a dedicated, state funding source for infrastructure that supports bicycling such as multi-use trails and on-street bicycle facilities
Communities across the state are eager to provide citizens of all ages and abilities with safe, healthy, and low-cost active transportation. Communities that invest in bicycle and pedestrian projects benefit from improved quality of life, a healthier population, greater local real estate values, more active transportation options, reduced air pollution and, as was demonstrated in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the ability for people to safely get to work, school and shops when storms and other disasters interrupt motorized transportation.
Bicycle and pedestrian projects also generate jobs: According to a study conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, every $1 million of spending on bicycle and pedestrian project construction creates at least 9.6 jobs while road-only projects create just 7.8 jobs.
Despite passage of the Complete Streets law in 2011, funding for pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure has not increased to meet the demand that exists in communities across the state. In fact, by most measures funding for these facilities has actually decreased. One indicator is spending in the Statewide Transportation Improvements Program (STIP), with a recent analysis showing that NYSDOT plans to spend less than 2% of its total outlays on pedestrian and bicycling projects between 2014-2017.1 This is simply not enough, especially when one considers that New York State has the nation’s highest percentage of roadway fatalities that involve bicyclists and pedestrians, at 29% of all fatal crashes.2
In addition, the recently-adopted federal transportation law, the FAST ACT, maintains reduced funding levels for for trails and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure compared with previous decades. Moreover, this most recent federal transportation bill allows state transportation agencies to shift up to 50% of funding in the Transportation Alternative Program to other uses that have nothing to do with biking or walking. Having a dedicated state funding source will help assure that the level of funding for bike-ped infrastructure is, at the least maintained, or, optimally, increased and will provide assistance to communities to support the implementation of Complete Streets.
1 ACCORDING TO AN ANALYSIS BY PTNY and TRI-STATE TRANSPORTATION CAMPAIGN OF THE DRAFT 2014‐2017 STATE TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM: https://www.ptny.org/application/files/6014/8111/8928/N...
2 NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION. TRAFFIC SAFETY FACTS 2012: A COMPILATION OF MOTOR VEHICLE CRASH DATA FROM FATALITY ANALYSIS REPORTING SYSTEM AND THE GENERAL ESTIMATES SYSTEM. HTTP://WWW-NRD.NHTSA.DOT.GOV/PUBS/812032.PDF. ACCESSED 12/23/2014.
Strengthen the New York State Complete Streets law by closing the loophole that exempts maintenance and pavement resurfacing projects
PTNY strongly supports the passage of legislation to expand the state Complete Streets law to include consideration of accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists when undertaking resurfacing, maintenance and pavement recycling projects.
New York State took an important step towards safer streets for everyone in 2011 by passing Complete Streets legislation. Complete Streets design principles assure that the design of streets and roads take into account the needs of everyone who uses them, not just drivers of private automobiles. New York’s Complete Streets law requires consideration of people of all ages walking, riding bicycles, driving, and taking public transportation in any transportation project that uses federal and state funds, including the construction, reconstruction, restriping, and rehabilitation of roadways. However, the law presently only applies to projects classified as construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation and specifically excludes projects classified as resurfacing, maintenance and pavement recycling. Legislation proposed in the State Assembly (A. 6772) and Senate (S. 1801) would close this loophole and require all projects to consider complete streets principles.
While state law requires infrastructure changes to consider Complete Streets principles as part of their review, the implementation of infrastructure changes is left to the discretion of state and local government. As a result, some communities across the state have already adopted their own Complete Streets policies. PTNY urges NYSDOT and the MPOs to actively implement Complete Streets in the projects they oversee and support and foster understanding and implementation of Complete Streets among practitioners at other levels of government.
Incorporate funding mechanisms for active transportation infrastructure and policies that support greater use of non-motorized transportation into climate change resiliency planning.
New York State spend about $15 billion annually on operating, maintaining, and improving transportation across the state. As the impact of climate change becomes more clearly seen and the potential changes to our environment become more dire, it is essential to ensure that all transportation funding decisions consider the long-term impact on fossil fuel dependency and environmental health resulting from that spending.
A dedicated funding source is needed for active transportation infrastructure. Policies should be incorporated into funding decision-making processes supporting the expansion and improvement of non-motorized transportation networks.
Institute roll-on bicycle service on all New York Amtrak routes
Passenger rail provides an essential transportation service across the state, linking together downtowns from New York to Albany to Buffalo. However, getting between these downtowns and other destinations is often reliant on private vehicles. Bicycles, which would be a perfect solution for the so-called "last mile" of these trips, are not fully embraced by Amtrak, the operator of passenger rail across the state.
Currently, Amtrak allows bicycles on certain routes. New York State DOT should work with Amtrak to determine what would be required to allow for roll-on bicycle service - allowing passengers to bring bicycles on to all train services, and roll-off at their final station ready to ride to their ultimate destination. Policies should also be pursued to facilitate and simplify bringing bicycles on Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Railroad services and incorporate bicycle parking and carry-on service in any future rail or transit service expansion planning.
Other advocacy priorities
- Legalize the use of E-Bikes in New York State. Legislation proposed in both the Senate and Assembly would remove uncertainty for e-bike users, and enforcement agencies, as well as retailers who are currently selling e-bikes in New York. More importantly, legalizing and regulating e-bike use will make another healthy, low-emission transportation mode available to New Yorkers. Legalization and reclassification has the potential to benefit the environment, limit road congestion, support healthy living, and promote tourism across the State.
- Bring greater transparency to the NYS Department of Transportation’s capital planning process to increase accountability and encourage a more equitable distribution of funding among all travel modes, including bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.