New York State Assembly, Albany, New York 12248

  A Special Report from the


Commission on



Sheldon Silver, Speaker square Ruben Diaz, Jr., Vice-Chair square February 2002

Ruben Diaz, Jr., Vice-Chair

"The Commission is continuing its commitment to a transportation infrastructure that promotes the safety, economic competitiveness, and quality of life of New York State residents. In light of the tragic events of September 11th, we will pay particular attention to ensuring the safety of our transportation systems. We must ensure that people can fly in airplanes, ride the train and subway, and cross bridges without fear."

signature Ruben Diaz, Jr., Vice-Chair
Legislative Commission on Critical Transportation Choices


The Commission’s Mandate

The Commission on Critical Transportation Choices, established in 1994, has a mandate to examine transportation systems and transportation infrastructure needs throughout the State. By law (Article 5-A, Section 83-a, Legislative Law), the Commission is charged with:

square   Identifying and studying long-term transportation needs;
square   Assessing the impact of federal and state regulations on transportation systems;
square   Coordinating and cooperating with other states in the planning and development of mutually beneficial and supportive transportation projects and services;
square   Studying and assessing the future of commercial and private air service and making recommendations for the preservation and improvement of such service;
square   Undertaking research and developing proposals in connection with the development of ports, free trade zones, transportation hubs and facilities related thereto;
square   Undertaking research and developing proposals in connection with safety and safety- related programs in the various transportation modes;
square   Evaluating the short-term and long-term capital needs and operating assistance requirements of the state’s public transit systems;
square   Cooperating with local, state and federal officials in the analysis of possible changes in rules, regulations, and laws relating to transportation;
square   Assessing the relationship between transportation and economic development; and
square   Holding public and private hearings to assess the transportation needs of the State.

The Commission has analyzed transportation needs around the State by holding public hearings and meeting with advocacy groups and constituents. The Commission has studied a number of important issues, including highway infrastructure, public transit service needs, child safety issues, and pedestrian safety. White papers, study briefs, and publications from the Commission have been released on a number of these issues.

  Significant Transportation
  Legislation of 2001

The Assembly has traditionally been an advocate of legislation that advances safe and effective means of transportation. This year a number of important bills were passed ranging from helmet laws designed to protect our children to promoting measures to reduce "road rage."

Child safety legislation

square   Helmet Safety (A.1199-b, Dinowitz (A.8958, Ortiz) — The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that emergency room treatment of injuries related to scooters has soared by 700% between May and September of 2000 (last reported year). This legislation, like bicycle and in-line skating helmet laws already enacted, requires that children fourteen and under wear helmets while riding scooters. (Chapter 402, Laws of 2001)

square   Stopping for School Buses (A.7171-a, Sanders) — In the last five years, an average of 3,238 tickets were issued to drivers who failed to stop for a school bus loading or discharging students. This legislation requires that school buses be equipped with a first and second stop arm. The location of the dual stop arms, one close to the front on the driver’s side and another on the rear of the school bus on the driver’s side, would ensure that the stop signs are clearly visible to drivers in both directions. (Chapter 430, Laws of 2001)

square   Licensure of Bus Drivers (A.7575, Sanders) — Currently, people who are forbidden by the courts from driving their personal vehicles can operate buses and school buses by obtaining "Certificates of Relief from Civil Disabilities" — which are intended to permit an individual a restricted right to drive incidental to their jobs. This legislation will prevent an individual whose license has been revoked or suspended for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs from operating buses or school buses during the period of revocation or suspension. (Chapter 475, Laws of 2001)

The rules of the road

square   Railroad Crossing Safety (A.8841, Lafayette) — This legislation requires individuals operating a vehicle under a commercial license to stop at all railroad crossings. Currently, vehicles carrying passengers must stop at railroad crossings; however, commercial vehicles carrying cargo from groceries to hazardous materials are not required to do the same. This bill will bring New York State in compliance with federal law and ensure safety at railroad crossings. (Chapter 422, Laws of 2001)

square   Pedestrian, Bicycle & Motorcycle Accident Reporting (A.4156-a, Canestrari) — This legislation would require that investigations be done to determine the cause of accidents involving pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles, in addition to passenger and commercial vehicles. The number of motorcycle-related fatalities per miles traveled is 20 times the number of car-related deaths. Each year there are an estimated 19,000-20,000 pedestrians injured, and 300-400 people killed in vehicle-related accidents in NYS. The fatality and injury rate for bicyclists rises each year. Data gathered and studied as a result of this legislation will lead to measures that increase safety and reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities on our roads. (Chapter 408, Laws of 2001)

square   "Road Rage" Awareness (A.5168, Robach) — "Road rage" is one of the fastest growing safety concerns on our roads and is often a contributing factor in traffic accidents and fatalities. This legislation requires pre-licensing and defensive driving classes to devote at least fifteen minutes to "Road Rage" awareness. (Chapter 536, Laws of 2001)

  Roundtable on Alternative Fuel
  & Advanced Technology Vehicles

photo Assemblyman Diaz addresses the audience at the alternative fuel and advanced vehicle technology roundtable. He is joined by Assemblyman Darryl Towns (left) and keynote speaker Dr. David Carpenter (center).


"Every year in the metropolitan statistical area of New York City and the surrounding counties, over 4,000 people die prematurely as a result of breathing current levels of particulate matter. On a national basis, about 3 percent of particulate matter in the air comes from diesel vehicles. In Manhattan, it’s an entirely different picture. Over half of the particles that we’re breathing today come from diesel vehicles. There are communities in Brooklyn, upper Manhattan, and the Bronx that have asthma hospitalization, fatality, and emergency rates that are as much as four to five times the national average." (Testimony of Richard Kassel, Esq., Natural Resources Defense Council, at an Assembly Hearing on Promoting Sustainable Development when Rebuilding and Renovating the Transportation Systems and Infrastructure of the Greater New York Metropolitan Area 8/19/99).



Current transportation technologies, though essential to economy and living standards, cause over 50% of urban air pollution, produce 30% of greenhouse gases, and are the second largest source of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the US (about 143 million tons/year), after industry. Transportation fuel use is recognized as a major source of nitrous oxide (NOx) in acid rain and greenhouse gas, Sulfur Oxide (SOx), ambient ozone increase, particulates (PM) and toxic air pollutants. Some of these pollutants have been linked to health effects from asthma to cardiopulmonary disease.

To address public health and environmental issues, the federal and state governments have enacted various laws to promote the development of cleaner transportation technologies. While federal, state, and local governments have added new transportation technologies to their inventories, the public still has few options. Volatile energy prices, war in Afghanistan, global warming, and public health concerns have demonstrated once again the need to develop and promote greener transportation technologies among the general population.

On May 22, 2001, Ruben Diaz, Jr., Vice-Chair of the Assembly Legislative Commission on Critical Transportation Choices, and Darryl Towns, Chair of the Assembly Legislative Commission on Science and Technology, co-sponsored a roundtable to discuss alternative fuel and advanced vehicle technologies. The roundtable brought together public and private sector transportation leaders, advocates and interested legislators to examine the challenges and benefits of promoting development of the alternative fuel and vehicle market.

Health effects of transportation-related pollutants


square   Research conducted at the University of California-Davis has shown that the cancer-causing potential of biodiesel particulate matter is 80% less than that of petroleum diesel. (Source: National Biodiesel Board)

square   In the eastern U.S., smog sent 53,000 people to the hospital, 159,000 to the emergency room, and triggered over 6 million asthma attacks during the summer of 1997. (Source: Clean Air Network)

square   The Honda Insight, available at your dealer today, gets up to 70 miles per gallon of gasoline. (Source: Environmental News Service)

square   The ethanol and biodiesel industries currently generate more than 60,000 U.S. jobs and add more than $2 billion to the U.S. economy each year. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy)

Transportation pollutants that are of particular concern to residents in urban areas are ground-level ozone or smog and particulate matter (PM).

square   Smog — Exposure to smog causes a range of human pulmonary and respiratory health effects, including chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and increased susceptibility to bacterial infections. Ground-level ozone or smog is created when NOx and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) combine in the presence of heat and sunlight. Ozone is a powerful oxidant, capable of destroying human lung and airway tissues.

square   Particulate Matter — Scientific studies have linked fine particles to a series of significant health problems including: premature death, respiratory related hospital admissions and emergency room visits, aggravated asthma, coughing, difficult or painful breathing, chronic bronchitis, and decreased lung function. Fine particles that make up particulate matter air pollution (PM) are formed in the atmosphere by chemical reactions of hydrocarbon products from the combustion of coal, oil, gasoline, diesel, wood and industrial processes.

Advanced vehicle technologies*

The most promising technologies discussed at the roundtable were hybrid-electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, and alternative fuel vehicles (AFV).

square   Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) — An HEV is powered by the combination of a battery pack and electric motor and a power generation unit (PGU), which is normally an internal combustion engine. Unlike electric vehicles (EVs), HEV batteries can be recharged by an on-board PGU, which needs only to be refueled.

square   Alternate Fuel Vehicles (AFV) — AFVs use an internal combustion engine to generate power like gasoline vehicles with minor modifications. Ethanol and methanol are blended with gasoline in the vehicle’s fuel tank. The car can be fueled on any mix of the specified alcohol and gasoline up to 85 percent alcohol.

square   Fuel Cell Vehicle — A fuel cell is an electrochemical device, similar to a battery, that produces electricity silently and without combustion. However, where batteries must be recharged to continue power generation, fuel cells must be refueled with hydrogen.

* Definitions for all advanced vehicle technologies from "National Conference Of State Legislatures, Ground Transportation for the 21st Century" Asme Press, August 1999.

Alternative fuels**

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct) defines alternative fuels as: methanol, denatured ethanol and other alcohols, separately or in mixtures of 85% with gasoline or other fuels; compressed natural gas (CNG); liquefied natural gas (LNG); liquefied petroleum gas (LPG); hydrogen; "coal-derived liquid fuels"; fuels "other than alcohols" derived from "biological materials"; electricity; or any other fuel determined to be "substantially not petroleum", and yielding "substantial energy security benefits and substantial environmental benefits." The most promising fuels include ethanol, natural gas, biodiesel, and hydrogen gas (H2).

square   Ethanol — Ethanol is an alcohol fuel made primarily from agricultural products, typically corn. E-85 is the primary ethanol alternative fuel.

square   Natural Gas — Natural gas is a mixture of hydrocarbons — mainly methane (CH4). As indicated by its name, natural gas is in gaseous form. It can be stored on a vehicle either in a compressed gaseous state (CNG) or in a liquefied state (LNG).

square   Biodiesel — Biodiesel is a fuel made primarily from the oils and fats of plants. Although it can be used as a straight replacement to diesel, the blend of biodiesel can be as low as 20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent diesel.

square   Hydrogen gas (H2) — Hydrogen gas (H2) can be produced from a number of different resources, including natural gas, water, and methanol. Currently, the use of hydrogen as a vehicular fuel is still in the research and development stage.

** Definitions of Alternative Fuels from Topical Reports "Alternate Fuels for Fleet Vehicles," Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center.

Alternative fuel and transportation technologies in New York State

square   Hybrid Electric Vehicle — In December 2000, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority put in a $77 million order for 200 hybrid electric transit buses, the largest order in North America to date. The buses and their propulsion systems will be manufactured in NYS by Orion Bus Industries and BAE Systems, respectively. (News Brief,

square   Electric Postal Vans — The most successful undertaking to date in terms of promoting a market in New York State for alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) is the Baker Electromotive and Ford Motor Company initiative with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to produce electric postal vans. State financial incentives brought the price of each vehicle down enough to make them attractive to the USPS, and assembly operations were initiated at Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome, New York. Ford was able to demonstrate to USPS that the vehicle will save money in operating benefits, (no fueling stations; electricity is cheaper than gas). The project afforded New York State the opportunity to become a leader in the alternative fuel industry. New York is one of the few states with a meaningful tax credit to offset the incremental costs of manufacturing an AFV, as well as a tax credit to offset the incremental costs of buying one. Ford hopes that the USPS partnership will be a springboard for further market development. Other countries have shown interest, so there is significant export potential.

Roundtable participants agreed that New York has done much to foster the growth of alternative fuels and new transportation technologies, but hoped that more could be done. Next year, the Commission will review other states’ efforts to promote these industries to determine if additional incentives might be implemented in New York State, particularly in the area of diesel trucks. The Commission will also research efforts to promote the production of alternative fuels in New York State to determine what incentives might be needed to help manufacturers and farmers.

  Roundtable on Sustainable
  Transportation Development

Building livable communities: development of a Community Transportation Plan

Stakeholders in the transportation arena agree that appropriate investment in transportation infrastructure is essential to economic development and improvement in the quality of life. Under-funded or poorly designed transportation systems increase reliance on automobiles and trucks, thereby increasing traffic congestion and air pollution. Urban communities are particularly impacted when traffic congestion seeps into residential areas, causing health and safety concerns. Inadequate public transportation systems reduce options for travel to work.

On July 13, 2001, the Legislative Commission on Critical Transportation Choices sponsored a roundtable at the Soundview Community In Action Center located in the Bronx, New York.

Topics of discussion at the roundtable included developing a solid plan for transportation issues facing the community, including:

Major areas of concern

square   Air quality impacts from transportation in Hunts Point and surrounding areas are reaching critical levels and must be addressed. Over 180,000 vehicles use the Bruckner Expressway to commute to work each day through the South Bronx en route to Manhattan, Queens, and points south and west.

square   Adequate transportation options for workers traveling to and from work on the Point are not available. Currently, many of the 16,000 employees who work in Hunts Point must walk from the #6 Hunts Point Avenue stop to businesses on the periphery of the peninsula. This great walking distance makes it hard for commuters to get to work and for employers to recruit employees.

square   There is great interest in the development of recreational transportation opportunities for area residents, including bike paths, canoeing, and kayaking.

Possible solutions to transportation problems were divided into two categories:

Short term solutions...

square   Establish a peninsula shuttle/trolley for commuters who work on Hunts Point Peninsula.

square   Increase use of rail from Hunts Point to ship food in and out of the market.

square   Establish a truck route around residential areas in the community for diesel trucks traveling to Hunts Point on a daily basis. Work with police and area businesses to ensure enforcement.

square   Develop incentives for truckers to buy new cleaner diesel vehicles or convert older trucks to low sulfur gas and install particulate traps.

square   Require developers to build accommodations for bus stops on the site of new facilities.

square   Construct bike and pedestrian paths along Bronx River and other main thoroughfares in Hunts Point.

square   Fund feasibility studies for appropriate transit options for Hunts Point, including ferry service, and pedestrian bridge access to Soundview Park.

...and long term solutions

square   Reintroduce ferry service to the waterfront area along the Bronx and East Rivers that would open a new transportation corridor from the Bronx to Manhattan and to La Guardia Airport.

square   Fund a scientific study to provide links between diesel fuel exhaust and illness.

square   Fully fund feasibility studies by DOT for a new access way from area highways into Hunts Point.

square   Establish ferry and barge service along the Bronx River.

square   Construct a pedestrian bridge between Hunts Point and Sound- view Park to reduce traffic congestion and improve recreational opportunities for families.

square   Establish clean transportation businesses on the Point.

square   Establish training programs for the advanced skills needed to operate and maintain new transportation technologies.

Roundtable participants agreed that other communities in New York City and urban areas around the State share the same transportation challenges. They hope their efforts can be used to develop guidelines for other communities to follow and agreed to continue working together to focus on urban transportation priorities. Possible first steps included holding a hearing on commercial distribution of goods by truck, rail and ferry, and educating the business community on the health impacts of transportation systems and ways to develop cleaner modes of transportation.

  Looking Ahead

Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr.
reviews legislation in his
Albany office.

photo In the coming year, the Commission will pay particular attention to ensuring the safety of our transportation system. We will review the federal government’s new security measures to determine if they are adequate to protect New Yorkers, and to evaluate the impact they will have on the state’s transportation systems and the industries that depend on them.

We will hold hearings on diesel fuels, bringing together businesses, trucking industry advocates and concerned citizens to discuss solutions to the pollution and health problems perpetuated by these fuels. The Commission will also continue its work to seek solutions to traffic congestion problems in urban areas.

The Commission looks forward to keeping you informed as we research and report on transportation practices that work to combine economic development priorities with social needs and environmental principles in New York State.

Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr., Vice-Chair
Room 419 LOB square Albany, NY 12248 square (518) 455-5514
1163 Manor Avenue square Bronx, NY 10472 square (718) 893-0202
Legislative Commission on Critical Transportation Choices square (518) 455-4031

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