Friday, January 23, 2009

Subway Commuter and Light Rail Advocate Chosen for Senate

The Times is reporting that Governor Paterson has chosen Representative Kirsten Gillibrand to replace Secretary Clinton in the Senate. I've discussed Gillibrand's record before, but I think it's a good time to go over the most salient points.

Although Gillibrand's house has a Walk Score of 3, she's an hour's walk from downtown Hudson, which has a Walk Score of 86. More importantly, when she's in Washington she takes the Metro to work. She even brought her son to daycare on the train, and then got back on the Metro one stop to her office. That may have changed now that she has two sons - or it may not.

Gillibrand's commitment to transit and rail may not go very deep: the Ethan Allen Express, one of the two trains a day that run through the northern part of her district, is threatened by Vermont budget cuts. Last week over 200 people rallied in Rutland (which by Vermont standards counts as a mass demonstration), but no one from the New York section of the route was to be seen. There is no indication that Gillibrand has even noticed that part of her district could lose half its train service.

As I wrote before, Gillibrand has called for light rail in the Capital District, but deferred to the Governor for action. Did this come up in any of their conversations? It would be a really good thing for that area, but if Gillibrand's transit advocacy is limited to campaign promises with no follow-up, this could be a big disappointment for New York.

It'd be interesting to hear from advocates for transit and livable streets in Gillibrand's district. One well-known critic of "Happy Motoring," James Howard Kunstler, has so far been silent on Gillibrand and any of his elected officials. Incidentally, his house has a Walk Score of 0. WTF JHK?


Christopher Parker said...

Thanks for noticing our rally. Some New Yorkers were there as they were catching the outbound train at the time. However we did no publicity in New York. New York support is irrelevant - it's Vermont that supports the train and Vermont politicians don't care what New York thinks. Unless New York is going to help with funding, but that doesn't seem likely in the current fiscal climate. Besides the long-term plan for the train is for it to be re-routed out of her district, skipping Saratoga. Remember: all politics is local.

Cap'n Transit said...

Thanks for the information, Christopher! As a New Yorker who's taken that train it still would have been nice to see some New York support for it, either in the form of a NY State payment (which the electeds are probably avoiding because it would set a precedent) or an increased share of the Amtrak budget. Maybe if we changed the name to the "George Clinton Express"?

I found this PDF that has more details on the long-term plan. So the train would go south to North Bennington and then turn west to Mechanicville?

Alon Levy said...

Two things. First, the walk score applet's goofy - I tried my building, and it said that the next building over is a clothing and music store. In reality, the building in question is purely residential. Under grocery store, it gave the local bodega, which does not have nutritiously adequate food. When I tried my previous building, it named a nearby building which is again residential as a movie theater.

Second, Gillibrand is from Hudson, New York. Her constituents are served mainly by the Empire Service, and have almost hourly service to Penn Station. Why should they care about one train to Vermont?

Cap'n Transit said...

Walk Score is based on yellow pages data, which can be outdated or inaccurate, but just look at a map of Gillibrand's house and you'll see that there's nothing much within walking distance. When she's home she could live in a nice restored Victorian in downtown Hudson, but she prefers to be entirely car-dependent. That says something about her.

Gillibrand's former district is very large, Alon. It contains a large area north of Albany. For many of her constituents, the Ethan Allen Express is one of the two trains that pass through each day. Should she say "screw them" because she lives in the part of the district that has thirteen trains a day?