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Van Bramer to Car Dealers: Stop Hogging Northern Boulevard Sidewalks

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn't shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi's dealership. He's trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo:  John McCarten/NYC Council

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn’t shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi’s dealership. He’s trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council

Walking the car-clogged sidewalks of Northern Boulevard this morning with street safety advocates and press in tow, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on two NYPD precincts to crack down on auto dealerships that treat pedestrian space as car showrooms.

“They have a right to make money,” Van Bramer said of the dealerships. “But they do not have a right to block the sidewalks.”

Northern Boulevard regularly ranks as one of the most dangerous streets in Queens. Van Bramer, standing outside PS 152 at the intersection where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed on his way to school in 2013, said parking cars on the sidewalks doesn’t help the situation. “Northern Boulevard is busy enough, dangerous enough,” he said. “We cannot accept pedestrians’ lives being put in danger in order to sell cars.”

PS 152 principal Vincent Vitolo said he has spoken with dealerships next to the school about keeping the sidewalks clear for students. But after brief bouts of compliance, the dealers put cars back onto the sidewalk, blocking the way for kids going to school. “We’re in touch with all the dealerships around us,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer said representatives of a Honda dealership told her there was an exception in state law that allows car dealerships to park on sidewalks. The claim appears to be a complete fiction, and police occasionally do ticket the dealers for appropriating sidewalk space.

Van Bramer said his office has reached out to many of the dealerships, and met with the 108th and 114th precincts yesterday about the issue. While the precincts have done some enforcement blitzes in the past, the dealerships remain defiant. The problem is worse on the weekends, when dealers put out even more display cars on the sidewalks.

“There are some problems, some community issues, that ultimately seem intractable and people come to accept them as ‘that’s just the way it is,'” Van Bramer said. “These businesses cannot accept these tickets as a cost of doing business.”

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City Hall Could Start Cutting Traffic Today By Reviving PARK Smart

DOT promised PARK Smart 2.0 last year, but hasn't expanded the program since 2013. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT promised PARK Smart 2.0 last year, but hasn’t expanded the program since 2013. Image: DOT [PDF]

Andrew Cuomo hasn’t come around on the Move NY plan, and Uber beat back City Hall’s proposed cap on new black car licenses for the time being. But the de Blasio administration still has options at its disposal to cut traffic. Chief among them is parking policy — especially curbside parking reform.

Remember PARK Smart? That’s the DOT initiative, first launched in October 2008, that experimented with variable parking meter rates in a handful of neighborhoods. PARK Smart raises curbside parking rates during the times of day when demand is most intense, seeking to increase the availability of spaces and cut down on traffic caused by drivers circling for a spot. Despite encouraging results, the program has stalled in the last two years.

On some commercial streets, the amount of traffic caused by cruising for a parking space isn’t trivial: A 2007 Transportation Alternatives study found 45 percent of drivers on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope were trawling for a spot. A similar study in 2006 found 28 percent of Soho drivers looking for parking [PDF].

DOT launched PARK Smart nearly seven years ago in Greenwich Village, then expanded it to Park Slope. The agency aborted a PARK Smart program on the Upper East Side after opposition from the local community board. The most recent action came in 2013, when DOT rolled out modest PARK Smart reforms in Jackson Heights and Atlantic Avenue. Since then no new neighborhoods have been added to the program.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The Key Human Factors That Can Lead Any City to Transform Its Streets

tc_cycle_of_change

Graphic via TransitCenter

How did Portland get to be a national model for sustainable transportation and walkable development? Yes, Mayor Neil Goldschmidt stopped the Mount Hood Freeway from being built in 1974 and began negotiations that eventually led to the implementation of the urban growth boundary. But Goldschmidt didn’t do it alone.

Grassroots activists from a group called Sensible Transportation Options for People (STOP) — which included Goldschmidt’s chief of staff when he was city commissioner — helped him get elected and formed the ideas and policy proposals that the mayor embraced. Goldschmidt, in turn, appointed reformers to key posts in his administration

Look at other cities that are moving beyond the 20th Century legacy of cars-first planning, and odds are you’ll come across a similar story of grassroots activism merging with political power. In a new report, “A People’s History of Recent Urban Transportation Innovation,” TransitCenter’s Shin-pei Tsay tells those stories in six cities.

The Portland story is exceptional in that the state of Oregon worked with the city in the 1970s as a close partner on land use and transportation policy, helping to build the region’s light rail system. But even without state cooperation, cities around the country are showing the way toward a more multi-modal, less car-dependent future. And as in Portland, this progress can be traced to the links between advocates and government.

Take a more recent example: New York’s street transformations under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. When people think of changes like the pedestrianization of Times Square and the construction of protected bike lanes, they think of Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan — and for good reason. But these leaders also had the benefit of a deep and increasingly sophisticated advocacy scene, exemplified by Transportation Alternatives, with its roots stretching back to the early 1970s — as well as groups like the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Regional Plan Association (and new arrivals like, ahem, Streetsblog).

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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The Dutch Have a Strong Car Culture — and Stronger Bike Infrastructure


We wrote a couple of months back about how Amsterdam prioritized people over cars only after ceding city streets to motor vehicles. Today, David Hembrow at A View From the Cycle Path has more on that subject.

As in the U.S. and other European countries, people race cars in The Netherlands. “Dutch people like cars a lot,” writes Hembrow. “They also like bikes.” Hence the sight of Dutch people riding bikes to — and on — the racetrack in Hembrow’s video.

In other places, car culture grew at the expense of cycling. The difference between The Netherlands and those places is that the Dutch chose to develop infrastructure that preserved and enhanced the safety and convenience of riding a bike, Hembrow writes:

It is sometimes forgotten by campaigners elsewhere that the Dutch cover 3/4 of all their km traveled by private automobile. There are enough cars and there is enough driving in the Netherlands that cars could be utterly dominant to the extent that they make cycling unpleasant. Indeed, that situation had already arisen by the 1970s in the Netherlands, when people owned far fewer cars than they do today. Domination of cars led to an increase in cyclist injuries and a steep decline in cycling.

Dutch people now cycle for a higher proportion of journeys than people of any other country not because cycling is “in the culture” but because cycling to almost any destination is possible without having to deal with motorized traffic. Dutch cycling infrastructure has made it possible for cycling to survive alongside a rise in motoring, removing danger and noise and enabling journeys to anywhere by bike, even motor racing circuits.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Gelinas: Skepticism Over Boston’s Olympic Mega-Projects Holds Lessons for NY (Post)
  • Tri-State Has Photos of New Pedestrian Plaza Coming to 33rd Street (MTR)
  • Bed-Stuy Restoration Corp Talks About Its Work With Bike-Share (Our Time Press)
  • East River Storm Protection Plan Could Involve Less-Horrible FDR Drive Crossings (Lo-Down)
  • Park Slope Fifth Ave BID to Count Pedestrians With New Sensors (DNA)
  • Two NYPD Officers Injured in Belt Parkway Collision (WPIX)
  • Woman Injures Leg Injured After Her Car Rolls Away From Her, Into Home (Advance, DNA)
  • Unlicensed Driver Indicted in Crash That Killed Passenger (Advance)
  • Driver Who Smashed Nostrand Storefront Blames It On Mysterious Bicyclist (Sheepshead Bites)
  • Midtown Road Rage Driver Smashes Window of Vehicle After Dispute Over Merging (News)
  • BP Adams Devotes Cash to Park Along Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway (DNA)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Andrew Cuomo Is Building a Legacy Fit for 1950

This is Cuomo's infrastructure legacy. Rendering: New NY Bridge/YouTube

Behold: Andrew Cuomo’s infrastructure legacy. Rendering: New NY Bridge/YouTube

The Times noted last week that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s infrastructure legacy will be defined by two mega-projects: the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge and the rebuilding of LaGuardia Airport. Cuomo clearly relishes building big things, but bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to infrastructure. These projects will shape the region for decades. New Yorkers should be prepared for some devastating consequences.

First, there are the effects of the projects themselves. Instead of building a high-quality transit connection across the Hudson River, the governor halted the transit planning process and forged ahead with an extra-wide highway bridge. While the Cuomo administration eventually promised a Bus Rapid Transit network, so far that’s only resulted in a modest plan to expand existing express bus service.

Instead of transitways, the new bridge will have four car lanes in each direction, plus room for more. That’s a recipe for more driving and more sprawl, particularly in Rockland and Orange counties, where population is expected to soar 34 percent over the next 35 years, more than double the rate of the rest of the region [PDF].

While Cuomo’s Tappan Zee replacement is a sprawl machine for the suburbs, his LaGuardia Airport revamp is poised to generate more car traffic in an already-congested urban area.

Details of the LGA plan are scarce, but Cuomo is calling for the construction of additional car parking to handle the increased capacity of the airport. Those garages will be more of an enticement than the lackluster transit options the governor is proposing. The LaGuardia AirTrain will require most air travelers to go out of their way to Willets Point, the second-to-last stop on the 7 train, before getting on a connection to the airport. Not only would that push more riders onto the crowded subway line (the LIRR is another option but offers scant service to Willets Point), it would actually be slower than the buses that already serve LGA.

Then there’s the opportunity cost. While Cuomo secures funds for his favored projects — $4 billion (or is it $8 billion?) for LaGuardia, plus another $4 billion for the Tappan Zee — others are left waiting.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal, for instance, is bursting at the seams. Delays in the trans-Hudson rail tubes are only going to get worse. The Port Authority and Amtrak are sounding the alarm about the need to get started on these projects. So far, Cuomo has paid them lip service — but they’re not getting the attention and resources the governor has lavished on the Tappan Zee and LaGuardia.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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How Parking Permits Can Improve the Politics of Walkable Development

Residents of mixed-use corridors (the red and purple areas) would be ineligible for parking permits under Portland’s proposed system, creating an incentive for residents of single-family homes to buy into the idea. Map via BikePortland

Residential parking permits are often referred to as “hunting licenses” because while they grant permit holders the privilege of parking on the street, there’s usually no limit to how many permits can be issued. If there are more permits in a neighborhood than available on-street parking spaces, there’s still going to be a parking crunch and permit holders will still circle streets hunting for a spot.

In Portland, however, the residential parking permit program is shaping up differently, and those differences could make parking permits a more effective tool to counteract NIMBY resistance to walkable development.

The key to Portland’s proposal is a limit on the number of permits in a given neighborhood. Many of the details have yet to be hashed out, but here’s where things stand now, reports Michael Andersen at BikePortland:

The proposal, which the city described Friday as “preliminary,” combines two main ideas:

1) Neighborhoods would get the option to vote to start charging themselves a yet-to-be-determined amount for overnight street parking, and

2) people who live in most of the buildings along commercial corridors wouldn’t get to park in permit-parking areas overnight unless people who live in nearby residences don’t want the space.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • It’s Been Five Years Since Christie Killed the Most Important Transpo Project in the Nation (News)
  • De Blasio Considers a Cap on Uber Fares, Not Vehicles (Post)
  • City Hall Will Spend $25M to Move Waste Transfer Station Ramp Away From UES Park (Capital)
  • Bronx Teacher on Cross-Country Charity Ride Killed By Texting Driver in Oklahoma (News)
  • Speeding Driver Injures More Than a Dozen People in Jersey City (AP)
  • WNYC Maps the Subway Stations You Would Avoid in the Summer, If You Could
  • Cuomo’s LGA Plan Makes Cap’n Transit Feel Like He’s Living in a Banana Republic
  • Why Is Connecticut Making So Much More Transit Progress Than New York and New Jersey? (MTR)
  • Ben Kabak Isn’t Impressed By the Latest Round of Waterfront Streetcar Rumors (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Local Pols Call for DOT to Fix Lindenwood Intersection After Hit-and-Run (QChron)
  • Photos From the First Saturday of the Eighth Year of Summer Streets (Gothamist)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Eyes on the Street: The Case of the Missing Bike Lanes, Part II

Turns out many of the city’s marquee Vision Zero projects aren’t the only streets missing bike lanes.

DOT has also allowed its existing bike lanes to fade away. When it does repave streets, the agency often takes months to add back lane striping. Even when it puts paint back on the ground, DOT doesn’t finish the job in some cases, seemingly leaving the bike lane lost to history.

Last month, we showed you two examples where DOT didn’t refresh the bike lane after repaving and putting back all the other street markings. But the problem is much bigger than just those two streets. Earlier this week, we asked for your photos with the #MissingBikeNYC hashtag. The results are depressing. Read more…

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James and Lancman Push for Driver Alert Tech on City Vehicles

A new City Council bill would require crash avoidance technology on at least 100 city-owned vehicles that alerts drivers before a collision occurs, and potentially applies brakes to prevent a crash.

The legislation, sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Member Rory Lancman, would require a one-year pilot program on 100 vehicles in the city’s 28,000-car fleet, followed by a study on its cost and effectiveness at reducing crashes.

The technology includes cameras for improved driver visibility or warnings to drivers of pedestrians or cyclists in their blind spots. It can also alert drivers and apply emergency braking in advance of potential rear-end collisions, which comprise almost one in three crashes in the city fleet that result in injury.

There are 85,000 government employees with access to city-owned vehicles. Last year, non-NYPD drivers were involved in 5,805 collisions resulting in 584 injuries, including 49 crashes that injured pedestrians and 15 that injured bicyclists.

“Everyday New Yorkers are still at too high a risk of being killed or seriously injured by a motor vehicle,” James said in a press release. “Every year, there are thousands of collisions involving City drivers that end up costing lives and millions of dollars. We must examine every possible avenue to reduce crashes, which is why we must examine and test collision avoidance technology that could help save lives and taxpayer money.”

During fiscal years 2007 through 2014, there were 1,213 pedestrian personal injury claims filed against the city, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer. Taxpayers shelled out $88,134,915 during that period for pedestrian injury cases.

Read more…