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How About a Transit System Where No One Has “No Good Options”?

Image: FiveThirtyEight

New York doesn’t have to be a city where a half-million people have “no good options” for transportation. Image: FiveThirtyEight

A lengthy FiveThirtyEight article today by Nate Silver and Reuben Fischer-Baum crunches some data to arrive at two major insights: First, New Yorkers use Uber much like they use taxis, and second, for-hire cars are used primarily by well-off New Yorkers to supplement transit in close-in neighborhoods, not to replace car ownership in the outer boroughs.

The best part of the piece is actually a graphic that breaks down NYC’s transportation tribes, segmented by income and transit access. One of these groups didn’t get much attention in the article. See that red box? Here’s what Silver and Fischer-Baum say about that:

Low income, poor public transit access: In census tracts with no nearby subway line, 66 percent of households have access to a private vehicle. An exception among these neighborhoods, however, is those where incomes are below $35,000 per year: Car ownership remains low there. Given the high cost of living in New York, a $35,000 income is the equivalent of about $20,000 for an average American household, making even a clunker a stretch to afford. Families like these have no great choices.

This isn’t a small population. Of the 750,000 New Yorkers who commute more than an hour each way, two-thirds make less than $35,000 a year, according to a 2010 Pratt Center analysis. For comparison, only six percent of those hour-plus commuters made more than $75,000 annually. People of color carry the heaviest burden: Pratt’s numbers show that on average, black New Yorkers face commutes that are 25 percent longer than white New Yorkers. For Hispanics, commute times average 12 percent longer than for whites.

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Friday Job Market

Looking to hire a smart, qualified person for a position in transportation planning, engineering, IT, or advocacy? Post a listing on the Streetsblog Jobs Board and reach our national audience of dedicated readers.

Looking for a job? Here are the current listings:

Transportation Planning Analyst, City of Beverly Hills, CA
The transportation planning analyst performs professional level work in the field of transportation planning; analyzing transportation and parking related issues and programs.

Online Organizer, Transportation Alternatives, NYC
The online organizer will be responsible for building power by activating and growing TA’s base of supporters through digital strategy. Under the direction of the Communications Director, the Online Organizer will drive development and implementation of online organizing strategies across digital platforms.

Public Policy Manager, Climate Plan, Oakland, CA
ClimatePlan is seeking a skilled Public Policy Manager to direct key campaign and research efforts to build a more healthy, sustainable and equitable California.

Bike-Share Coordinator, City of Santa Monica, CA
Performs highly complex work which includes responsibility for the oversight, coordination, and development of the city’s bike share program. Recommends and implements approved expansions of the bike share program including coordination with other public and private entities.

Administrative Analyst, City of Burbank, CA
The administrative analyst will manage the City’s employee Rideshare program and Southern California Air Quality Management District subvention funds.

Executive Director, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Portland, OR
OPAL Environmental Justice ORegon is seeking a leader who will, through strong intersectional collaboration and analysis, design and manage campaigns, secure sustainable funding, and lead a diverse team of staff and members. Ideal candidate will have experience with the EJ framework or a related framework.

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Construction Begins on New 151st Street Bridge to Hudson River Greenway

The view from what will be the eastern landing of a new bike/ped bridge linking 151st Street to the Hudson River Greenway. Photo: Delphine Taylor

The state broke ground this month on a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge linking West Harlem with the Hudson River Greenway.

For cyclists, the bridge will provide stair-free access between the greenway and the intersection of 151st Street and Riverside Drive, spanning the Henry Hudson Parkway and the Amtrak line that runs along the Hudson. Right now the nearest access points, at 148th and 155th streets, have stairs and no ramps. The nearest crossings with ramps are at 135th Street, south of Riverbank State Park, and 158th Street.

The 158th Street connection received a $2 million staircase and ramp from the state Department of Transportation in 2006. Earlier this summer, NYC DOT installed a two-way bike lane on 158th Street as part of a larger package of bikeway improvements linking the Hudson River Greenway to the High Bridge.

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Streetsblog USA
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The Appalling Rollback of Truck Safety Provisions in the DRIVE Act

A battle is brewing over the Senate transportation bill’s approach to truck safety. Though large trucks are involved in crashes that kill nearly 4,000 people a year — a number that has grown by 17 percent over the past five years — the DRIVE Act actually rolls back what few protections exist.

The bill would allow longer and heavier tractor-trailers. Trucking companies would be able to double up two 33-foot trailers behind one truck, even in states that have banned such big loads.

The bill would also cut down on mandated rest periods for truckers, a long-simmering question. Right now, truckers have to rest for at least 34 hours between work weeks, with that 34-hour break including two overnights and the work week not including more than 70 hours of driving. The Senate bill would allow truckers to work 82 hours a week with less rest.

Perhaps most appalling, the DRIVE Act would let teenagers drive commercial trucks.

Yes, the bill would allow 18-year-olds to drive commercial trucks, despite the elevated crash risk of teenage drivers. A raft of legal provisions and insurance standards work to protect the public from notoriously unsafe teen drivers, who pose a danger to society even driving a VW bug, much less a big rig with two 33-foot trailers.

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Turn Times Square Back Into Traffic Hell? Tell Bratton and de Blasio: No Way

Replacing people with cars? Not a good idea, public space advocates say. Photo: Nicolas Vollmer/Flickr

Try to picture ramming a road through this crowd and cramming them onto the sidewalk. Photo: Nicolas Vollmer/Flickr

Since Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t rule out the threat of removing the Times Square plazas, first raised by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, it’s time to take action. Two petitions are circulating to urge the mayor not to give Times Square back to cars.

One petition organized by the Design Trust for Public Space and backed by the Municipal Art Society and a similar petition from Transportation Alternatives call on Bratton and de Blasio to do the right thing by the hundreds of thousands of people who walk in Times Square every day.

“Commissioner Bratton and Mayor de Blasio want to rip up the pedestrian plazas. We can’t let that happen,” the Design Trust’s petition says. “Aggressive street performers and ‘desnudas’ are an enforcement problem. They aren’t a plaza problem.”

Here’s what some of the signatories are saying…

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StreetFilms
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The Queens Boulevard Protected Bike Lane Celebration Ride

If Queens Boulevard can get a protected bike lane, you can probably put one on almost any street in the country.

Yesterday, the Queens Transportation Alternatives Committee hosted the first of what it hopes are many celebratory bike rides down Queens Boulevard, trying out the first 10 blocks of the bike lane installed this month by NYC DOT. When complete, this project will run 1.3 miles from Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street. It’s the first phase in what the city has promised will be a thorough overhaul of the “Boulevard of Death,” which is also the most direct east-west route in the borough.

Over the years, many lives have been lost on Queens Boulevard. I spoke to riders yesterday about all the hard work that volunteers and advocates put it in to make this bike lane happen.

Streetsblog.net
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Detroit Riders Share Their Transit Horror Stories

Detroit’s transit system is in crisis.

The region’s fractious transit network was highlighted last year by the story of James Robertson — “Detroit’s walking man” — whose one-way, 23-mile commute consists of two bus routes and 10-plus miles of walking.

The Detroit region has been struggling to create a unified city-suburb regional transit agency for the last few years. Next year voters will be asked to approve a tax increase to ensure transit service in the region functions at a basic level again.

In the meantime, Detroiters who count on transit are suffering. Network blog We Are Mode Shift points to a new site, DitchedbyDDOT, where riders air their grievances. We’ve collected some of the more unbelievable examples below [emphasis ours]:

  • “More than 10, less than 15 people waiting for the Dexter 16, outbound. One says he’s been waiting so long his transfer expired. The bus scheduled to stop rolls past without stopping. It’s 6:15 pm and freezing.”
  • “During the ride, a fellow passenger got an angry call from what I assume was his boss. He pleaded with the man on the phone, saying that he had been waiting on the bus since 5:50 and would be there soon. From the way the other riders nodded their heads, I knew he wasn’t the only one. When the bus dropped me off downtown, the snow on the sidewalk was almost up to the parking meters. I walked the rest of the way to work in the street.”

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Today’s Headlines

  • De Blasio’s Transportation Record: Progress That Still Leaves Advocates Scratching Their Heads (WSJ)
  • Tim Tompkins and Corey Johnson Tell Errol Louis Why the Times Square Plaza Should Stay (NY1)
  • Mayor Defends Slow Zone Program, Also Defends Canceling Midland Beach Slow Zone (Advance)
  • Hudson Yards Subway to Open September 13 at 1 p.m. (AMNY, News, 2nd Ave Sagas)
  • People Who Detest Rude Cyclists Should Be the Biggest Boosters of Protected Bike Lanes (NY Mag)
  • With Uncertainty Over Development Plan, Willets Point Businesses Want to Know What’s Next (NYT)
  • WSJ Visits the New Plaza on 33rd Street, Finds a Pedestrian Oasis — and Salsa Dancing
  • No, the High Bridge Is Not the High Line — It Has Its Own Charm (NYT)
  • DOT Mistakenly Stripes Incorrect Arrows on Lexington Avenue (DNA)
  • Citi Bike Expansion Now Has the System Over 400 Stations (Citi Bike Blog)
  • Meet the Guy Who Got on a Citi Bike, Headed West, and Never Stopped (Velojoy)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Before Riding the New Queens Blvd, Go Down Memory Lane With Streetfilms

A celebratory bike ride this evening will mark the installation of bike lanes on Queens Boulevard — a safety improvement years in the making.

Take a ride down Queens Boulevard in 2009 with this Streetfilm featuring the “bike pool,” organized to encourage safety in numbers for cyclists on the Boulevard of Death.

Things will look quite different on tonight’s ride. Bike lanes have been striped along 1.3 miles of the Queens Boulevard service road in Woodside, and DOT will begin planning for sections farther east later this year and next year.

For all its risks, Queens Boulevard has always provided the most direct route across the borough. That’s one reason the new bike lane — and future segments — are so important.

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Bratton Won’t Stop Talking About Removing Times Square Plazas

It wasn’t just an offhand remark. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has reiterated his desire to eliminate the public plazas at Times Square and go back to the days when people were spilling off the sidewalk into the path of traffic. This time, he’s insisting that taking away space for people won’t just cure Times Square of topless women and costumed characters — it’ll actually improve traffic safety.

He's the Energizer bunny of car-centric thinking. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

He’s the Energizer bunny of windshield perspective. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

The year after the plazas were installed, pedestrian injuries fell 40 percent at Times Square, and injuries to car drivers and passengers dropped 63 percent along Broadway in Midtown, according to a 2010 DOT report [PDF]. At the same time, pedestrian volumes in Times Square increased 11 percent after the plaza opened.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal crunched the numbers and found that total traffic injuries in Times Square have fallen nearly 25 percent in the five years since the redesign compared to the five previous years. Times Square is safer now than it was before the plazas were installed.

Not so, says Bratton.

“That story was really, very inappropriate in its findings. It took a look at Seventh Avenue and Broadway. It didn’t look at the cross streets, it didn’t look at the larger Times Square area,” he said on WGTK-AM 970, reports Politico. “When you look at the larger Times Square area, actually, accidents have gone up. So, all the traffic that has been pushed into the side street… it tells a very different story.”

Whatever stats Bratton is referring to, they clearly don’t account for the huge growth in foot traffic to Times Square since the plazas arrived. Even if injuries haven’t declined — and all indications are that they have — with all the added people walking in Times Square now, the average person is clearly safer from traffic.

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