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America’s Sorriest Bus Stop: Atlanta vs. Asheville

What makes a terrible bus stop? The absence of sidewalks, a place to sit, and shelter — that’s all part of the recipe. What else can DOTs and transit agencies throw into the mix?

We’ve seen a few varieties of awfulness in this year’s “Sorriest Bus Stop in America” competition. Earlier this week, a bus stop in Hillsboro, Oregon, overcame a stop on a dangerous San Francisco street to move on to the second round. Today’s match also pits two different kinds of sorry bus stop against each other.

Atlanta

unnamed-2

This entry is in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Submitter Ryan Liu writes:

The vast majority of bus stops in the Atlanta area are single marker signs like this one, ones that just say “MARTA Bus Stop” and a phone number to call. No routes, no information. However, this stop is in one of the richest and most urbanized areas of City of Atlanta, Buckhead. This bus stop luckily is located on a sidewalk, but there is no reason the sign for it has to be this pitiful and short. This stop serves a major intersection for the only route that heads north out of the City.  Why is the sign so close to the ground?  It makes waiting there demoralizing and sad.

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The Port Authority’s Missed Opportunity to Make a Bike-Friendly GW Bridge

Weissman's proposal would put 10-foot bike lanes to the side of the existing paths. Image: Neile Weissman

A proposal from former New York Cycle Club president Neile Weissman would put 10-foot bike paths below existing paths on the GWB, which would be reserved for pedestrians. Image: Neile Weissman

Next year, the Port Authority will begin a seven-year, $1.03 billion renovation of the suspension cables on the George Washington Bridge [PDF]. Announced in March 2014, the project includes new ramps to the bridge’s bike and pedestrian paths, eliminating stairs and a hairpin turn. But it won’t widen a bike path that is already too small for the amount of cycling traffic it receives.

When both paths are completed, pedestrians will be directed to the south side of the bridge, while cyclists will take the north. At eight feet wide (6.75 feet at pinch points), both paths fall short of the 14 feet preferred by the Federal Highway Administration and the 16 feet recommended by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Neile Weissman, a former president of the New York Cycle Club, has been campaigning to make the paths sufficiently wide. “They’re taking these paths apart and they’re putting them back together,” he said. “This is a once-in-90-years project, and they’re not building it out to modern standards.”

The George Washington Bridge gets more than 500 cyclists and pedestrians during its peak weekend hours, by Weissman’s count. And cycling on the bridge is on the rise, increasing 32 percent from 2010 to 2014, even with today’s substandard conditions.

Weissman is not convinced that the Port’s plans for separate bike and pedestrian paths will work in practice — witness the frequent presence of pedestrians on the Manhattan bridge bike path. As the number of cyclists and pedestrians crossing the bridge continues to grow, Weissman is concerned that conflicts between the two will also increase. A path less than seven feet wide at pinch points won’t be good enough.

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Naomi Doerner on How Street Safety Advocates Can Support Racial Justice

When a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, shot and killed Philando Castile earlier this month, the encounter began with a traffic stop. The stop fit a pattern: Castile had been pulled over many times before — 46 times in 13 years — but few of those citations were for dangerous driving. More prevalent were stops for minor issues like vehicle defects or misplaced license plates — the type of justifications that police are more likely to use when stopping black and Latino drivers throughout the country.

Naomi Doerner is a consultant who helps biking and walking organizations development social equity and racial justice plans. Photo: Bike Easy

Naomi Doerner helps biking and walking organizations development social equity and racial justice plans. Photo: Bike Easy

Street safety advocates often call on police to reform traffic enforcement practices in order to reduce dangerous driving that jeopardizes people walking and biking. Given the pervasiveness of racially discriminatory police work and the prevalence of police brutality in many communities, how should biking and walking advocates shape their strategies and messages?

Naomi Doerner, the former executive director of New Orleans’ advocacy organization Bike Easy, is a consultant who specializes in helping biking and walking advocates develop racial justice and social equity plans. She says advocates should be grappling with structural racism and considering how their own choices can entrench or dismantle it.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of our interview.

What’s a mistake some biking or walking organizations are making with regards to diversity?

I think that one of the things I see is hiring of people of color and then making them sort of the voice for diversity and equity, which are not the same thing.

It is great to hire the folks, to have the folks who do potentially have better understanding. Even if you had a staff that was diverse, if there’s not a co-created understanding of equity within your organization and how you’re contributing to it, it won’t succeed.

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Jay Street Protected Bike Lane Construction Begins Next Week

Good-bye to all that: with a protected bike lane, Jay Street will (hopefully) be rid of its notorious double-parking.

On Jay Street’s painted bike lanes, double-parking and placard abuse are rampant. A protected bike lane aims give cyclists a clearer path.

Work on the protected bike lane on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn — including a new signalized crossing at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge — begins next Thursday, July 28.

With around 2,400 cyclists a day, Jay Street is one of the busiest bike routes in the city — cyclists account for 34 percent of vehicle traffic during rush hour. But people on bikes have to deal with chaotic street conditions and rampant parking placard abuse.

The painted lanes on each side of Jay Street will be replaced with parking-protected bike lanes between Fulton Mall and the Manhattan Bridge [PDF]. That should make conditions much less stressful for cyclists, though at five feet wide with a two-foot buffer, the bike lanes will be narrower than design standards recommend.

At the Manhattan Bridge off-ramp north of Nassau Street, a new signalized crossing will enable pedestrians and cyclists to proceed without having to worry about traffic coming off the bridge. A section of fence around the plaza at the foot of the bridge will open up access for pedestrians at the crossing.

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Elon Musk’s “Master Plan” Won’t Work for Cities

Elon Musk. Photo: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr

Elon Musk knows technology, but he doesn’t understand cities so well. Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

Earlier this week tech entrepreneur Elon Musk released his updated “master plan” for Tesla, including some thoughts on how autonomous mini-buses will supplant today’s transit and “take people all the way to their destination.” Like every Musk pronouncement, this one got a lot of buzz — but it also drew some healthy skepticism.

One reason to doubt Musk’s plan is that it clearly would not work in cities, writes Jarrett Walker at Human Transit:

Musk assumes that transit is an engineering problem, about vehicle design and technology. In fact, providing cost-effective and liberating transportation in cities requires solving a geometry problem, and he’s not even seeing it. In this he’s repeating a common delusion, one I hear all the time in urbanist and technology circles.

Musk’s vision is fine for low-density outer suburbia and rural areas. But when we get to dense cities, where big transit vehicles (including buses) are carrying significant ridership, Musk’s vision is a disaster. That’s because it takes lots of people out of big transit vehicles and puts them into small ones, which increases the total number of vehicles on the road at any time…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Deputy Mayor Asks Port Authority to “Reconsider” Bus Terminal Redesign Process (Crain’sWNYCNY1)
  • Komanoff to NYPD: A Bike Bell Wouldn’t Have Saved Matthew von Ohlen (News)
  • Dan Biederman: Penn Station Overhaul Needs to Include Better Streets for Pedestrians (Crain’s)
  • Tour Bus Driver Veers Onto Fifth Ave Sidewalk By Central Park, Smashing Into Tree (News, DNA, Post)
  • The Islanders Might Leave Barclays Center and Build an Arena By Citi Field (Post)
  • Nydia Velazquez Comes Out Against F Express (DNA)
  • Brooklyn DA Has Until January 17 to Indict the Drunk Driving Cop Who Killed Andrew Esquivel (Post)
  • Developer Envisions Cramming 12,000 Airport Parking Stalls Into Neighborhoods Near LGA (QChron)
  • Shocker: Watering Down Woodhaven SBS Hasn’t Placated the NIMBYs (QChron)
  • Jake Dobkin’s Sensible Bike-on-Subway Etiquette Tips (Gothamist)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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America’s Sorriest Bus Stop: Kansas City vs. DC

To see how little respect bus riders get from public officials, just take a look at the sorry condition of America’s bus stops. To make riding the bus a comfortable and dignified experience, we need to do better.

Readers submitted 16 forlorn waiting areas for Streetsblog’s “Sorriest Bus Stop in America” competition. Earlier this week, Silver Spring, Maryland, knocked off New Castle, Delaware, to move on to the second round.

Today’s matchup pits a sports stadium bus stop against a national park bus stop. Which is worse?

Kansas City

KC-bus-stop

Brian Curran submitted this invisible bus stop. He writes:

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Bill Bratton Is in Denial About NYPD’s Deadly Drunk Driving Problem

Andrew Esquivel was struck and killed on a Brooklyn sidewalk by an off-duty NYPD officer accused of DWI and manslaughter. Drunk off-duty cops are known or alleged to have killed at least five people since 2009, and arrests are frequent, but Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says that’s “not a problem.”

Andrew Esquivel was struck and killed on a Brooklyn sidewalk by an off-duty NYPD officer accused of DWI and manslaughter. Drunk off-duty cops are known or alleged to have killed at least five people since 2009, and arrests are frequent, but Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says that’s “not a problem.” Bratton photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

In the aftermath of another civilian death at the hands of an allegedly intoxicated off-duty officer, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says drunk driving cops are not a problem at NYPD.

Nicholas Batka, 28, drove onto the sidewalk at Bedford Avenue and North Eighth Street in Williamsburg at around 3:10 a.m. Saturday, striking Andrew Esquivel and three friends. Esquivel, a 21-year-old student, was killed. The other victims were all seriously injured.

Batka jumped into the passenger seat and claimed he wasn’t driving, according to reports, and bystanders had to surround his SUV to prevent him from fleeing. Court records said Batka “had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and the odor of alcohol on his breath,” the Times reported.

A transit cop who had been on the force less than two years, Batka was due back on the job at 7 a.m.

Batka was charged with assault, manslaughter, homicide, and driving while intoxicated. On Wednesday Bratton said that Batka had been fired. According to the Times, two other officers who were with Batka before the crash had their guns and badges taken as investigators look into whether they drove drunk that night as well.

Though Bratton said “drunken-driving episodes” involving NYPD officers occur around three times a month and that the department would take a “closer look,” he played down the issue.

“That is not a problem in the department,” Bratton said, “but we treat it very seriously.”

The death of Andrew Esquivel is not an isolated case. There is no known data set of off-duty police crashes, but here’s a sampling of mayhem caused by alleged or known drunk-driving NYPD personnel in recent years:

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Stuck With Slow Bus Service? Cuomo Is Completely Oblivious to Your Pain

You can tell Governor Cuomo doesn’t get on a New York City bus unless it’s for a photo-op about on-board USB ports.

The latest evidence came yesterday, after a coalition of transit advocates released a major report on the deterioration of bus service in New York City. With bus speeds declining, ridership has dropped 16 percent since 2002. In their “Turnaround” report [PDF], TransitCenter and other advocates outline proven techniques to improve bus service, pointedly noting that it will take concerted political leadership to reverse the decline of the city’s bus system.

Cuomo is the politician whose leadership is needed most. But Politico’s Dana Rubinstein reports that the governor blew off a question about improving bus service yesterday afternoon. “If people in Manhattan are choosing to jump on the subway because the subway is faster, because there’s traffic that a bus has to deal with,” he said, “that’s not an imprudent choice, right?”

In one sentence, the governor betrayed his ignorance of NYC’s bus system in several ways. Here are three of them.

Buses and trains don’t do the same things

The subway system is largely a radial network, with lines converging in Manhattan below 60th Street and extending out from there. It works well for an astounding number of trips, but New Yorkers still have to get places that the subway doesn’t reach efficiently. For these trips, there is no parallel subway service that people can just “jump on” instead of taking the bus.

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Eyes on the Street: The Return of “Plaza 33” — Maybe for Good

Here's what happens when you close a street to car traffic in one of the busiest parts of the city. Photo: David Meyer

Here’s what happens when you make a street car-free in one of the busiest parts of the city. Photo: David Meyer

“Plaza 33” is back, transforming the eastern half of 33rd Street between Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue into a car-free public space — and it’s set to remain indefinitely.

This is the second iteration of “Plaza 33,” which was installed from July through October last year and is funded and managed by Vornado Realty Trust. Next to Penn Station, the space gets some of the most intense foot traffic in Midtown and was filled with people yesterday evening.

Some parts of "Plaza 33" remain under construction. Photo: David Meyer

Some parts of “Plaza 33” remain under construction. Photo: David Meyer

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