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Quorum or No, Astoria’s CB 1 Votes Against Three Livable Streets Projects

Astoria’s Community Board 1 rejected three livable streets projects Tuesday night, despite questions about whether the board even had enough members in attendance to take votes on the proposals.

Queens CB 1 would rather have one parking space for cars than eight spots for bikes. Image: DOT [PDF]

Queens CB 1 would rather have one parking space for cars than eight spots for bikes. Image: DOT [PDF]

The three projects — a short bus lane on Astoria Boulevard, concrete barriers to protect cyclists on Vernon Boulevard, and a bike corral in front of a restaurant — fell victim to what appears to be leadership biased against projects that improve conditions for bus riders and cyclists.

“It was just a big disappointment for us. I just don’t understand this mentality that cars and their owners are the only rightful users of street space,” said Jean Cawley, whose husband, Dominic Stiller, was seeking the board’s support for a bike corral to take the place of a car parking spot in front of his restaurant, Dutch Kills Centraal [PDF]. “They seem to me to vote down anything having to do with bicycle safety and infrastructure.”

“I was shocked at the negativity that many on the board displayed toward bikes,” said Macartney Morris, an Astoria resident who attended the meeting. “It seemed crazy that people would get upset about one parking spot.”

When Cawley spoke in favor of the bike corral on Tuesday night, CB 1 chair Vinicio Donato asked her questions about cyclists riding against traffic and running red lights. One board member compared Donato’s line of questioning to asking a liquor license applicant about alcoholism. “I don’t know why that had anything to do with me and the bike corral,” Cawley said. ”They’re supposed to have some decorum but they don’t. I think it’s an abuse of process and an abuse of power.”

There were petitions both in support of the corral and against it, but Cawley and other meeting attendees said the board threw out supportive signatures from people who did not live within CB 1, including those from residents of nearby neighborhoods like Woodside or Jackson Heights.

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WaPo Transpo Forum: America’s Mayors Aren’t Waiting for Washington

Atlanta’s BeltLine of bike and pedestrian trails is raising property values in every place it touches. Denver’s new rail line will create a much-needed link between Union Station downtown and the airport, 23 miles away. Miami is building 500 miles of bike paths and trails. Los Angeles is breaking new ground with everything from rail expansion to traffic light synchronization. And Salt Lake City’s mayor bikes to work and, by increasing investment in bike infrastructure, is encouraging a lot of others to join him.

At this week’s Washington Post forum on transportation, five mayors from this diverse set of cities spoke of the challenges and opportunities they face as they try to improve transportation options without much help or guidance from the federal government.

Speaking of the feds:

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta is tired of Congress not doing its job. “Cities don’t get to kick the can,” he said. And even if the feds aren’t ready to make big investments, private and foreign investors are reportedly itching to get a crack at U.S. infrastructure, but there’s been no good process for doing so. Reed wants the federal government to play a convening role, bringing mayors together with private investors they can pitch projects to.

And either way, he said, if the federal government is providing less funding to cities for transportation, “we think they need to have a little less say” — except when it comes to safety. But Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says there’s an upside to the gridlock in Washington: “Cities are being more creative.” And Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says the Obama administration has been a great partner — pointing especially to the TIGER program and the HUD/DOT/EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

New projects:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is excited about intelligent transportation technology, like the traffic signal synchronization his predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa, pioneered. And LA’s Expo line — which he dubbed the Beach-to-Bars line — opens soon, turning a two-hour slog through traffic into a 45-minute pleasure cruise. He says it’ll open up access to the Philharmonic and sports venues that, these days, are often avoided because the trip is too hellish.

But Garcetti is already on to the next thing. To him, that thing is autonomous cars. He thinks LA will be a natural home for those. In fact, he openly acknowledges that his push to build BRT lanes is all in the interest of turning them into autonomous vehicle lanes a few years down the road. That’s right — despite the visionary strategic plan LA just released, Garcetti wants to turn road space over from efficient modes to less efficient ones.

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The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage.

A dump truck driver fatally struck Winnifred Matthias, 77, at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. NYPD said Matthias was walking "outside the crosswalk." No charges were filed. Photo: Ian Dutton

A dump truck driver fatally struck Winnifred Matthias, 77, at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. NYPD said Matthias was walking “outside the crosswalk.” No charges were filed. Photo: Ian Dutton

Fatal Crashes (4 Killed This Week; 164 This Year*)

  • Glendale: Martin Srodin, 46, Killed by Semi Truck Driver in Crosswalk; No Charges (Streetsblog)
  • Prospect Heights: Winnifred Matthias, 77, Struck by Dump Truck Driver at Flatbush and Atlantic; No Charges (StreetsblogDNAWCBSBklyn PaperGothamist)
  • Sunset Park: Jose Chevere, 30, and Jalissa Otero, 24, Thrown from Motorcycle After Crashing Into Cement Wall on Gowanus Expressway (DNA)

Injuries, Arrests, and Property Damage

  • Astoria: Unlicensed Recidivist DWI Hit-and-Run Driver Strikes Elderly Pedestrian (Post, NewsNY1)
  • UWS: Driver Mounts Pedestrian Island Bollard at W. 97th Street and West End Avenue (Streetsblog)
  • St. Albans: Pedestrian Critical After Driver Slams Into Vehicle, Forcing It Onto Sidewalk (TL)**
  • Red Hook: Livery Cab Driver Runs Stop Sign, Sending B61 Onto Sidewalk (NewsWNBCWPIX)**
  • Sunnyside: Drunk Driver Crashes Into Parked Cars, Flips Vehicle Onto Sidewalk (Streetsblog)**
  • Flatlands: Driver Crashes Into Pole at Bedford and Avenue J; Five Injured (@NYScanner)
  • Marine Park: Cops Arrests Wrong-Way Dollar Van Driver on Kings Highway (Bklyn Daily)
  • Oakwood: Pedestrian Critical After Driver Hits Her; “No Criminality Suspected” (Advance)
  • Concord: Three Injured in Collision on SI Expressway That Overturned Vehicle (Advance)
  • Woodrow: Driver Arrested With BAC Almost Three Times Legal Limit (Advance)

* Based on latest available reports
** Incident in which a vehicle left the roadway

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Citizens Budget Commission: MTA Capital Program Must Change Course

The fight over how to fund the MTA’s next capital plan is just starting to heat up, with worries over disappearing federal dollars, ever-expanding debt, and proposals for new revenue sources. Before the funding discussion gets going in earnest, a new report from the Citizens Budget Commission [PDF] begs the region’s transportation policymakers to take a step back and consider a more fundamental question: Does this plan prioritize the right things?

A new report raises concerns about the MTA's commitment to state of good repair projects. Photo: Gerhard Bos/Flickr

A new report raises concerns about the MTA’s commitment to state of good repair projects. Photo: Gerhard Bos/Flickr

CBC offers some harsh, if unsurprising, words for the MTA. The think tank says the authority isn’t focused enough on state of good repair and modernization, and instead pours too many resources into poorly-managed system expansion. CBC says the authority doesn’t have a clear process for selecting which of the region’s many worthy transit expansion projects move forward. Once a project is underway, the MTA has a poor track record for keeping costs and construction schedules under control.

The report has three main points: The authority is systematically scaling back its state of good repair targets and investments, is not investing enough in signal upgrades that could boost capacity on existing train lines, and needs to rethink its approach to large system expansions.

The report’s most damning conclusions raise questions about the MTA’s “declining ambition” to keep the transit network in a state of good repair. Looking at previous capital plans and the “needs assessment” documents that precede them, CBC found that the MTA is failing to meet many of its state of good repair targets from previous capital plans, and has lowered its investment targets in more recent documents. “The needs assessment set a low bar,” the report says, “and the approved plan does not meet even that low bar.”

Echoing a report from the Regional Plan Association earlier this year, CBC also urges the MTA to pick up the pace of investment in Communication-Based Train Control, which upgrades signals to allow for more frequent trains. The L train already has CBTC; installation is underway on the 7 train, and the Queens Boulevard subway is next. Despite the big benefits CBTC can bring to system capacity and operations, it’s proceeding at a snail’s pace.

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Across the U.S., Poor Job Access Compels Even People Without Cars to Drive

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Metropolitan share of zero-vehicle commuters driving to work, 2013. Source: Brookings analysis of American Community Survey data

Cross-posted from Brookings’ The Avenue blog. This article is the second in a short series examining new Census data on transportation trends.

While more Americans are relying on alternative modes to get to work every day, cars still define most of our commutes. Over time, these high driving rates not only reflect a built environment that continues to promote vehicle usage — despite recent shifts toward city living and job clustering — but also call into question how well our transportation networks offer access to economic opportunity for all workers.

This is especially important for those workers without cars.

The most recent 2013 Census numbers shed light on the commuting habits of the 6.3 million workers who don’t have a private vehicle at home. That’s about 4.5 percent of all workers, up from 4.2 percent in 2007.

Zero-vehicle workers still do quite a bit of driving. Over 20 percent drive alone to work — meaning they find a private car to borrow — and another 12 percent commute via carpool. Both rates jumped between 2007 and 2013, defying national trends toward less driving. This paints a discouraging picture about transportation access across the country for a segment of commuters who must expend extra effort to get to work.

Metropolitan data underscores the breadth of this problem. Transit-rich metros like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago have the most zero-vehicle workers, and they drive less frequently. However, in other large metro areas like Dallas, Detroit, and Riverside, over half the zero-vehicle workers find a car to drive to work. Driving rates jump to over 70 percent in metros like Birmingham, AL; Jackson, MS; and Provo, UT. Across 77 of the 100 largest metro areas, at least 40 percent of zero-vehicle commuters drive to work.

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After 40 Years, Will Atlanta’s MARTA See a Major Suburban Expansion?

Back in the ’70s, Clayton County didn’t want to be part of MARTA, Atlanta’s regional transit service. It was one of the suburban counties that “opted out.” In fact, all of Atlanta’s metro counties opted out except DeKalb and Fulton — the two that share the city of Atlanta proper.

Suburban Clayton County wants to be the first county to join Atlanta's MARTA transit system since the 1970s. Photo: Transportation for America

Suburban Clayton County wants to be the first county to join Atlanta’s MARTA since the 1970s. Photo: Transportation for America

But times are changing. Clayton County, where the population of residents with low incomes is increasing, eliminated its bus service altogether in 2010, during a recession-era budget crisis. Now the county is seeking permission from the state to propose a tax increase to its residents that would make it the first new MARTA county in four decades.

Stephen Lee Davis at the Transportation for America blog has the story:

On Nov. 4, Clayton County voters will decide on a measure to increase the local sales tax by a percent to join MARTA, the regional transit system. Doing so would restore bus service and jumpstart planning for bus rapid transit or a rail extension in the years to come. As county commissioners debated whether or not to put the question on the ballot, they heard hefty support from residents, who turned out to meetings to urge commissioners to make a vote happen. And most of the commissioners saw the need.

Interestingly, state law already provided for Clayton to be a part of MARTA, and as one of the five core counties included in the 1970’s charter actually had a vote on the MARTA board. But Clayton and two other counties declined to pass the sales tax, and only the City of Atlanta, Dekalb and Fulton counties ponied up. In the meantime, Clayton had used its available sales tax percentage — state law caps it — for other purposes. That meant that the state had to waive that cap specifically for Clayton so they could decide on the MARTA tax. (A second piece of legislation was required to restructure the MARTA board to give Clayton County two representatives on the board starting next year.)

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Today’s Headlines

  • Citizens Budget Commission: MTA Should Prioritize Upkeep Over Expansion (NYT, SAS)
  • City Council Committee Passes Ambitious Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (CapNY)
  • Amtrak Chair Says Sunnyside Yards Development May Be on the Table Next Year (CapNY)
  • Council Members Give Thumbs Down to Auto-Dependent Astoria Cove Plan (Times Ledger)
  • It’s a Start, But It Will Take More Than Stickers to Make Private Trash Haulers Safe (Crain’s)
  • Community Board 2 and Public School Parents Urge DOT to Fix Seventh Avenue (Villager)
  • Chuck Schumer and James Oddo Lobby Port Authority to Sponsor West Shore Light Rail (Advance)
  • RPA and MAS Call for Moving Madison Square Garden for Penn Station Overhaul (Crain’s)
  • Fleet Owners’ Suit Against the “Taxi of Tomorrow” Lives On (Post)
  • Unlicensed DWI Offender Hits Senior, Tries to Flee; DA Brown: No Charges for Striking Victim (News)
  • Nicole Gelinas: Subway Savior William Ronan Has a Message for Andrew Cuomo (City Journal)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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New Data Reveal Which City Agency Is Running Over the Most Pedestrians

Over the past eight years, there have been more than 1,200 personal injury claims against the city involving pedestrians injured or killed by drivers of city vehicles, including 22 pedestrian deaths, according to a new report and interactive map from Comptroller Scott M. Stringer [PDF]. Over the same period, the city paid $88 million for pedestrian injury settlements and judgments. Claims have held steady in recent years, with NYPD consistently holding the top spot among city agencies.

The document is an update to Stringer’s “ClaimStat” report from July, which offered broad numbers on the city’s motor vehicle-related property and injury claims. Today’s report takes a deeper dive into claims related specifically to pedestrian deaths and injuries. It did not examine bicyclist injuries or deaths.

Pedestrians killed by city drivers within the past eight years include Ryo Oyamada, killed by an NYPD driver in Queensbridge last year, and Roxana Sorina Buta, killed by a hit-and-run DOT dump truck driver in 2012. Claims against the city for pedestrian deaths over the past eight years are concentrated in three departments, according to data provided to Streetsblog by Stringer’s office. There were eight claims filed against NYPD, five against FDNY, and four against DSNY. The departments of Education, Transportation, Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Administration for Children’s Services had one pedestrian death claim each. One claim was not assigned to a specific agency. 

City government has more than 28,000 vehicles and 85,000 authorized drivers, according to Stringer. During fiscal years 2007 through 2014, there were 1,213 pedestrian personal injury claims filed, including 22 pedestrian fatalities. The city paid out $88,134,915 during the same period for pedestrian injury cases.

Most claims are concentrated in denser neighborhoods, with Community District 5 in Midtown Manhattan leading the city with 50 claims.

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By a Wide Margin, Americans Favor Transit Expansion Over New Roads

It's not even close. Americans prefer transit spending to road spending. Photo: Wikipedia

It’s not even close. Americans prefer transit spending to road spending. Photo: Wikipedia

If only our nation’s spending priorities more closely tracked public opinion: A new poll [PDF] from ABC News and the Washington Post finds that when presented with the choice, Americans would rather spend transportation resources expanding transit than widening roads.

In a landline and cell phone survey that asked 1,001 randomly selected adults how they prefer “to reduce traffic congestion around
the country,” 54 percent said they would rather see government “providing more public transportation options,” compared to 41 percent who preferred “expanding and building roads.” Five percent offered no opinion on the matter. The survey had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

Attitudes varied by political leaning, place of residence, and other demographic factors. Urbanites were most likely to prefer transit spending (61 percent), followed by suburbanites (52 percent), then rural residents (49 percent), indicating that transit may be preferred to roads in every setting, though the pollster’s announcement doesn’t include enough detail to say so conclusively.

Among college graduates, racial minorities, people under 40, very high earners, and political liberals and independents, majorities favor transit expansion. Meanwhile, strong conservatives, evangelical white protestants, and white men without college degrees are more likely to favor road spending.

The poll release was timed in conjunction with Tuesday’s Washington Post forum on transportation issues.

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Martin Srodin, 46, Killed by Semi Truck Driver in Glendale Crosswalk

Martin Srodin, whose path is indicated in white, was killed by a trucker making a left turn in Glendale this morning. Semi truck drivers have killed at least eight NYC pedestrians since January 2012. Image: Google Maps

Martin Srodin, whose path is indicated in white, was killed by a trucker making a left turn in Glendale this morning. Semi truck drivers have killed at least eight NYC pedestrians since January 2012. Image: Google Maps

A truck driver killed a pedestrian in Glendale this morning. Police had filed no charges as of this afternoon. It is unclear if the truck was legally allowed to operate on city streets.

At approximately 6:07 a.m., 46-year-old Martin Srodin was crossing 80th Street at Cooper Avenue when the driver of a semi truck ran him over with a rear trailer tire, according to NYPD. Police said Srodin was walking west to east on Cooper as the truck driver, also eastbound on Cooper, was turning left onto 80th Street.

Srodin, who lived a few blocks away from the crash site, suffered trauma to the body, an NYPD spokesperson said. He was declared dead at Elmhurst Hospital.

NYPD did not have information on who had the right of way, and said the Collision Investigation Squad was working the crash. The truck driver, a 64-year-old man, was not immediately charged or summonsed.

There is a left turn lane from eastbound Cooper Avenue at 80th Street, according to a recent Google Maps image, and what appears to be a dedicated left turn signal. If the pedestrian had a walk signal, the driver should by law be charged under Section 19-190, which makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way.

Photos published by the Post show police administering a breath test to the driver at the scene. Photos also indicate the truck has New York plates, but it appears the truck does not have cab-mounted crossover mirrors, which give truck drivers a view of what’s directly in front of them. Though it’s unclear if the mirrors would have prevented this crash, they are required by law for trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds that are registered in New York State and operated in New York City.

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