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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…

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From Heroes to Lapdogs, TA Grades the “Class of Vision Zero”

CLASS-OF-VISION-ZERO-final_press_pdf__page_2_of_24_

On Wednesday Transportation Alternatives released its “Class of Vision Zero” report, the first in a planned series of biannual “performance reviews” of officials and agencies who have the power to make New York City streets safer for walking, biking, and driving.

Traffic injuries and fatalities were down through June 2015 compared to the first six months of last year, an indication that measures like the 25 miles per hour speed limit and the Right of Way Law are having an effect. But unless NYC picks up the pace on street redesigns, TA says, the city is in danger of losing its Vision Zero momentum.

While traffic deaths have declined, they are not where they should be if NYC plans to reach zero by 2024. And at the current rate, says TA, it will take 100 years to fix every dangerous street.

You can find the report, complete with letter grades, accolades, and raspberries, right here. In the meantime, here are the highlights:

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio got high marks for defending the Right of Way Law and mandating side guards for the city’s fleet of large trucks. But TA called de Blasio a “streetscape cheapskate” for underfunding Vision Zero street redesigns. “As a result,” the report reads, “many changes will not be implemented, including bike lanes, traffic signals that prioritize pedestrians, and curb extensions that could have started saving lives this year.”
  • The City Council is divided on the Right of Way Law, with a near-majority of members putting their names to legislation that would allow MTA bus drivers to legally injure and kill people in crosswalks. Another bill, which so far has considerably less support, aims to undermine the law by kneecapping NYPD crash investigations. The TA report card slams I. Daneek Miller and Rory Lancman, authors of those bills, and lauds Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, and Brooklyn rep Brad Lander for beating back attacks on Vision Zero laws and continuing to push for new measures to make streets safer.
  • TA gave Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and DOT credit for reducing car traffic in Central Park and Prospect Park, for the agency’s borough-specific pedestrian safety action plans, and the “Great Streets” program, which includes the redesign of Queens Boulevard. However, the report reads, “while these designs are ambitious, the actual scope is less so, with plans to complete only four Great Streets projects in the next ten years.” TA said DOT “did not advocate for adequate resources for more safety improvements.” DOT’s failure to add and maintain bike infrastructure is not specifically mentioned.

Read more…

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Falling Behind on Protected Bike Lanes? Blame Canada

“Something big is definitely brewing in Canada.”

That’s the word from Michael Andersen at People for Bikes, which monitors Twitter for news on protected bike lanes around the English-speaking world.

When you make it safe for people to ride bikes, people will ride bikes. Just ask Vancouver, BC. Photo: People for Bikes

When you make it safe for people to ride bikes, people will ride bikes. Just ask Vancouver, BC. Photo: People for Bikes

Vancouver’s investment in bike infrastructure paid off with a 64 percent spike in bike traffic from 2013 to this year. And Andersen says Canada as a whole has recently “crossed a tipping point.”

[I]n the last six months we’ve watched in awe as a wave of protected bike lane chatter has been pouring out of every major English-speaking city in Canada: Victoria, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Halifax, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver.

(Note to self: add “piste cyclable” to Twitter search terms so we stop overlooking Quebec.)

Andersen says all the Twitter talk has been matched by activity on the ground:

Plans in some cities are more advanced than in others. Vancouver has arguably made the most significant investment in a connected protected bike lane network of any city on the continent over the last four years. Calgary is in the early months of an inspiring downtown trial. In Halifax, advocates deserve some sort of award for going street-by-street to measure existing lane widths and create their own detailed plan for a citywide protected bike lane network.

While Canada, like the U.S. and most other countries, is far from doing all that needs to be done to make cycling “comfortable and mainstream,” Andersen says “what’s happening right now is a deeply encouraging sign of how broadly a good idea can resonate once it really takes off.”

Elsewhere on the Network: Greater Greater Washington goes inside Denver’s grand new rail station, TheCityFix examines why bike share hasn’t taken hold in India, and Decatur Metro reposts a police press release begging drivers not to run over children as they head back to school.

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Today’s Headlines

  • The Times Looks at Cuomo’s Legacy and Finds Big Infrastructure Projects, But Not Subways
  • MTA Train Operator Arrested for Hit-and-Run Death of Aron Aranbayev, 40 (DNA, News)
  • Wrong-Way Speeding Crown Hts Driver Charged With Manslaugher for Killing Passenger (Post, News)
  • Dreams for Brooklyn Waterfront Streetcar Live On, Now With High-Powered Consultant (Capital)
  • Intersection Where Allison Liao Was Killed Gets Honorary Renaming (TL)
  • State Sen. James Sanders and TWU’s John Samuelsen Back Woodhaven SBS (Q Chron)
  • Pols and Riders on the 7 Train Worry About Adding a Willets Point AirTrain (News)
  • Council Bill Would Toughen Fines for Unlicensed Dollar Vans (DNA)
  • Stringer: Potholes Cost City $138 Million in Claims Over Past Six Years (NYT)
  • 15 Speed Humps Could Come to Windsor Terrace (DNA)
  • Six-Hour Training for City Employees Includes “Drive Like Your Family Lives Here” Film (Post)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Prendergast’s Objections to Toll Reform Don’t Make Any Sense

On WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show this morning, MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast joined his boss Andrew Cuomo in dumping cold water on the Move NY toll reform plan as a way to fund the transit authority’s capital program. Trouble is, his critiques don’t make much sense.

Photo: Marc A. Hermann for MTA/Flickr

Toll reform? Nope and no way, say Cuomo and Prendergast. Photo: Marc A. Hermann for MTA/Flickr

Lehrer played a clip of Cuomo arguing against toll reform on the radio yesterday, then asked Prendergast what he thought of the idea. The MTA chief said he isn’t being dismissive of the plan and that he’s not opposed to it. He then ticked off what, in his view, are a bunch of reasons to dismiss the plan and oppose it.

First, Prendergast said that Move NY “leaves some bridges free.” Exactly what he’s referring to here is a mystery. Maybe Prendergast is concerned that the plan doesn’t put tolls on the Harlem River bridges. He never explains. “I’m not saying this is my position,” he said, “but there some local elected leaders that are concerned [that] some bridges are left free.”

Then, the MTA head said these mysterious free bridges would lead to toll shopping. “I’m not so sure it accurately predicts what driver behavior will be,” he said of Move NY. “I’ve been other places where people drive a long way out of their way to avoid paying a toll.”

Again, it’s not clear what Prendergast is talking about here. The most fundamental component of Move NY is a consistent toll for driving into the central business district, thereby eliminating the incentive to shop for a free bridge and clog up local streets.

Prendergast was also concerned that Move NY would not provide enough revenue to maintain the existing East River bridges — a cost that’s already paid for in the city’s capital budget.

But Prendergast’s objections don’t stop at the bridges. “There’s also some concerns about what will happen with the 60th Street cordon,” he said, without explaining the problem. “I’ll let others speak to the political process.”

Prendergast was also concerned that toll reform wouldn’t start generating revenue soon enough. “To implement this and see your first dollar of revenue, you measure it in years, not months. You see it in three or four years,” he said. “Let’s not count this capital program dependent on that process.”

Even if it took four years to implement — which Move NY says is unlikely — a portion of the toll revenue could back bonds, which would provide cash for the capital plan more quickly than a purely pay-as-you-go program.

These answers are unlikely to sway the Cuomo administration. Apparently, the governor and his MTA are just not interested in reforming the city’s broken toll system to raise revenue for transit.

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State’s Top Court: Low-Cost Parking Is Not a Tax-Free Charity

The owner of five Queens cut-rate parking facilities will have to pay property taxes, the state’s top court has ruled. The New York State Court of Appeals upheld the city’s decision to take back a tax exemption it had previously granted the politically-connected non-profit that operates 2,000 parking spaces in downtown Jamaica.

Photo: Google Street View

The politically connected non-profit operator of discount parking garages in Jamaica will have to pay property taxes, the state’s top court ruled. Photo: Google Street View

Over the course of a decade starting in 1996, Jamaica First Parking LLC, a subsidiary of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC), purchased parking garages and lots in downtown Jamaica from the city. The GJDC board, which includes former Congressman Rev. Floyd Flake, is well connected to much of the political establishment in southeast Queens.

In 2007, the city’s Finance Department said Jamaica First’s parking garages would be exempt from property taxes because they serve a “charitable” purpose under the law. Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez smelled something fishy in late 2010, and the city reversed its property tax exemption just months later.

GJDC then sued the city for taking back the property tax giveaway. The case ultimately went to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, which on July 1 ruled 5-2 that the non-profit will have to pay property taxes for its public parking lots [PDF].

While the court didn’t question the wisdom of below-market parking garage construction as an economic development strategy, it was clear that the court didn’t buy the argument that operating public parking is related to non-profit charitable work.

“We disagree with petitioners’ assertion that the parking facilities are charitable in and of themselves because they fulfill the primary purpose of economic development,” wrote Judge Eugene Pigott for the majority. “While these goals may be laudable, they are not charitable.”

“We’re waiting for the lawyers to review the decision so we can figure out how to move ahead,” GJDC spokesman Bob Liff told the Press of Southeast Queens. “If this means they have to pay property tax, it is our job to figure out how much that is.”

GJDC now owes at least $2.7 million in back taxes, a de Blasio administration spokesperson told the paper.

Streetsblog USA
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The Subduction Zone(ing), or [Tectonic] Platers Gonna Plate

This week we have Talking Headways alum Tanya Snyder back on the podcast to talk about a few things that were in the news over the last few weeks.

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We talk about all the new streets babies that have been born recently which leads to a discussion about living in cities with kids. We also ponder why people are writing articles about leaving cities like London and Los Angeles.

Traveling to the Pacific Northwest we discuss Seattle’s new Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). We talk about single family zoning in the report as well as changes to parking restrictions. We also discuss the recent New Yorker article on the Cascadia Subduction Zone and how wherever you live in the United States you have to deal with natural disasters.

Join us for a fun discussion on Talking Headways.

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Here Are Six Times the MTA Was a State Entity Under Cuomo’s Control

It’s his authority. Image: NYGovCuomo/YouTube

Yesterday on WCNY’s “Capitol Pressroom,” Susan Arbetter hosted Governor Andrew Cuomo for a discussion of the MTA capital program. Lately, the governor has been pushing City Hall to fund a greater share of the authority’s investment plan. Arbetter, pressing the governor, asked a simple question: “Isn’t the MTA a state entity?”

“It’s not, actually,” Cuomo replied. “It [covers] a metropolitan downstate region.”

The answer, of course, is nonsense. The MTA’s own list of board members reminds the public that “all board members are appointed by the governor, some on the recommendation of city and county officials.” The chair of the authority serves at the governor’s behest. The MTA is chartered by the state, and taxes levied by the state help fund more than a third of its operating budget.

The governor controls more than just board appointments. At the MTA, the governor calls the shots. Perhaps these recent events will remind Cuomo that the MTA is a state entity under his control:

  1. When storms threaten the region, the governor is the one who shuts down the entire transit system.
  2. He smiled for the cameras and brokered a labor deal between Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the MTA.
  3. Early in his first term, he cut the Payroll Mobility Tax, one of the authority’s major sources of funding.
  4. Last year, he cut tolls for Staten Island motorists in an election-year ploy, then stuck the MTA with half of the bill.
  5. His budgets regularly include diversions of MTA operating funds to cover expenses in the state’s budget.
  6. Ten days ago, his own budget office directed the MTA to trim the size of its capital plan, which it did [PDF].

The list goes on. While it’s nice to see Cuomo committing to fully funding the (slightly reduced) capital program, it’s hard to take his latest comments seriously until he acknowledges the need for a new source of revenue. Generating billions of dollars over five years is no simple task.

Read more…

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Washington Governor Jay Inslee Preserves Transit and Street Safety Funding

Washington Governor Jay Inslee isn’t taking the pill.

Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee

Last week Inslee signaled he would go ahead with a low-carbon fuel standard for the state, which would have triggered a legislative “poison pill” — a concession to Republican lawmakers — to eliminate billions in funds for transit and street safety initiatives.

It was a Faustian bargain that put some transit and safe streets advocates at odds. But Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog reports that Inslee found another way.

Inslee announced Tuesday that he’s going a different direction on reducing carbon emissions. Rather than a clean fuels standard (already in place in Oregon and California), he’s going to develop a regulatory carbon cap. Though it would not be a complete cap-and-trade system (that would take an act of law, not just executive action), it “would force a significant reduction in air pollution,” according to an official statement.

“In talking about the terrible choice the Senate imposed on the people of Washington — clean air or buses and safe sidewalks — I heard broad agreement that we need both clean transportation and clean air,” Inslee said in the press release. “I appreciate the commitment I heard from many to work with me to ensure our state meets its statutory carbon reduction limits.”

Also on the Network today, Greater Greater Washington finds that empty bike-share stations don’t necessarily mean long waits.