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Remember This Hashtag – #marathonfunday

Rise with the sun on marathon day and you can claim what’s typically a car-choked mess all to yourself. Photo: Doug Gordon

Quick, what’s the biggest car-free event of the year?

Summer Streets gives New Yorkers the longest stretch of contiguous roadway with no traffic, but marathon Sunday might reclaim more asphalt — even if you don’t count the route itself, all the car-free side streets along the way add up.

Of course, if you get up early enough you can enjoy block after block of the marathon route before the course gets cleared for the race. Doug Gordon and his daughter Galit did it last year on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn and it looks like a ton of fun.

This year there’s a movement afoot on Twitter to capture the spirit of car-free New York City streets on marathon day. To share your photos, use the hashtag #marathonfunday.

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Great Cities Don’t Have Much Traffic, But They Do Have Congestion

Image: Tomtoms 2013 via Cityclock

Places with less traffic have more congestion. Graphic: City Clock

Here’s a great visualization of what cities get out of the billions of dollars spent on highways and road expansion: more traffic.

Justin Swan at City Clock made this chart showing the relationship between congestion levels, as measured by TomTom, and car use. (Yes, it has no X axis — here’s Swan’s explanation of how to read his chart.) The pattern that emerges is that the places with the most traffic and driving also have the least congestion.

We know from the work of Joe Cortright that the traditional definition of congestion is a poor way to measure people’s ability to get around their city – because it doesn’t reflect the actual time people spend traveling. Drivers in Dallas and Houston may stew in gridlock less than people in other cities, but they spend more time on the road.

Swan notes that the most congested places are also the places where people have good travel options that don’t involve driving. His chart suggests that car congestion itself is not the problem that needs to be solved — as long as there are other ways to get around, in a congested city few people will actually have to sit in traffic.

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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 motorist backed onto a sidewalk outside a Kingsbridge school, hitting 10 people and killing 8-year-old Rylee Ramos. No charges were filed by NYPD or Bronx DA Robert Johnson. Photo via Daily News

A motorist backed onto a sidewalk outside a Kingsbridge school, hitting 10 people and killing 8-year-old Rylee Ramos. No charges were filed by NYPD or Bronx DA Robert Johnson. Photo via Daily News

Fatal Crashes (6 Killed This Week; 170 This Year*)

  • Chinatown: 59-Year-Old Dragged by Private Garbage Truck Driver Who Fled Scene (DNAPost)
  • Ridgewood: Edgar Torres, 40, Struck by MTA Bus Driver; No Charges (Streetsblog, WNYC)
  • Kingsbridge: Rylee Ramos, 8, Run Down on Sidewalk in Front of School; No Charges (Streetsblog)**
  • Astoria: 60-Year-Old Pedestrian Struck by Cement Truck Driver; No Charges (DNA)
  • Flatlands: Florence Bello, 63, Struck Crossing Ralph Avenue and E. 65th Street; No Charges (Streetsblog)
  • Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: Construction Worker Alex Shell, 61, Struck by Asphalt Truck Driver (Advance)

Read more…

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Halloween: A Lot Less Scary If Drivers and Roads Were Safer

Halloween is fun because we get to be afraid of things that we know aren’t really scary. But for little trick or treaters in the United States, the danger posed by reckless drivers and unsafe roads is real.

A 2012 study by insurance company State Farm found that motorists kill more children on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Reported LoHud:

From 1990 to 2010, 115 pedestrians under the age of 18 were killed by motor vehicles on Oct. 31, an average of 5.5 fatalities a year during that period.  There are an average of 2.6 child pedestrian deaths other days of the year, the report found.

Above is a tweet from the Maryland State Highway Administration, which is loaning reflective vests for kids to wear tonight. The agency has a tip sheet for pedestrians and motorists, but holiday-themed PR campaigns are not a substitute for streets that are safe for walking 365 days a year.

Yet that doesn’t stop us from victim-blaming. ”Crowds of trick-or-treaters traveling the streets contribute to the increased risk,” wrote LoHud.

The State Farm study also noted that more than 70 percent of crashes that kill kids on Halloween “occurred away from an intersection or crosswalk,” implying that unsafe pedestrian behavior, rather than lack of pedestrian infrastructure, is the issue. State Farm advises parents and kids to “stick to neighborhoods with sidewalks.” While this advice is easy to follow in some major cities, complete streets are not the norm in most of the country.

Suggesting pedestrians wear reflective tape and asking motorists to not kill people isn’t getting the job done. To keep kids safe every day, we need streets designed to accommodate them.

Read more…

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Nassau Democrat Campaigns Against Speed Cams in Bid for Senate Seat

Adam Haber, a Democrat challenging incumbent Republican State Senator Jack Martins in Nassau County, is out with a new attack ad blasting his opponent for supporting speed cameras.

In April, the Senate voted 49-11 for a bill that expanded New York City’s speed cam program and brought automated speeding enforcement to Long Island for the first time. As in NYC, the law restricts Nassau County’s cameras to streets with school entrances nearby, during specific daytime hours. Drivers can get tickets only if they are going more than 10 mph over the limit.

The Nassau County program got off to a rocky start soon after its August launch, incorrectly issuing tickets near six schools during hours when the cameras should have been shut off. County Executive Ed Mangano later voided all of the county’s speed cam tickets, valid or not, and the program restarted in September near 77 schools [PDF].

State Senate candidate Adam Haber is going for the road rage vote. Image: Haber for NY/Facebook

State Senate candidate Adam Haber is going for the road rage vote. Image: Haber for NY/Facebook

With its latest ad and press release, the Haber campaign is betting that Nassau residents think drivers speeding through school zones shouldn’t get tickets. The campaign has purchased what it calls a “significant” amount of air time for the anti-speed cam advertisement, which will run until election day.

Haber has sent out mailers and lawn signs against the speed cameras. The Senate district, covering Great Neck, Port Washington, Floral Park, Mineola, and Hicksville, borders much of eastern Queens. Clarence Eckerson Jr. of Streetfilms reported seeing the signs on streets just over the city line in Little Neck yesterday.

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Portland Suburb: To Fight Climate Change, Expand Highways!

Is more of this the way to beat congestion in the Portland region? Photo: Bike Portland

Is more of this the way to reduce carbon emissions in the Portland region? Photo: Bike Portland

Clackamas County, outside of Portland, has some opinions about the region’s plan to address climate change. According to Michael Andersen at Bike Portland, county commissioners have drafted a letter to regional planners saying the right way to control carbon emissions is to build more highways.

Scratching your head? Well, the misguided belief that building more roads reduces congestion, and thus emissions, is still deeply entrenched in American transportation bureaucracies.

Clackamas County wants more roads to be included in the climate plan from Metro, Portland’s regional planning agency. But get this — Metro’s plan already has a lot of road work in the name of reducing emissions, Andersen reports:

Metro’s draft version of that plan (PDF) calls for the region to dedicate 58 percent of related funding over the next 20 years — about $20 billion — to roads, even though the report says that “adding lane miles to relieve congestion … will not solve congestion on its own.”

Metro’s draft plan calls for $12.4 billion to be spent on transit, which it rates as enough to achieve a 16 to 20 percent cut in per-capita carbon emissions. The plan calls for $2 billion to go to improving biking and walking, which it rates as enough for a 3 to 6 percent reduction.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Prendergast Confirms 2015 Fare Hike, Urges Proposed Capital Plan Improvements (NBC, PIX, CBS)
  • Private Trash Truck Driver Kills Chinatown Pedestrian; NYPD Preps Hit-and-Run Defense (DNAPost)
  • Witness: Edgar Torres Had Right of Way When He Was Struck and Killed by MTA Bus Driver (WNYC)
  • 88th Precinct Barely Enforcing Dangerous Driving Violations After Death of Lucian Merryweather (DNA)
  • Brooklyn Paper: Does Brooklyn Really Want More Citi Bike? You Decide!
  • Will Uber and Lyft Usher in the Future, or Set NYC Back 100 Years? (CapNY)
  • NYPD Records Indicate Horse Carriages Are Involved in Around Five Crashes a Year (DNA)
  • “Depressing” Fourth Avenue Subway Station to Get Pop-Up Makeover as Locals Await MTA Action (DNA)
  • Classy: Boyfriend of Aide Name Drops Chirlane McCray to Get Out of Parking Ticket Tab (News)
  • NYC Just Can’t Bring Itself to Acknowledge the Humanity of Traffic Crash Victims (NBC)
  • Happy Halloween, Straphangers (SASNews)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Two Pedestrians Killed in 24 Hours, Including Seventh MTA Victim of 2014

MTA bus drivers have killed two pedestrians since 2013 while making turns at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Palmetto Street, but bus route modifications were not included in a DOT safety proposal. Image: DOT

MTA bus drivers have killed two pedestrians since 2013 while making turns at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Palmetto Street, but bus route modifications were not included in a DOT safety proposal. Image: DOT

Update: The victim in the MTA crash was identified as Edgar Torres. WNYC reports that, according to a witness, Torres was in a crosswalk and crossing with the signal when he was hit.

Drivers have killed two New York City pedestrians since Wednesday. One of the victims was the fourth pedestrian to be fatally struck by an MTA bus driver in the last two months, and the crash occurred at the same intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border where a city bus driver killed pedestrian Ella Bandes in 2013.

At around 5:10 a.m. today, a man believed to be in his 40s was crossing Palmetto Street when he was struck by the rear wheel of a Q58 as the bus driver turned right onto Palmetto from Wyckoff Avenue, according to NYPD and published reports. An NYPD spokesperson said the victim was pronounced dead on arrival at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. As of this afternoon his identity was being withheld pending family notification.

On January 31, 2013, a B52 driver making a right turn from Myrtle Avenue onto Palmetto Street struck and killed 23-year-old Ella Bandes. Last April DOT announced plans to improve visibility and shorten crossing distances at the perilous six-legged intersection where Wyckoff, Myrtle, and Palmetto meet. Rush hour turn bans, for two hours a day, were included in the revamp, but MTA bus routes were not affected. Bandes’s mother Judy Kottick noted that the turn restrictions would not have prevented the crash that killed her daughter.

Anonymous police sources told the Daily News that the victim in today’s crash “appeared to be walking in the street, outside the crosswalk” at the time of the collision. The NYPD spokesperson we talked with had no such details, and said it was unclear who had the right of way. Police are still investigating the crash, the spokesperson said. The Post reported that “no criminality is suspected.”

MTA bus drivers have killed at least six pedestrians and one cyclist this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, with four fatal crashes since the beginning of September. Caroline Samponaro, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, released a statement earlier today:

Read more…

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Confirmed: Sprawl and Bad Transit Increase Unemployment

Since the 1960s and the earliest days of job sprawl, the theory of “spatial mismatch” — that low-income communities experience higher unemployment because they are isolated from employment centers – has shaped the way people think about urban form and social equity.

But it’s also been challenged. The research that supporting spatial mismatch has suffered from some nagging flaws. For example, many studies focused on job access within a single metropolitan area, so it wasn’t clear if the findings were universal. Other studies looked only at linear distance between jobs and low-income residents, not actual commute times. In addition, researchers including Harvard economist Ed Glaeser have argued that it’s difficult to determine whether neighborhood inaccessibility causes higher unemployment, or whether disconnected areas attract more people who have trouble finding work.

A new study [PDF] from researchers at the U.S. Census Bureau, the Comptroller of the Currency, and Harvard University, however, addresses those shortcomings and confirms the original theory of spatial mismatch: Geographic barriers to employment — sprawl, suburban zoning, poor transit – do indeed depress employment levels.

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Michael Frumin Hired to Get Citi Bike Tech Back on Track

The company that runs Citi Bike has made a big hire, bringing on someone known for improving the customer experience by introducing new technology to the MTA. No, not new CEO Jay Walder. The newest employee at Alta Bicycle Share is its first-ever vice president for technology, Michael Frumin.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Walder said the company would be hiring for the position this week. It looks like he meant “immediately.”

Frumin has his work cut out for him at Alta. Citi Bike has struggled with a poor user interface at kiosk screens and flawed software that causes problems throughout the system.

Frumin is best known for leading the MTA’s Bus Time project, which brings real-time arrival information to riders. (Streetsblog’s parent organization, OpenPlans, helped develop the technology behind Bus Time.)

When Frumin joined the MTA in 2010 to work on Bus Time, Walder was the agency boss. The MTA rolled out the first Bus Time route in 2011, then expanded the capability borough by borough starting in 2012. With most of the work on Bus Time complete, last year Frumin took on a new position as deputy director of recovery and resiliency for subways at the MTA.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Frumin is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School. He received a computer science degree from Stanford before going to MIT for a masters degree in transportation and operations research. He lives in Brooklyn.