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DOT Moves Ahead With Two Pairs of Upper East Side Bike Lanes

In July, DOT will install painted bikes lanes on 70th, 71st, 77th, and 78th Streets. Image: DOT

In July, DOT will paint bikes lanes on 70th, 71st, 77th, and 78th Streets. Image: DOT

With Manhattan Community Board 8 failing to agree on three pairs of Upper East Side crosstown bike lanes, DOT will go ahead with painted bike lanes on 70th/71st and 77th/78th streets early next month.

So concludes the year’s most ridiculous bike lane story, an epic drama that at one point outed Woody Allen as a full-on bike lane NIMBY.

Advocates had hoped for a protected lane on 72nd Street, but DOT signaled early on that it would only consider painted lanes. These bike lane pairs are just thermoplastic stripes designating space for cycling, without any changes to parking spots or car lanes.

Nevertheless, at meeting after meeting, people showed up in a panic about the possibility of bike lanes by their home, school, or workplace. Parents and administrators from schools on 84th and 85th streets, in particular, fretted over the purported threat to pedestrian safety, despite all evidence to the contrary.

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Streetsblog USA
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6 Principles to Make Self-Driving Cars Work for Cities, Not Against Them

Self-driving cars are coming, and maybe sooner than we think. But the question of how they will shape cities is still wide open. Could they lead to less traffic and parking as people stop owning cars and start sharing them? More sprawl as car travel becomes less of a hassle? More freedom to walk and bike on city streets, or less?

How will self-driving cars impact cities? Hopefully federal regulators won't ignore this question. Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The answers depend in no small part on how federal and local policy makers respond to the new technologies. The National Association of City Transportation Officials wants to get out ahead of these changes with a statement of policy recommendations to guide the deployment of autonomous cars in cities [PDF].

Here is what NACTO proposes.

1. Cars should be fully autonomous, not partly

If cars have some automated features but still require human drivers to occasionally take control, safety could suffer. NACTO cites research that shows semi-automated vehicles actually increase driver distraction, lulling motorists into thinking they can pay less attention to the road. But fully automated vehicles should be able to achieve much better safety outcomes than human drivers.

2. Maximum speeds on city streets should not exceed 25 miles per hour

Self-driving cars should be programmed not to exceed 25 mph in urban areas. Controlling speed is one way self-driving cars could yield enormous safety benefits. But it will require regulators — with support from the public — to insist on putting safety above speed, which, historically, America has failed to do.

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After 8 Years, DOT Finally Has a Bike Plan for Dyckman St. CB 12: Not So Fast.

DOT's plan would put painted bike lanes on Dyckman Street between Broadway and Nagle Avenue and a two protected lane between Nagle and 10th Avenue. Image: DOT

DOT’s plan calls for painted bike lanes on Dyckman Street between Broadway and Nagle Avenue and a two-way protected lane between Nagle and 10th Avenue. Image: DOT

Eight years after uptown advocates first called for a bike connection across Inwood, linking greenways along the Hudson River and the Harlem River, DOT has a bike lane plan for Dyckman Street.

Between Broadway and Nagel Avenue, the redesign would convert the current four-lane design into DOT’s standard road diet template — a general traffic lane and a five-foot-wide un-protected bike lane in each direction, plus a painted median and center turn lanes. Between Nagle Avenue and Tenth Avenue, where there are already buffered bike lanes, the project would add a nine-foot two-way protected bike lane with a three-foot buffer along the north side of Harlem River Park.

While the plan falls short of the fully-protected connection advocates wanted, it’s a big improvement on a street that currently lacks space for cycling.

Washington Heights resident Jonathan Rabinowitz, who has pushed for a bikeable Dyckman Street for several years, said the project will provide a useful link to other recent bike network improvements in the neighborhood. “For someone who is going typically [north-south] like myself, even this minimal on-street bike lane approach is a benefit because it creates a space on those two blocks to connect Fort George Hill with Sherman Avenue,” he said.

In addition to the road diet and bike lanes, the project includes new median islands at Vermilyea and Post Avenues and a large painted curb extension and new crosswalk at the intersection with Tenth Avenue.

On June 6, DOT presented the Dyckman Street project to the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee [PDF]. Instead of supporting the plan, the committee asked DOT to hold a workshop on the proposal and the overall transportation needs of the area. But neighborhood residents have already waited eight years for safer cycling on Dyckman.

The Dyckman project has gone through an interminable public process. In 2008, after months of local advocacy, CB 12 passed a resolution requesting a DOT feasibility study of a Dyckman protected bike lane. Then, in 2011 and again in 2012, the board requested bike lane upgrades. But now that a DOT plan has finally materialized, the committee wants to delay implementation with more meetings.

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Streetsblog.net
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What If “Commuter Rail” Was for Everyone, Not Just 9-to-5 Commuters?

Rhode Island has been investing in commuter rail — long distance service connecting Providence to Boston and towns in between. But lackluster ridership at a new park-and-ride rail station at the end of the line (by a Walmart!) is sapping support for much more useful investments, reports Sandy Johnston at Itinerant Urbanist.

This is the area that will be served by Pawtucket-Providence commuter rail. Photo: Google Maps via Sandy Johnson

The area that would be served by the Pawtucket-Central Falls rail station is one of the most walkable parts of Rhode Island. Photo: Google Maps via Sandy Johnson

Anti-rail critics are piling on. The libertarian Rhode Island Center for Freedom has come out against an infill station at the much more walkable Pawtucket/Central Falls border, for instance, on the basis that spending on the commuter rail service relegates Rhode Island to being a suburb of Boston.

Johnston doesn’t agree with that take, but he says it “unintentionally touches on a serious critique of the ‘commuter rail’ mode: it serves one kind of trip, and one kind of trip only.” And that critique can lead to a better kind of rail service:

When the Providence Foundation studied intrastate commuter rail from Woonsocket to Providence in 2009, the project team met with planners along the route to gauge interest in the potential new service. All showed interest, except for the town planner in Lincoln, where a station was proposed in the hamlet of Manville. The reasons given were fascinating, and a little bit sad:

The proposed Manville site is located near a low-income neighborhood, where residents could typically be expected to benefit from additional transit services. However, commuter rail — with its peak-oriented services — may not be a good fit for these residents who tend to work at jobs with nontraditional schedules. Moreover, the town planner in Lincoln indicated the most town residents were not interested in a new commuter rail station. (p. 71)

Justifiably or not, Lincoln’s town planner believed that commuter rail, as a mode, is not for “us” (us being anyone working in a job that is not white collar or 9-to-5). That’s not too far off from the idea that investing state money in a commuter rail station would only increase Rhode Island’s dependency on Boston, if we assume that “Boston” here stands in for white-collar jobs with little access for middle- or working-class Rhode Islanders. It may not be entirely apparent to the people I’m quoting here, but I believe the pattern indicates the very tiny glimmer of a kernel of a coherent, trenchant critique of the commuter rail paradigm.

Johnston says it doesn’t have to be that way:

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Today’s Headlines

  • Cabbies Push Back on TLC Rules to Cut Down on Fatigued Driving (NYT, NewsAMNY, Post)
  • Residents Tell DOT: More Space for Walking in Downtown Jamaica, Please (TL)
  • Huge New Airport Parking Garage Not Welcome in East Elmhurst (QChron)
  • Cuomo Releases Plan to Improve Pedestrian Safety Outside NYC (MTR)
  • Sounds Like Carlos Menchaca Opposes BQX Streetcar (Bklyn Paper)
  • Daily News Pats Itself on the Back for Times Square “Activity Zones”
  • Driver Who Caused 10-Car Pileup in Staten Island Sunday Has Died (AdvanceNews)
  • DOT Won’t Replace Union Street Bridge Until After EPA Cleans Up Gowanus Superfund Site (DNA)
  • Uber App Will Be More Transparent About Fares (Post)
  • What’s Taking So Long to Get a Speed Hump on 98th Street in Woodhaven? (QChron)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Albany Failed to Act on Safe Streets, So de Blasio’s Gotta Do It on His Own

With the Albany session over and legislative leaders failing to advance a bill to add 60 speed cameras in NYC, 2016 is going to be the first full calendar year since 2012 in which the city does not expand its automated speed enforcement program.

Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg can’t let a disappointing session in Albany spoil progress on street safety.

Advocates put together an impressive coalition for speed cameras, and they’ll be back fighting for a better enforcement program next session. If it wasn’t clear already, though, it is now: New York City has to implement street safety policy as if no help is coming from Albany. If the governor and legislative leaders come through in the future, so much the better. But their political calculus is too obscure and unpredictable to depend on.

The rollout of NYC’s complement of 140 speed cameras coincided with a 22 percent decline in traffic deaths from 2013 to 2015. Without new speed cameras this year, DOT’s street safety programs will have to shoulder more of the load to keep the positive trend going.

Despite a new city budget that grew by $3.6 billion dollars, however, DOT’s street safety programs are not in line for much of a boost. The de Blasio administration failed to budget for the 25 percent increase in funding for low-cost, fast-build street redesigns that the City Council requested in the spring.

It’s not like City Hall is scrounging around for loose change. The administration has set aside $325 million over the next few years for ferries (ferries projected to get fewer riders than the city’s 40th-busiest bus route). And if you think the $2.5 billion BQX streetcar is really going to “pay for itself,” I have a bridge over Newtown Creek to sell you. A budget boost for safe streets was just not a priority.

That leaves one resource the de Blasio administration can draw from to accelerate change on the streets: willpower. DOT may not have more money to spend, but the agency can do more with the money at its disposal if it has a firmer mandate from de Blasio to redesign dangerous streets.

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NYC Needs a Car-Free 14th Street When the L Closes — And When It Returns

In 2019, the L train west of Williamsburg will be shut down so the MTA can repair Sandy-related damage to subway tunnels under the East River. Hundreds of thousands of people will have to find other ways to get around, and there’s no conceivable way to do that without dedicating a lot of street space to buses, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Enter the “PeopleWay,” Transportation Alternatives’ concept for a 14th Street solely for transit, cycling, and walking. Yesterday staff and volunteers with TA and the Riders Alliance were out at Union Square making the case for the PeopleWay and gathering signatures for an overhaul of the street. The campaign calls for improvements to be made permanent after the L resumes full service.

Even with a fully functional L train, bus service on 14th Street carries more than 32,000 weekday trips. Car traffic slows them down and leads to unreliable service. Sidewalks are too crowded. Biking without protection next to cabs, trucks, and buses is terrifying.

Now add L train riders to the mix. On a typical day, 50,000 passengers make L train trips that start and end along 14th Street. Another 230,000 ride between Brooklyn and 14th Street. To help all these people get around without the train, optimizing 14th Street for the most spatially efficient modes of travel isn’t a choice so much as a necessity.

TA estimates that a redesign with dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and more pedestrian space can double the capacity of 14th Street.

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Streetsblog.net
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How Leadership in 1972 Saved Boston From Highways and Shaped Today’s City

What would Boston be like today had the Inner Belt Highway been built? Map via TransitCenter

What would Boston be like today if the Inner Belt Highway had been built? Map via TransitCenter

There aren’t too many places in the United States like Boston — truly walkable cities with good transit. And it didn’t happen by accident.

Boston could have ended up like so many other American cities, criss-crossed by elevated roads and crammed with parking structures. In the early 1970s, transportation planners wanted to gouge highways through some of its most densely populated neighborhoods — prompting fierce resistance. Thankfully, the top elected official in the state listened to the highway revolt and made decisions that continue to benefit the city four decades later.

TransitCenter has the story:

In 1970, in response to protests over highway plans that would involve government seizure of land, homes, and businesses for highway construction, Massachusetts Governor Francis W. Sargent took the unusual step of declaring a moratorium on highway construction inside Route 128, Boston’s suburban beltway. In its place, Sargent called for a comprehensive multimodal study of the region’s transportation needs.

The study concluded two years later, and in a speech to the public on November 30, 1972, Sargent announced the multibillion-dollar investment plan that was its result. The proposed Inner Belt highway, which would have ripped through the urban fabric of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, had been shelved. Instead, Sargent declared a relaunch of the state’s commitment to public transportation in the Boston area, as well as the construction of select, strategic highway links less intrusive than the Inner Belt.

If only more elected officials today were as prescient as Sargent was then. TransitCenter picked out this great quote from the speech he gave outlining his plans:

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Today’s Headlines

  • NJ Transit Had to Divert $5 Billion Over 15 Years From Its Capital Budget to Cover Operations (WNYC)
  • Chris Christie May Finally Have to Raise the NJ Gas Tax (NYT)
  • How Andrew Lanza’s Support for Move NY Plays in the Staten Island Press (Advance)
  • Kabak: Yes to a Car-Free 14th Street So People Can Get Around During L Shutdown — and After
  • Chelsea Should Be Freaking Out About the L-Pocalypse Traffic Without a 14th Street Busway (DNA)
  • Hesitant on Systemwide Proof of Payment, Pendergast Cites Cost of Hiring More Fare Inspectors (NY1)
  • Contractors Rep Denise Richardson Blames Construction Delays on MTA Change Orders (Post)
  • Medallion Owners Team Up With Accessibility Advocates Against Uber (Crain’s)
  • Tough Crowd at the BQX Streetcar Meeting in Sunset Park (Gothamist)
  • Thought Experiment: Imagine the Bike Map If Community Boards Planned NYC’s Bicycle Lanes (DNA)
  • The York Street F Station Only Has One Entrance and It’s Getting Overwhelmed (Bklyn Paper)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza Gets Support From Queens CB 5 Transpo Committee

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Last night, the Queens Community Board 5 transportation committee endorsed DOT’s safety plan for the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub on the border between Brooklyn and Queens, including the creation of a one-block pedestrian plaza on Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle [PDF].

The project straddles two community board districts and was voted down by Brooklyn CB 4 last week. DOT can proceed without a vote from CB 4, however, if the agency chooses. Council Member Antonio Reynoso has said he supports the project and wants the city to take action.

The stakes for public safety are high. Three pedestrians were struck and killed at the intersection between 2009 and 2014, including Edgar Torres, who was hit while he had the right of way despite an initial round of changes to simplify vehicle movements at the site. The current project would do much more to prevent pedestrians from being struck by turning motorists.

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