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Hey Daily News: NYC Pedestrians Are Safer With Right of Way Law

In its latest attack on efforts to make New York City streets safer for everyone who walks, bikes, and drives, the Daily News editorial board says the Right of Way Law isn’t working. But the available evidence suggests NYC streets are safer since the law took effect.

The Daily News should be going after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Chief Thomas Chan to consistently apply the Right of Way Law instead of giving up on a measure that appears to have made streets safer.

The Daily News should be going after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Chief Thomas Chan to consistently apply the Right of Way Law instead of giving up on a measure that appears to have made streets safer.

Basically, the Daily News believes that, since the law has been applied only a few dozen times since it took effect last August, the city should abandon it. The piece also claims the Right of Way Law has had little discernible effect on pedestrian safety, “with the death toll among pedestrians barely budging in the nearly one year since the Vision Zero law took effect,” though crash data says otherwise.

In the nine months after the Right of Way Law took effect, from September 2014 to May 2015 (the last month for which official data is available), New York City drivers killed 95 pedestrians, according to NYPD. From September 2013 to May 2014, motorists killed 121 pedestrians. That’s a 21 percent decline.

To this point MTA bus drivers haven’t killed anyone in a crosswalk in 2015. There were eight such deaths last year.

Injuries are a more reliable metric than fatalities, since they’re less prone to random variation. NYPD data indicate that drivers injured 7,869 pedestrians in the nine months after the Right of Way Law took effect, compared to 8,925 pedestrian victims during the same period a year prior — a drop of almost 12 percent.

The Daily News correctly points out that MTA bus drivers make up a large percentage of motorists charged under the Right of Way Law, while “most drivers who maim pedestrians go though [sic] no investigation to even determine who was at fault.” But this points to a lack of enforcement, not a problem with the law itself. Is the Daily News solution to go back to having fewer drivers investigated for maiming pedestrians?

“And so the cases crumble,” the editorial says. “Of the four drivers whose prosecutions by the Manhattan DA have concluded so far, all pleaded to violations of state traffic laws. Two additionally pleaded to the lowest city charge, with a $50 fine.”

The success of the Right of Way Law doesn’t hinge on putting drivers in jail. The goal is to compel police and prosecutors to investigate crashes that traditionally got no attention, and to hold motorists to a measure of accountability for injuring and killing people who were following traffic rules. Daily News editorial writers used to complain that the Right of Way Law was overly punitive. Now they think it’s too weak to mean anything.

Read more…

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NYC’s New Budget Fails to Fund More Low-Cost Vision Zero Street Redesigns

It’s July, which means the city’s new fiscal year 2016 budget is in effect. This spring, the de Blasio administration touted early funding for street repaving and reconstruction of four arterial streets under the “Vision Zero Great Streets” program. But the final budget the mayor’s office negotiated with the City Council fails to beef up the city’s efforts to quickly reduce deaths and injuries on its most dangerous streets.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces the fiscal year 2016 budget deal with the City Council. Photo: NYC Council/Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces the fiscal year 2016 budget deal with the City Council. Photo: NYC Council/Flickr

The most promising way to get fast results from street redesigns is through “operational” projects that use paint and other low-cost changes to calm traffic, rather than waiting years for the city to design and build an expensive capital project. But the final budget sets aside funding for just 50 of these operational projects, DOT said, which does not represent an increase in the city’s commitment.

The $5.2 million pot of money for those 50 projects, which can be as small as a single intersection, also covers safety education, signal retiming, and replacement of faded pavement markings.

To put that amount in perspective, the de Blasio administration set aside an extra $242 million this year to ramp up its street repaving efforts. Devoting similar resources to expanding the city’s program for quick and effect street redesigns could save dozens of lives each year. Without that commitment, it’s hard to see how New York will come close to achieving de Blasio’s goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

There is some good news in the final budget, but it came in small packages:

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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Iowa DOT Chief Says Overbuilt Road System Will Have to Shrink

Here’s something you don’t see every day. Or ever.

Charles Marohn at Strong Towns reports that the director of the Iowa DOT, Paul Trombino, said his state’s transportation system is overbuilt and unsustainable. Trombino said Iowans will have to decide what to maintain and what they are willing to let go.

State DOT director Paul Trombino says Iowa has excess and unsustainable road capacity. Photo: Streets.mn

State DOT director Paul Trombino says Iowa has excess and unsustainable road capacity. Photo: Streets.mn

Marohn quotes from Trombino’s remarks:

I said the numbers before. 114,000 lane miles, 25,000 bridges, 4,000 miles of rail. I said this a lot in my conversation when we were talking about fuel tax increases. It’s not affordable. Nobody’s going to pay.

We are. We’re the ones. Look in the mirror. We’re not going to pay to rebuild that entire system.

And my personal belief is that the entire system is unneeded. And so the reality is, the system is going to shrink.

There’s nothing I have to do. Bridges close themselves. Roads deteriorate and go away. That’s what happens.

And reality is, for us, let’s not let the system degrade and then we’re left with sorta whatever’s left. Let’s try to make a conscious choice — it’s not going to be perfect, I would agree it’s going to be complex and messy — but let’s figure out which ones we really want to keep.

And quite honestly, it’s not everything that we have, which means some changes.

“This is a big deal,” says Marohn. “Most DOT directors understand that we’ve overbuilt, that there will never be the money to maintain everything they are asked to maintain. I’ve not heard another DOT chief admit this problem publicly. They need to.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Streets.mn examines how sprawl development cheapens land values, Mobilizing the Region reports on positive signs for transportation policy in Connecticut, and Biking Toronto celebrates news of a pending bike-share expansion.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Daily News Ready to Give Up on Right of Way Law; Paul Steely White Shows It’s Working (1, 2)
  • Here’s Some Responsible Coverage of a Fatal Right of Way Crash Investigation (News)
  • Mary Pannese, 81, Killed in Car After Husband Crashes Into S.I. Fence (Advance, News, WNBC)
  • Citi Bike Wants to Woo More Female Riders (NYT)
  • Off-Duty Subway Operator Arrested for Drunk Driving and Speeding on Gowanus Expwy (News)
  • East Midtown Steering Committee Proposes Developers Get Density for Transit Upgrades (Crain’s)
  • NYPD Arrest Man for Intentionally Ramming ATV Into Police Officer in Hunts Point (Post, News)
  • Denis Hamill: NYPD’s Traffic Enforcement “Really a Secret Tax on Drivers” (News)
  • AMNY Admonishes Cyclists to Slow Down and Pedal Safely
  • UWS Street Safety Advocate Ken Coughlin Speaks With DNA
  • New York Housing Conference Shows How Less Parking Means More Affordable Housing (City Limits)
  • Eric Adams Pushes for Free Transfer Between 3 and L Trains in East New York (News)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Prospect Park’s West Drive Is Now Permanently Car-Free

Photo: Ben Fried

Photo: Ben Fried

A week after Central Park went mostly car-free, today marked the beginning of the permanent car-free zone on the west side of Prospect Park [PDF].

Leading up to today, the traffic shortcuts through Prospect Park had been gradually winnowed down to one lane on the west side during the evening rush and one lane on the east side during the morning rush, thanks to persistent advocacy. Campaigns in 2008 and 2002 each collected 10,000 signatures in support of a car-free park.

Before the de Blasio administration made the West Drive car-free, the most recent victory was a 2012 road diet that expanded space for pedestrians and cyclists on the park loop. Before that, the city closed the 3rd Street entrance to cars in 2009.

The job’s still not done as long as the park’s East Drive, which is closer to the less affluent neighborhoods on the east side of the park, continues to be a shortcut for car commuters on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. DOT says it is concerned that higher traffic volumes on the East Drive would lead to congestion in nearby neighborhoods if the park were made completely car-free.

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who marked the occasion this morning by walking her two beagles to a press conference in the park, said a permanently car-free East Drive could happen “at some point in the coming years.”

“Car traffic has continued to go down,” she told WNYC. “So we’ve done it in stages and we may be back again for the final phase.”

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MTA Report on Fatal Bus Crash Doesn’t Say What the Post Says It Does

crash_diagram

The MTA’s diagram of the crash that killed John Lavery last October.

The Post ran a story today blaming the death of 64-year-old John Lavery in the Bronx last October on a broken street light, not the bus driver who struck him. But the very report cited by the Post, obtained by Streetsblog [PDF], reveals that the MTA’s internal investigation ruled the collision was preventable, and that driver Theresa Gallagher failed to take the turn at a safe speed, as drivers are trained to.

Gallagher was the first MTA bus driver charged under the city’s Right of Way Law, which made it a misdemeanor to injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way. The Post’s Daniel Prendergast, citing “a damning MTA report,” writes that a “broken street lamp made it impossible for the veteran driver to see the man, who was on methadone at the time, the document shows.”

While that explanation provides convenient fodder for TWU Local 100’s campaign to exempt bus drivers from the law, it’s not what the MTA report says.

At about 1:30 a.m. on October 3, Lavery, walking with a cane, was crossing East 147th Street with the signal “in close proximity to the crosswalk” when he was struck by the “left front section” of the bus.

MTA bus drivers are instructed to take turns at no more than 5 mph and to scan intersections for pedestrians. While New York City Transit’s Office of System Safety did find that a broken street light reduced visibility at the intersection where Lavery was killed, the investigation also determined that Gallagher took the turn at 11-15 mph — more than twice as fast as bus drivers are supposed to even when visibility is ideal:

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Scott Walker’s Own Party Rejects His Milwaukee Highway Boondoggle

Among other excellent decisions, the Joint Finance Committee decided to kill funding for I-94 expansion between the Zoo and Marquette Interchanges. Photo: ##http://wuwm.com/post/zoo-interchange-reconstruction-triggers-more-closures-some-openings##WISDOT via WUWM##

Among other excellent decisions, the Joint Finance Committee wants to kill funding for the I-94 expansion between the Zoo and Marquette Interchanges. Photo: WISDOT via WUWM

Governor Scott Walker might be too busy campaigning for president to care, but the Wisconsin legislature handed him a rebuke last week, rejecting his plans for debt-fueled highway expansion.

The Republican-controlled legislature’s Joint Finance Committee trimmed about 35 percent off Walker’s proposed $1.3 billion in borrowing for highways. If approved by the Assembly and Senate — a big if — the committee’s budget proposal could spell the end for Walker’s plans to widen a section of I-94 in Milwaukee.

The finance committee also ordered an audit of the state DOT’s spending. Advocates from WISPIRG, Sierra Club, and 1000 Friends of Wisconsin want state officials to hold off on beginning construction on any new highway expansion projects until the audit is completed.

“We just can’t afford to keep repeating the mistakes that got us into this year’s budget mess,” said WISPIRG Director Peter Skopec in a statement. “For years, we’ve wasted billions of dollars on highway expansions based on inflated traffic forecasts, and our existing infrastructure has been left to crumble as a result. This audit brings unprecedented and much-needed scrutiny to WisDOT’s highway expansion plans and the methods used to justify billion-dollar projects.”

The committee picked one highway project to axe: the $850 million expansion of I-94 between the Zoo and Marquette Interchanges, where traffic has actually been declining. The state had previously decided in February to scrap plans to double-deck that segment, opting for a different expansion method.

Read more…

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: Amsterdam Ave Bikeway, Broadway Road Diet

Two redesigns of major Manhattan avenues are on community board agendas this week. Tomorrow, a resolution calling on DOT to immediately install a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue goes before Manhattan Community Board 7 (the transportation committee voted for it last month). Bike-share is coming to the neighborhood soon, and Amsterdam could fill a void as its first northbound protected bike route.

Then on Thursday, the Manhattan Community Board 9 transportation committee will consider DOT’s plan to improve safety on Broadway by enlarging pedestrian medians at intersections and reducing the number of car lanes in each direction from three to two. CB 9 has stonewalled a road diet on nearby Riverside Drive.

Here are the week’s highlights — check the Streetsblog calendar for the full slate of events:

  • Tuesday: Manhattan Community Board 7 is set to vote on a resolution asking DOT to immediately implement a complete streets redesign for Amsterdam Avenue. The CB 7 transportation committee will meet at 6 p.m., followed by the full board at 6:30 p.m.
  • Also Tuesday: The Queens Community Board 7 transit committee discusses plans for Select Bus Service on the Q44 between Flushing and Jamaica. 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday: The Tribeca Trust has requested a temporary plaza on West Broadway between Franklin and Leonard. The Manhattan Community Board 1 Tribeca committee takes up the idea at 6 p.m.
  • Thursday: DOT hosts a follow-up meeting with Brooklyn Community Board 15 about transportation issues in Gerritsen Beach. The meeting will be at Brooklyn Borough Hall. 1 p.m.
  • Also Thursday: The Manhattan Community Board 9 transportation committee discusses DOT’s proposed redesign of Broadway from 135th Street to 153rd Street. The plan includes a road diet and larger pedestrian medians. 6:30 p.m.

Keep an eye on the calendar for updated listings. Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.

StreetFilms
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It’s Smart to Be Dense

As the world’s population continues to urbanize, our cities have two options for growth: densify or sprawl. To accommodate a more populous and more prosperous world, the spread-out, car-dependent model of the 20th century must change. In this video, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and Streetfilms team up to bring you the most important reasons for building dense.

If you like this one, don’t miss our other productions with ITDP:

Streetsblog.net
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When Transit Goes Down at the Polls, Here’s Some Advice on How to Regroup

Last week, voters in the Vancouver region rejected a half-cent sales tax to pay for a package of transit infrastructure and service expansions necessary to handle growing demand. Even in the city of Vancouver, the measure fell shy of a majority. Polling revealed that most “No” voters didn’t trust the regional transit agency, TransLink, to make good use of the additional revenue.

Vancouver won’t be getting more SkyTrain service after a regional referendum on a sales tax to support transit garnered less than 40 percent of the vote. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In a postmortem, Jarrett Walker at Human Transit says public perception of TransLink is at odds with its cost-effective performance. Regional transit agencies, he writes, are generally in a difficult political position, susceptible to blame-shifting from elected leaders with more power than the agency wields itself.

Here’s his advice about how to move past a stinging rejection like Vancouver’s referendum (the full post is definitely worth your time):

Hating your transit agency is easy and fun. You don’t have to understand your regional politics, in which the real power to fix transit is usually not held by the transit agency. You can also have the thrill of blowing up a big institutional edifice, as Metro Vancouver voters may now have done.

But a lot that’s good will also be destroyed. In Metro Vancouver, amid all the recriminations, TransLink has lost the credibility it needs to lead reality-based conversations about transit. Maybe some other agency will step into that role. (Indeed, core cities for whom transit is an existential issue must develop that capability.) Or maybe there will just be many more years of blame shifting among the elected officials who really control transit in the region.

Read more…