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Today’s Headlines

  • DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala Pleads “Not Guilty” After Getting Speeding Ticket (TU)
  • More Coverage of Woman Killed at Atlantic and Flatbush (DNA, WCBS, Bklyn Paper, Gothamist)
  • Nearby: Ratner’s Got an Arena in Brooklyn to Sell You (WSJ)
  • NIMBYs: Rail and Parks Are for Other People, Leave Our Section of QueensWay Alone (NY City Lens)
  • Christie’s New DOT Chief Calls for New Revenue, New Hudson River Tunnel (NJ Spotlight)
  • New Development on Queens Boulevard: Another Reason for a Safer Street Design (YIMBY)
  • City Officially Kicks Off Review Process for Rezoning, Transit Upgrades Near Grand Central (CapNY)
  • More TLC-Licensed Drivers Than Ever, But Apps and Boro Taxis Put Squeeze on Yellow Cabs (WABC)
  • Biden Heaps Praise on Cuomo’s Transpo Policies, Compares Him to Abraham Lincoln (NYTCapNY)
  • Stumble Over Your Words? It’s Okay, Joe Biden – We’ve All Done It (Post)
  • A Look Back at the Traffic Violence “Death-O-Meter” in Grand Army Plaza (AMNY)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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De Blasio Signs Transit Benefit Bill, Says 25 MPH Limit Will Save Lives

This afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation requiring companies with 20 or more full-time employees in New York City to offer the federal transit tax benefit to their workers. The measure, which takes effect in 2016, is expected to save employers and workers millions of dollars each year. He also held a hearing on New York City’s new default speed limit of 25 mph, which goes into effect November 7. The mayor will hold a formal bill signing before that date.

Mayor de Blasio speaks at today's bill signing. Photo: NYC Mayor's Office/YouTube

Mayor de Blasio speaks at today’s bill signing. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office/YouTube

“Reducing speed is a key part of Vision Zero,” de Blasio said, thanking advocates and families of traffic violence victims for their efforts to get the speed limit bill through Albany. He noted that traffic fatalities are down more than 8 percent since last year, and pedestrian deaths have fallen 23 percent. “That’s before we put the default speed limit into place. The 25 mph speed limit will make our streets even safer,” he said. “Speeding is fundamentally dangerous and can, in fact, be deadly.”

Council Member David Greenfield proposed lower speed limit legislation in the City Council in 2013. “I don’t like to call them accidents, because when someone speeds and gets into what people call an ‘accident,’ it wasn’t an accident,” Greenfield said at today’s hearing. “You shouldn’t have been speeding.”

At the hearing, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White urged de Blasio to ensure that the 200,000 drivers under city purview, either as municipal employees or licensed livery drivers, set the tone on the city’s streets by obeying the new 25 mph speed limit. He also made the case for capital funding for reconstruction of major arterial streets, where half of all traffic fatalities occur in New York.

The mayor will sign the speed limit bill before it takes effect November 7, a tactic City Hall has used before to generate more media coverage for Vision Zero bills.

The transit benefit bill requires companies with 20 or more full-time staff in New York City to allow employees to pay for transit commuting costs using pre-tax income. Someone making an average NYC wage who purchases a monthly unlimited MetroCard could save $443 annually, according to Riders Alliance, while the average employer would save $103 per employee per year [PDF].

By saving commuters money, tax-free transit helps boost ridership. A 2004 survey of NYC employers by Transit Center, which administered transit benefits on behalf of employers, found a 16 percent increase in transit ridership among employees after companies started offering transit benefits [PDF].

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Woman Struck by Truck Driver on Flatbush at Atlantic “Likely to Die”

Photos: Ian Dutton

Photos: Ian Dutton

A truck driver seriously injured a pedestrian at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues this afternoon, near the location where a truck driver killed a senior last year. NYPD says the victim is not likely to survive.

The crash occurred around 12:36 p.m. and the victim was declared “likely to die,” according to NYPD and FDNY. DNAinfo reports that the victim was “an elderly woman”:

The woman was walking southbound down the double yellow lines on Flatbush Avenue when she was struck at the busy intersection of Atlantic Avenue near the Barclays Center just after 12:20 p.m., fire officials said.

The victim was rushed to Brooklyn Hospital in cardiac arrest. Authorities said her condition is dire.

Crosswalks at this intersection are extremely long and indirect. Sheer self-preservation might lead someone to walk outside the crosswalk in order to cross the street faster.

Photos of the scene taken by Streetsblog reader Ian Dutton show a dump truck sitting on Flatbush in front of Atlantic Terminal, a few feet past the crosswalk on the north side of the Atlantic intersection. The truck was cordoned by police tape and NYPD investigators were on the scene.

In April 2013, a semi truck driver fatally struck 83-year-old Irvin Gitlitz on Flatbush at Fourth Avenue, a few yards from the site of today’s crash.

This crash occurred in the 78th Precinct. We’ll post more information as it becomes available.

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TransAlt Volunteers Keep Momentum Going for Midtown Complete Streets

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Tom Devito of Transportation Alternatives addresses the crowd Sunday with an assist from volunteer Albert Ahronheim. Photo: Susi Wunsch

Despite being flat, Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue have long been an uphill battle — for safe biking and walking that is. In 1980, in a decision well ahead of the times, Mayor Ed Koch had protected bike lanes installed on these heavily trafficked corridors, only to wipe away that groundbreaking work by removing the concrete barriers one month later. A few remnants of the original bike lanes still exist, but a lasting redesign of these two key Midtown avenues has seemed out of reach – until now.

In 2011, Eric Stern, a member of the Manhattan Community Board 5 transportation committee, raised the prospect of extending the current Sixth Avenue painted bike lane up to Central Park, to no avail at first. Fortunately, the idea of improving avenues in the heart of Midtown had legs.

Transportation Alternatives has run with the idea, petitioning for Fifth and Sixth Avenues that work better for walking, biking, and transit for the last few years. With more than 15,000 signatures amassed in support of a redesign, TA brought a proposal back to the community boards for the city to study turning Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue into complete streets.

The resolution has passed unanimously through every community board from Central Park to Canal Street, and every City Council member who represents the area has signed on too.

The Department of Transportation is now working on a feasibility study to determine the effect of altering these major city arteries. In an effort keep the momentum going, TA hosted a Shop/Bike/Walk day this weekend to remind DOT how important this project is to people who walk and bike on these streets and the people who run businesses in this part of town.

On Sunday, despite a cold spell that swept through the city, more than 60 people gathered to celebrate and visit a few of the 150 businesses that support the Fifth and Sixth Avenue Complete Streets campaign.

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: Join Streetsblog and Streetfilms for The Streets Ball

The annual benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms is Thursday — just three days away. Space is limited, so to guarantee your spot(s), buy your tickets by Wednesday at midnight. Join us at the Invisible Dog on Bergen Street as we honor the accomplishments of former NYC DOT policy director Jon Orcutt and Families For Safe Streets.

Before the benefit comes around, there are plenty of chances to speak up for better walking, biking and transit. Here are the highlights. Check the Streetsblog calendar for the full slate of events:

  • Monday: The Brooklyn community boards spanning East New York  and Brownsville will both be talking about biking and walking improvements tonight. CB 5 will consider safety improvements on Pennsylvania Avenue, expansion of the East New York bike network, and a Neighborhood Slow Zone. Adjacent CB 16 will take up bike corrals and street seats. Both meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday: Join Riders Alliance, Council Member Donovan Richards, and other elected officials and advocates to fight for Bus Rapid Transit in Queens on the steps of City Hall. 10 a.m.
  • Also Tuesday: More Brooklyn community board action… At 6 p.m., the CB 2 transportation committee will consider, among other items, PARK Smart reforms for Myrtle Avenue. At 6:30 p.m., CB 7′s Vision Zero task force turns its attention to Fifth Avenue and Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park. And at 7 p.m., the CB 9 transportation committee will consider a new bike lane for Franklin Avenue from Atlantic Avenue to Empire Boulevard, as well as speed humps in the Crown Heights Neighborhood Slow Zone.
  • Wednesday: Council Member Ben Kallos is hosting a forum with NYPD to discuss enforcement of bike laws on the Upper East Side. 6 p.m.
  • Also Wednesday: DOT continues its second round of public workshops on the Jamaica Bay Greenway with an event for residents of Marine Park, Mill Basin, and Sheepshead Bay. 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday: Join Streetsblog and Streetfilms as we celebrate the livable streets successes of 2014 at The Streets Ball, starting at 7 p.m. Buy your tickets today!

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

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NYPD: Drivers Injured 1,213 Pedestrians and Cyclists in August, and Killed 14

Image: NYPD

Image: NYPD

Twenty-two people died in New York City traffic in August, and 4,435 were injured, according to the monthly NYPD crash data report [PDF].

As of the end of August, 94 pedestrians and cyclists were reported killed by city motorists this year, and 9,593 injured, compared to 103 deaths and 10,336 injuries for the same period in 2013.

Citywide, at least 10 pedestrians and four cyclists were fatally struck by drivers: two pedestrians and one cyclist in Manhattan; one pedestrian in the Bronx; two pedestrians and one cyclist in Brooklyn; and five pedestrians and two cyclists in Queens. Among the victims were Karol Grzegorczyk, Jerrison Garcia, Shu Fan Huang, Menachem Galapo, and Silvia Gallo.

Motorists killed at least five pedestrians and three cyclists whose names were not immediately disclosed by NYPD, or whose deaths were not covered in the press. Most every month, there are pedestrian and cyclist deaths that go unreported other than the scant details provided weeks later in the NYPD dataset, which lists only the intersection closest to the crash and the victim’s mode of travel. These crashes are enumerated by WNYC on its “Mean Streets” page.

Motorists killed at least two seniors in August: Shu Fan Huang, 82, and an unnamed 79-year-old pedestrian in Queens.

Across the city, 722 pedestrians and 491 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of the fatal crashes reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, one motorist was known to have been charged for causing a death. Cab driver MD Hossain was charged under Section 19-190, the new law that makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to harm pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way, for the death of Silvia Gallo. Nojeem Odunfa was cited for failure to exercise due care and charged with unlicensed driving following the crash that killed Jerrison Garcia. Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

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New Jersey’s Response to Suicide Attempts: Close Bridge to Pedestrians

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Without access to the Route 35 Victory Bridge, the path between Perth Amboy and Sayreville gets a whole lot longer. Via WalkBikeJersey/Google Maps

Today’s featured post from the Streetsblog Network is a case study in overreaction and unintended consequences.

John Boyle at WalkBikeJersey reports that after a suicide and another attempt on the Route 35 Victory Bridge, officials in New Jersey want to sever this important walking and biking link entirely:

On September 20th the body of 16 year old Giancarlo Taveras was recovered from the Raritan River after he jumped off the Route 35 Victory Bridge. The death of the teenager drew an outpouring of grief from the Perth Amboy community. As a result the annual suicide awareness walk over the bridge included more than 500 participants on September 28th. Then on September 29th a 19 year old miraculously survived his suicide attempt with a broken leg. That chain of events along, with pressure from the mayor of Perth Amboy finally spurred NJDOT to do something about the issue. Their solution — set up barricades and close the bridge to bicyclists and pedestrians. Along with a vague promise to put up a fence for the walkway at some point in the future.

The bridge closure severs the only pedestrian and bicycle access between Perth Amboy and Sayreville. A 2 mile bike ride over the bridge is now a 23 mile detour via New Brunswick and a pedestrian’s only option is to use the infrequent bus service that crosses the bridge.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Using examples from the Netherlands, A View from the Cycle Path explains why the “there’s no room for bike lanes” argument doesn’t hold up. The Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog has good news: The toll road that regional transportation officials justified with absurd traffic projections will probably be shelved. And Urban Cincy reports that Denver is trying to tackle the food desert problem with healthy corner stores.

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Today’s Headlines

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Trottenberg: Federal Cuts Could Make MTA Funding Gap Even Bigger

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said today that the MTA is making “optimistic assumptions” about federal funding as it plans its next five-year capital program. The agency has identified only half the funds to cover the projected costs of the plan, which maintains, upgrades, and expands the transit system. At a panel with top-level city agency heads this morning, Trottenberg, who sits on the MTA board, warned about a possible cut in federal support, which would further widen the funding gap.

Are the doors closing on federal transit funding? Polly Trottenberg says Andrew Cuomo's MTA is too "optimistic" about the feds paying for the capital plan. Photo: MTA/Flickr

Polly Trottenberg said Andrew Cuomo’s MTA is too “optimistic” about the feds paying for the capital plan. Photo: MTA/Flickr

A drop in federal funds would supposedly increase pressure on Governor Andrew Cuomo, who controls the transit authority, to support new sources of revenue. So far, the governor has opposed any new revenue for the MTA.

This morning’s panel, which kicked off the annual meeting of the American Planning Association’s New York Metro chapter, featured Trottenberg, City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod, HPD Commissioner Vicki Been, and EDC President Kyle Kimball. It was moderated by Regional Plan Association Executive Director Tom Wright.

Trottenberg, who was a top U.S. DOT official before moving to NYC government, questioned the assumptions the MTA is making about the federal contribution to its capital program. “At the moment, they have half the funds in hand,” she said. “I’m not even quite sure that they have that money in hand, because it does make some optimistic assumptions perhaps about what’s happening at the federal level.”

After the event, I asked Trottenberg why she thought the MTA’s assumptions are optimistic. She took a long pause before answering. “There is a big question mark about what the federal funding picture is going to look like in the next few years, and understandably when you’re doing a capital budget you have to take a guess at a number,” she said. “But I think there’s a chance that the feds are going to be even less supportive on the transit front than they have been in the past.”

Many political analysts expect Republicans to gain control of the Senate in November, which could disrupt the current stasis in federal transportation policy.

While Trottenberg raised the possibility of a decrease in federal support for transit, the MTA expects those funds to remain steady [PDF].

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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 drove a truck through a bagel shop on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, injuring five people inside, including an infant. NYPD: "No criminality suspected." Image: CBS 2

A motorist drove a truck through a bagel shop on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, injuring five people inside, including an infant. NYPD: “No criminality suspected.” Image: CBS 2

Fatal Crashes (5 Killed Since Oct. 3; 160 This Year*)

  • Chinatown: Woman in Her 70s Struck on Canal; Driver “Didn’t See” Victim; No Charges (Streetsblog)
  • Dyker Heights: Cristina Alonso, 38, Struck by SUV Driver “Outside Crosswalk”; No Charges (Streetsblog)
  • Gowanus Expressway: Motorcyclist and Passenger Killed in Single-Vehicle Crash (News)
  • Kingsbridge Heights: Paul Rodriguez, 35, Killed in ATV Crash; Other ATV Driver Arrested (DNANews)

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