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Better Protection Slated for Vernon Boulevard Bike Lane, Tweets DOT

On Tuesday, Clarence tweeted several photos of cars, including what looked like out-of-service cabs, parked in the Vernon Boulevard bikeway. “Vernon Boulevard needs barrier protection,” Clarence wrote. “This is ridiculous!”

A few hours later, DOT responded with a tweet that said there is “community support” to replace flex posts with Jersey barriers to keep drivers out, and that DOT is “currently scheduling installation.”

This is great news for people who ride on Vernon Boulevard and will pair nicely with the widened Pulaski Bridge bike path, scheduled for completion later this year.

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De Blasio Deputy Anthony Shorris Ducks Questions on MTA Funding

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s One New York plan, focused on the intersection of income inequality and the environment, doesn’t hesitate to make big recommendations to the MTA, like a new subway line. To pay for those plans, de Blasio will need Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to take action, but the mayor isn’t putting forward his own ideas about how to fund the MTA.

First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris. Photo: Wikipedia

While the Move NY toll reform plan aligns with the mayor’s environmental and equity goals, de Blasio has avoided taking a position on it. Today, his top deputy wouldn’t elaborate on City Hall’s position except to note that the mayor is “leading the fight” to pass a federal transportation bill.

After his morning keynote at the annual Regional Plan Association assembly at the Waldorf-Astoria, First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris continued the administration’s waltz around the Move NY Fair Plan during a press scrum.

“Look, I think one thing we’ve said from the beginning is the full funding of the MTA capital program is essential to the city, to this mayor’s agenda, and to the whole One New York plan, and even more broadly, to the whole region,” Shorris said. “Everybody’s going to have to figure out how to come together and do that. That’s the city, the state, the MTA itself.”

Then Shorris shifted to Congress.

“It’s also very important that the transportation bill in Washington be passed. There’s actually a critical federal component,” Shorris said.

I asked if that meant the city wouldn’t talk about its transit funding preferences until a new transportation bill passes Congress. “No, it means that we all, though, have to fight to get that transportation bill funded,” Shorris replied, “and the mayor’s leading that fight right now.”

When it comes to funding the MTA, however, federal policy is the wrong place to focus. With power in Washington split between the Obama White House and the GOP Congress, federal transit funding isn’t about to change much. The arena where the mayor has allies and can actually make a difference is Albany.

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Vision Zero Progress Report Fails to Measure Impact of Vision Zero Policies

Earlier this week, City Hall released an update on the first year of Vision Zero [PDF]. With 90 pages of charts, stats, maps, and graphs, it’s impressively long. But how well does it measure the impact of the city’s street safety policies?

There were a slate of changes to speed limits and traffic enforcement priorities in 2014, and it looks like these policies had an effect: Pedestrian fatalities reached an historic low last year. There should be enough data by now to draw some conclusions about what’s working and what’s not — conclusions that can help guide Vision Zero policy going forward. But the report is mostly an exercise in checking off boxes.

Shouldn't New York City's analysis of Vision Zero be more than just a checklist?

New York City’s analysis of Vision Zero policies should be more than just a checklist. Image: Mayor’s Office [PDF]

Here are five key questions left unanswered by the report:

  • Do Arterial Slow Zones work? Before securing state approval to lower NYC’s default speed limit, the city established 27 “Arterial Slow Zones” — major corridors that received 25 mph speed limits and focused enforcement from NYPD. Some of these changes have been in place for a year, but we still don’t know the effect on key metrics like injury rates, crash severity, and the prevalence of speeding.
  • How are speed cams affecting crashes and injuries? There are 63 school zone speed cameras on the ground right now, according to DOT, with 42 at fixed locations and 21 mobile units. The full 140 allowed by Albany will be installed by the end of this year. Studies from other cities have proven that speed cams work to slow drivers and reduce crashes, so what is the effect in New York City, where state legislation limits where and when cameras can operate? The Vision Zero update notes that speeding has declined 59 percent at 19 camera locations but provides no analysis of the impact on crashes or injuries. In February, WNYC put together a deeper look at the effect of speed cams than the city’s own report.
  • Are TLC-licensed drivers causing fewer injuries and deaths? The report says the de Blasio administration will seek a state law requiring seat belt use for front-seat passengers and children in taxis, but it doesn’t have much data about actual taxi crashes. The Taxi and Limousine Commission fact book once included an entire section on crashes, analyzing everything from seatbelt use to the number of pedestrians and cyclists injured. An update more than a year ago neglected to mention crash data, and the Vision Zero update doesn’t talk about the safety record of TLC-licensed drivers either.
  • What about the rest of the city fleet? The Department of Citywide Administrative Services has a nifty new database tracking crashes across the city fleet, but that information is missing in the Vision Zero update. Has the city improved the safety record of its fleet under Vision Zero? We don’t know, and this latest report didn’t tell us.
  • Where is NYPD concentrating its enforcement? Enforcement of dangerous violations like failure to yield and speeding increased last year. But are those tickets going to drivers at dangerous locations, and can we discern the impact of NYPD enforcement on crash and injury rates? There’s no way to tell, because the city doesn’t publish geographic data on traffic enforcement more detailed than the the precinct level.

There is some new information in the Vision Zero update, though it’s more like factoids than analysis:

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Texas DOT Is Planning to Tear Down a Highway — Seriously

The Pierce Elevated Freeway, near downtown Houston, has been proposed for removal. Photo: TexasFreeway.com

The Pierce Elevated Freeway, near downtown Houston, has been proposed for removal by Texas DOT. Photo: TexasFreeway.com

This may be the best evidence yet that attitudes about transportation are beginning to change in Texas’s major cities. As part of a plan to redesign and reroute Interstate 45 in the heart of Houston, TxDOT — that’s right, the Texas Department of Transportation — is proposing to tear down a short segment of the Pierce Elevated Freeway near downtown.

Over in Dallas, Patrick Kennedy at Street Smart is feeling a bit jealous. He thinks there’s a lot to like about this plan:

Looking at the details, the removed Pierce Elevated doesn’t unlock a lot of land, but it does reposition a TON of underdeveloped sites along both sides of it. It doesn’t do a lot to reconnect the grid underneath it where the grid is already well connected between downtown and Midtown. Everything between is an absolute gold mine for infill where they can harnass their growth and focus it inward towards a more sustainable future.

Along the west side of town, they’re boulevarding, parkway-ing if  you will, the segment between the Buffalo Bayou and downtown. This will probably have a more significant impact from a grid interconnectivity standpoint.

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StreetFilms
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Bike-Share Comes to Philly With the Launch of Indego

On Thursday, Philadelphia’s long wait for a bike-share system came to an end with the launch of the 60-station, 600-bike Indego system, which is set to expand in the near future. At the kickoff, volunteers and officials — including Mayor Michael Nutter — rode about half of those bikes to their docking stations.

I got to talk to most of the movers and shakers who helped come to fruition. Even more fun, I got to ride with Mayor Nutter’s platoon of Indego-ers to a station near City Hall.

The pricing system of Indego is what sets it apart. Instead of a yearly fee with trips capped at 30 or 45 minutes before extra fees kick in, which is the most popular subscription option offered by most other systems, Indego is going with a fee of $15 per month for unlimited one-hour per trips. This allows people to avoid the larger upfront cost of an annual fee, and subscribers who, say, only want to ride during warmer weather can also save some money. Another option is IndegoFlex, which provides a year of access to the system for a base fee of $10, with a per-trip fee of $4 for rides up to one hour long.

Indego is the largest bike-share system in the country that uses BCycle bikes and stations. It’s going to be a great addition to Philly, which has the largest bike commute mode share of any American city with more than 1 million people.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Daily News Dings de Blasio for Professed Ignorance of Move NY Toll Reform Plan
  • Car-Free Streets Critic Susan Dominus Filed a Pretty Good NYT Magazine Vision Zero Piece
  • Ydanis Rodriguez Wants Medallion Commission and City-Funded “Restitution” for Owners (Capital, Post)
  • Related: Schneiderman Sues Fleet Mogul Evgeny Friedman for Cheating Drivers (Crain’s)
  • Stringer Audit Finds MTA Express Buses Are Bogged Down in Traffic (AdvanceCapital)
  • Queens CB 1 Cranks Vinicio Donato and Lucille Hartmann Step Down After 40+ Years (QChron)
  • Assembly Rep Aravella Simotas Urges DOT to Get Moving on GCP/Astoria Blvd. Intersection Fixes (TL)
  • Leroy Comrie Introduces Bill to Give Albany Control Over MTA Ad Content (QChron)
  • Robert Caro Recounts the Moment Robert Moses Lost His Mojo (NYT)
  • The Times Discovers Cargo Bikes, and a Mom Concedes to the Thrill of Walking

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Bike Lanes on Track for Staten Island’s Clove Road Early This Summer

The project has three segments: sharrows north of Forest Avenue, narrowed car lanes to make room for bike lanes south of Broadway, and a road diet plus bike lanes in the middle. Map: DOT [PDF]

The project has three segments: sharrows north of Forest Avenue, narrowed car lanes to make room for bike lanes south of Broadway, and a road diet plus bike lanes in the middle. Map: DOT [PDF]

Clove Road is set to get bike lanes this summer, including a half-mile road diet, nearly two years after Staten Island Community Board 1 asked DOT for the street safety fixes.

Running past the Staten Island Zoo on the way from Wagner College to Port Richmond, Clove Road is a key diagonal connection across North Shore neighborhoods. The project covers 2.3 miles, from Richmond Terrace to Howard Avenue, just north of the Staten Island Expressway.

With 7.3 traffic deaths or serious injuries each year per mile, this section of Clove Road is a “high-crash corridor,” according to DOT [PDF].

The northernmost section, between Richmond Terrace and Forest Avenue, will get sharrows. On the southernmost section, from Broadway to Howard Avenue, existing car lanes will be narrowed to make room for five-foot, painted bike lanes on each side of the four-lane road.

For the half-mile in between, which runs from Forest Avenue to Broadway near the Staten Island Zoo, DOT is proposing a road diet. The street will be converted from four lanes in each direction to two, with a striped center median and turn lane. Painted bike lanes will be added in both directions.

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Thursday Job Market

Looking to hire a smart, qualified person for a position in transportation planning, engineering, IT, or advocacy? Post a listing on the Streetsblog Jobs Board and reach our national audience of dedicated readers.

Looking for a job? Here are the current listings:

Policy and Research Manager, Transportation Alternatives, NYC
Transportation Alternatives is at the forefront of Vision Zero, an unparalleled effort to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries in the city of New York. The Policy and Research Manager plays a critical role in this effort by providing meaningful policy analysis, research, public communications and advocacy. Specifically, the Policy and Research Manager oversees TA’s data analysis and research agenda to put forth compelling statistics and best practices to support our campaigns for safer walking and biking and stronger traffic enforcement. This position also works with government agencies to develop and implement smart policy solutions.

Bike Valet, Transportation Alternatives, NYC
We are seeking energetic, responsible, and personable individuals to work as part of our Bike Valet team. You will work directly with the Bike Valet Team Leader and the Business Engagement Coordinator to run one of the most exciting programs in NYC and help make some of the city’s most beloved events even better by providing Bike Valet services to patrons.

Assistant/Associate Transit Management Analyst — Transit Planning, MTA New York City Transit, NYC
MTA New York City Transit is the largest public transportation agency in North America and one of the largest in the world, with 24/7 bus and subway service and an average daily ridership of more than 7 million customers. The agency is creating a small team which will be accountable to the President and responsible for developing strategies for improved transit service through the adaptive use of operating procedural changes supported by targeted investment and new technologies.

Associate Planner, City of Burbank, Burbank, California
The City of Burbank, a thriving community in southern California’s world-class media center, is a great place to live and an even better place to work. We currently have an outstanding opportunity available for a qualified professional to perform professional and technical work in advance and/or current planning.

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Those Roads Won’t Pay for Themselves

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This week we’re joined by Kevin DeGood of the Center for American Progress, who along with Andrew Schwartz recently wrote a report called Advancing a Multimodal Transportation System by Eliminating Funding Restrictions. Sound too wonky? I call it the “Roads Don’t Pay for Themselves Report.”

When approximately 5.5 percent of roads carry 55 percent of the traffic, you would expect them to support themselves. But even with conservative accounting, this report shows that’s just not true, especially in urban areas with larger maintenance costs.

We also get into the concept of “user fees,” national transportation politics, and the prospect of “devolving” transportation funding to the states, which is a hot topic these days.

Take a listen to this week’s pod and please think multi-modally! And if you enjoy the show, give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, where you can subscribe to get each week’s episode automatically.

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A Bus Design Flaw Is No Reason to Gut the Right of Way Law

As part of its campaign to make it legal for bus drivers to injure and kill people, the Transport Workers Union says flawed bus design is to blame for bus drivers hitting pedestrians while turning.

Ella Bandes was killed by a bus driver turning right in 2013.

According to WABC, the TWU claims “half of all recent bus accidents” in NYC and nationwide occurred because drivers were prevented from seeing pedestrians while turning left. TWU and the Amalgamated Transit Union say the issue is that driver visibility is obstructed by the left-hand windshield pillar and the driver’s side rear view mirror.

“There’s a blind spot that’s 14 inches wide that obscures not only one pedestrian but as many as 15,” ATU International President Larry Hanley told WCBS. The unions say “newly-designed” buses are the problem.

Of the nine crashes in 2014 where an MTA bus driver killed a pedestrian, three drivers were reportedly turning left and five were turning right. I looked back through media reports on those eight crashes. Most didn’t have photos from the scene, but of the three that did, each bus was a different model.

In a statement, the MTA said bus drivers are trained to see pedestrians by “leaning into and out of their mirrors while seated to ensure that their line of sight is not obstructed.”

Mayor de Blasio said Wednesday that if it poses a threat to safety, bus design should be looked at. “But in the here and now,” de Blasio said, “our message to everyone in this city, whether they work for the city, or they work for the MTA, or a private individual, is you have to drive safely. You have to yield to pedestrians. You have to respect that there’s new laws now that clearly penalize those who do not yield to pedestrians.”

If it turns out that MTA buses were built in such a way that endangers people, by all means, fix the buses. But as the mayor indicated, everyone who drives in NYC must yield to people walking. A bus design flaw is no reason to gut the Right of Way Law.