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Council Members Van Bramer, Levin Come Out on Top in TA Report Card

Which members of the City Council have made transportation a priority this term? A new report card from Transportation Alternatives [PDF] ranks each borough’s delegation on whether its members sponsored 15 key transportation bills and resolutions signed by the mayor in the first six months of 2014. It found that, while a majority of council members are working for street safety, a smaller number have carried the banner for livable streets by sponsoring multiple pieces of legislation so far this year.

"How'm I doin'?" A new report card from Transportation Alternatives shows which council members are leading on street safety. Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council

“How’m I doin’?” A new report card from Transportation Alternatives shows which council members are leading on street safety. Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council

Most of the legislation TA used as a measuring stick was passed in May as part of a package of Vision Zero bills and resolutions. The report also included a resolution urging the state to take action on the Sheridan Expressway plan, among other bills. The report card tallied co-sponsors, not just the primary sponsor who introduced the legislation.

The average council member signed on to just two of the 15 bills. ”A select group of Council members sponsored significantly more,” TA says in the report, with Jimmy Van Bramer, Steve Levin, Maria Del Carmen Arroyo, and Helen Rosenthal led the way, each signing on to ten or more bills.

While most boroughs had their leaders and laggards, council members Vincent Ignizio, Steven Matteo, and Debi Rose of Staten Island all ranked poorly. Rose sponsored only one of the 15 pieces of legislation, to mandate speedy repair of broken traffic signals. Matteo and Ignizio did not sponsor any of the bills or resolutions.

The report card is a useful, if limited, snapshot of City Council activity. It did not look at the votes of council members, which are typically lopsided once a bill makes it to the floor. It also did not consider whether, of all the bills a council member sponsors, he or she is more or less likely to sign on to a transportation bill when compared to bills on other issues. One more flaw: Despite being a big street safety supporter, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito ranks very low in the report card because, as the Council’s leader, she did not co-sponsor any of the 15 bills TA examined.

Council members do more than just sponsor legislation. They also make sure city agencies are putting street safety policies into action in their districts. Following up on last year’s campaign questionnaire, TA staff reached out to the 51 council members and their staff to learn what they’re doing. Council Members Inez Dickens, Andy King, Ruben Wills, Vincent Gentile, Jumaane Williams, and Mathieu Eugene did not respond to TA’s inquiries.

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Sunnyside Becomes a Bike-Friendly Business District

Transportation Alternatives has been working all across NYC to foster goodwill for bicycling in the business community. Recently, TA has begun to award Bike-Friendly Business District designations in neighborhoods where local merchants support bicycling and safer streets. The first one outside Manhattan is Sunnyside, Queens.

Come along on this group ride that toured six of Sunnyside’s 70 bike-friendly businesses, with a special guest appearance by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.

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TA Vision Zero Report: NYPD Traffic Enforcement Up, But Wildly Uneven

NYPD precincts that had the largest year-to-year increase in speeding enforcement are shaded green, with those that had the biggest decreases in red. Image: Transportation Alternatives

NYPD precincts that had the largest year-to-year increase in speeding enforcement are shaded green, with those that had the biggest decreases in red. Graphic: Transportation Alternatives

NYPD increased enforcement of dangerous traffic violations during the first six months of the city’s Vision Zero initiative, but enforcement varied drastically from precinct to precinct, with some issuing fewer summonses than last year.

In “Report Card: Six Months of Vision Zero Traffic Enforcement” [PDF], Transportation Alternatives analyzed NYPD summons data from January through June. TA found that, department-wide, speeding summonses increased 32 percent compared to the first six months of 2013, and tickets for failure to yield to pedestrians increased 153 percent.

Yet there is little consistency across precinct lines. For example, speeding enforcement almost doubled in Harlem’s 26th Precinct, but officers in the adjacent 30th Precinct, in Washington Heights, issued half as many speeding tickets as in 2013.

Along deadly Queens Boulevard, the 110th Precinct cited 860 drivers for failure to yield, while the neighboring 108th Precinct issued just 237 failure to yield summonses. TA writes:

The inconsistency is stark enough to undermine positive enforcement efforts…

In order to more effectively deter drivers from dangerous behavior, the NYPD must coordinate enforcement citywide so the likelihood of punishment for reckless driving is consistent no matter where a driver is in the city.

To achieve this, TA recommends NYPD create an executive officer for each borough command, who would “have sole responsibility for coordinating traffic operations”; educate officers on the life-saving impact of enforcement by hearing from traffic violence victims; and emphasize to officers the most dangerous traffic violations, while tracking those summonses at TrafficStat meetings.

One of the report’s great contributions is the presentation of precinct-by-precinct summons data, making it easy for people to see how traffic enforcement is changing in their neighborhood, and allowing them to compare enforcement where they live to other areas. This is the kind of thing NYPD should be posting online. Instead, the department only puts up the most recent month of summons data in PDF files, and no summons or crash data is posted on its precinct pages

More reports will follow: TA plans to release an analysis of the first 12 months of Vision Zero enforcement early next year.

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Tell Albany Where You’d Like to See Traffic Enforcement Cameras

With Mayor de Blasio looking to gain home rule over NYC’s red light and speed cameras as part of the Vision Zero Action Plan, Transportation Alternatives wants to take your requests for camera locations to Albany.

Here’s why local control is critical: Currently, Albany has limited NYC to a handful of speed cameras that can only be used during school hours and don’t ticket drivers unless they exceed the speed limit by 11 or more miles per hour. State law also limits speed camera placement to “a distance not to exceed 1,320 feet on a highway passing a school building, entrance or exit of a school abutting on the highway.” So rather than siting the cameras within a quarter-mile radius of a school, DOT can only put them on streets that go directly past schools. That means streets with dangerous speeding problems can’t get camera enforcement, hampering efforts to keep kids safe.

Though NYC has had red light cameras for two decades, it’s still considered a pilot program, and remains under the control of state lawmakers. The program is up for reauthorization this year, and there are two active bills that would expand its reach. Legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Carl Heastie and State Senator Tony Avella would increase the number of camera locations from the current 150 to 225 and 250, respectively. The program was last expanded in 2009.

Automated traffic enforcement is a proven life saver. Cameras are responsible for more than 95 percent of all red-light running summonses issued in NYC, according to TA, and serious injuries are down 56 percent at locations where red light cameras are installed.

To rally support for more traffic cameras, TA has posted a form for New Yorkers to list intersections “where red-light running or speeding is common.” Multiple forms may be filed to nominate multiple locations.

“As the automated enforcement debate heats up,” writes TA, “advocates will hand-deliver your red-light and speed camera requests to State Legislators.”

TA says the camera request form will be up for at least two months.

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Fixing Jay Street Starts With Cracking Down on Illegal Parking

Jay Street, the north-south route often overshadowed by nearby car-clogged Adams Street and Flatbush Avenue, is a major artery in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn, flush with pedestrians going to and from the subway and cyclists heading to the Manhattan Bridge. It’s also overrun with illegally-parked drivers, creating an obstacle course for anyone trying to navigate the street.

In addition to longer-term design changes, improving Jay Street could start with better enforcement against illegal parking in bus stops and bike lanes. Photo: Street Plans Collaborative

Improving Jay Street could start with more enforcement against illegal parking in bus stops and bike lanes. Photo: Street Plans Collaborative

After years of advocacy by its Brooklyn activist committee, Transportation Alternatives hosted a presentation [PDF] and forum last night to solicit ideas on how to improve the street through short-term action and long-term design fixes. The event attracted nearly 100 people and included representatives from DOT and NYPD. It was co-sponsored by a suite of local groups and officials, including the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, DUMBO BID, Forest City Ratner Companies, Community Board 2 and Council Member Stephen Levin.

“It’s been so long since it was really re-imagined. It’s outdated,” said Levin, who added that he was recently looking for a cause to champion during his second term. “Jay Street was the thoroughfare that jumped out to me as the street most in need of improvement.”

Forum leaders said cracking down on illegal parking emerged as a top issue in the five break-out groups. “The whole parking issue is really the crux of the problems on Jay Street,” said event organizer Eric McClure. The problem isn’t related to lack of available spaces nearby: The city halved off-street parking requirements in the area in part because there’s already a glut of available off-street spaces.

Dante Orsini, 67, lives in the Concord Village co-op, which sits between Jay and Adams Streets at Tillary Street and notified its residents about last night’s meeting. Orsini usually walks or drives along Jay Street and agreed that it needs fixes, especially south of Tillary. Double parking was his top complaint, he said before the meeting.

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Two Events This Weekend Build on Momentum for Safer Queens Streets

Northern Boulevard is one Queens street with plenty of room for pedestrian improvements. Photo: Brad Aaron

Northern Boulevard is one Queens street with plenty of room for pedestrian improvements. Photo: Brad Aaron

There are a couple of events focusing on safer streets in Queens this weekend.

Make Queens Safer will host a pedestrian safety town hall Sunday afternoon, with Congressman Joe Crowley and Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Representatives from the 108th and 115th Precincts were invited to the meeting, along with DOT and the Department of Education.

“Pedestrian safety remains a top priority for our communities,” said Crowley in an emailed statement. “In response to the recent uptick in pedestrian injuries and fatalities, we are holding this town hall to hear from Queens residents and get their input on how to make our streets safer. I am encouraged by the advocacy from Make Queens Safer and I thank the organization and Assemblyman Moya for working with us on this very important issue.”

Queens had the highest number of traffic deaths of the five boroughs in 2013 — 93 people killed, including 52 pedestrians — according to a Transportation Alternatives analysis of NYPD crash data. Six pedestrians died and 152 pedestrians and cyclists were injured last year on Queens Boulevard alone, TA said.

On Saturday, TA will be tabling as part of its ongoing “Zero on Queens Boulevard” campaign, which aims to bring protected bike lanes, pedestrian improvements and Select Bus Service to the 12-lane street.

Northern Boulevard has also been called a “boulevard of death.” Make Queens Safer and TA joined City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and state electeds Thursday to call on Mayor de Blasio to include Northern Boulevard in the first round of Vision Zero safety improvements. “Northern Boulevard stands out as one of the most egregious speedways in Queens,” said Celia Castellan, organizer of TA’s Queens Activist Committee. In addition to engineering improvements on wide boulevards in Queens, Castellan said, the city needs more traffic enforcement and an expanded NYPD Collision Investigation Squad.

Tomorrow’s TA event will be at Queens Boulevard and 71st Avenue, in Forest Hills, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday’s town hall will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Renaissance Charter School, 35-59 81st Street, in Jackson Heights.

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Van Bramer: Deadly Northern Boulevard Should Be a Vision Zero Priority

Advocates and fellow electeds with City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer on Northern Boulevard, in front of a bus stop where five people were injured by a curb-jumping driver this month. Photo: Brad Aaron

Advocates and fellow electeds with City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer on Northern Boulevard, in front of a bus stop where five people were injured by a curb-jumping driver this month. Photo: Brad Aaron

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, state electeds, and advocates gathered in Queens this morning to call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to make Northern Boulevard a Vision Zero priority by making hazardous intersections safer for pedestrians.

Standing next to a recently repaired bus shelter at Northern and 48th Street, which was nearly destroyed by a curb-jumping hit-and-run driver who seriously injured five people on February 1, Van Bramer also singled out dangerous crossings at Northern and 42nd Street, 43rd Street, 52nd Street, and 62nd Street, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed truck driver.

“We’re asking the administration today to include this series of intersections on Northern Boulevard so that no child is ever killed trying to cross the street to go to school, that no 7-year-old girl is ever sent to Elmhurst Hospital waiting for a bus, or excited to have just come out of Old Navy with some new clothes,” said Van Bramer, referring to Nahian and one of the victims struck last weekend.

De Blasio has said he wants to revamp at least 50 corridors and intersections a year, but has not yet announced where the first round of improvements will take place. Van Bramer said the administration has asked for recommendations from council members. De Blasio has also directed the city’s police, transportation, taxi, and health commissioners to produce a pedestrian safety plan by February 15. De Blasio’s Vision Zero launch event was held at PS 152, where Nahian attended school.

Northern Boulevard is a hostile, wide street lined with retail and grocery stores. Throughout today’s street safety presser, speakers were drowned out or interrupted by loud trucks and honking motorists, who whipped by just a few feet away. Van Bramer cited a report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign that found that five pedestrians were killed on the boulevard from 2010 to 2012. That number does not include Nahian or Olvin Jahir Figueroa, age 3, who was hit by an alleged drunk driver while crossing with his mother at Northern and Junction Boulevard in 2013. Since 2011, NYPD data reports put the number of pedestrians injured by drivers on Northern Boulevard in the hundreds.

“As we often say, ‘It is too late to wait,’” said Van Bramer. “The time to act is now.” Van Bramer said he has a ”pretty extensive list” of streets targeted for improvement in his district, and would make it available to the public soon. ”There are far more than 50 [intersections] that deserve this recognition,” he said.

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These Are NYC’s Most Dangerous Streets. Will de Blasio Fix Them?

The 2013 citywide data on traffic fatalities is out, and a pair of number-crunching reports from street safety advocates confirm what New Yorkers know in their gut: Wide, car-centric streets are the most dangerous places to walk in New York City. Now, the question is whether Mayor Bill de Blasio will use the release of his Vision Zero strategy later this month to put the full power of his administration behind fixing the city’s most dangerous streets.

It’s going to take a lot more than signs to drastically reduce the death toll on streets like Queens Boulevard.

“Arterial streets make up only 10 percent of our city’s road network, but these multi-lane speedways are the site of more than half of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said in a statement yesterday. TA crunched the recently-released 2013 numbers from NYPD, which showed that traffic violence claimed the lives of 286 New Yorkers and injured nearly 55,000. Pedestrians and cyclists accounted for 178 deaths and more than 16,000 injuries.

Last September, a TA poll [PDF] asked New Yorkers to identify the most dangerous street in their borough. The results aren’t surprising: Queens Boulevard, Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan were the top suggestions. Last year, on these five roads alone, drivers killed 18 people and injured 2,671, including 305 cyclists and 762 pedestrians.

These numbers are up compared to 2012, when this selection of streets saw 51 fewer injuries and three fewer deaths. Other areas with high numbers of fatalities and injuries according to TA’s analysis include 125th Street and 14th Street in Manhattan, Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, and Broadway in Williamsburg.

Also today, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign released its annual report on the region’s most dangerous roads for walking, compiling federal data on pedestrian fatalities from 2010 to 2012. On top of the dangerous streets identified by TA’s analysis, Tri-State’s report highlights even more streets in the city that need life-saving safety measures.

On the six most dangerous roads in Brooklyn, a total of 27 pedestrians died over three years. In Queens, drivers on the four most dangerous roads killed 23 pedestrians. In the Bronx, 16 pedestrians died on the four most dangerous roads. These streets often appear on Streetsblog as sites of motor vehicle mayhem: Woodhaven Boulevard, Northern Boulevard, Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Parkway, Grand Concourse. The list goes on.

City Hall is probably well aware of the danger these streets pose. In its pedestrian safety action plan from 2010, DOT analyzed injury and fatality data and also found that the highest rates of traffic violence are concentrated on these major roads.

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A Bronx Blast From the Past: Car-Free Grand Concourse Gets CB 4 Support


It’s been an on-again, off-again tradition for at least two decades: Turning the center lanes of the Grand Concourse into a car-free space for stress-free walking, biking and exercise. With an overwhelming vote of support from Community Board 4 earlier this week, it seems this tradition is poised for a return this summer.

In the early 1990s, then-Borough President Fernando Ferrer supported car-free Sundays on the Grand Concourse, giving Broxnites a chance to enjoy three-and-a-half miles of the borough’s main boulevard. The program, which started in July and August, was extended through November due to its popularity, but the Giuliani administration stopped the program in 1996. A limited version was brought back by Adolfo Carrión, Ferrer’s successor, in 2006, and was documented in this Streetfilm before again fading out a couple years later.

Now, the program is set for a return — if only for a few blocks and a few hours. On Tuesday, Bronx Community Board 4 lent its support with a 27-1 vote in favor of a proposal led by Transportation Alternatives, the Bronx Museum of Art, and a host of local health, cultural, neighborhood and business partners.

The groups are applying to DOT’s Weekend Walks program to open the center lanes of the Grand Concourse between 165th and 167th Streets to walking, biking and public events on three consecutive Sundays in August. Last year, there were three Weekend Walks events in the Bronx, but none on the Grand Concourse.

The event, called “Boogie on the Boulevard,” is scheduled for August 3, 10 and 17 — the same days that Summer Streets, the city’s marquee open streets event, has traditionally been held in Manhattan. ”It’s definitely playing on an extension of Summer Streets, coming up to serve folks in the Bronx,” TA field organizing manager Jill Guidera said. ”People from the Bronx go down to Park Avenue to enjoy their city in that way, and they were wondering where theirs was.”

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Manhattan Bus Routes Sweep the 2013 Pokey and Schleppie Awards

The Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives today handed out their annual awards for the slowest and least reliable NYC buses, with Manhattan routes taking the honors.

Photo: ##http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/12/01/manhattans-m50-crosstown-bus-wins-pokey-award/##WCBS##

Photo: WCBS

The M42 and the M50 tied for the 2013 Pokey award. Each crosstown bus was clocked at 3.4 miles per hour at noon on a weekday. That’s slower than a wooden row boat “in still water without wind,” according to a press release announcing the awards. In 2012, the M42 and M50 transported 14,829 and 3,383 riders, respectively, on an average weekday.

The B41 Limited (5.7 mph), the Bx19 (4.9 mph), the Q58 (7 mph), and the S48 (7.7 mph) were the slowest buses in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.

Taking home the Schleppie for least reliable bus this year was the M101/2/3. More than 30 percent of the route’s buses were bunched or separated by gaps, Straphangers and TA said.

In 2012, the M101 moved 29,341 riders on an average weekday, the M102 had 15,284 riders, and the M103 transported 12,548 people.

Other least reliable buses, according to Straphangers and TA: the Bx55 in the Bronx, the S74 in Staten Island, the B44 in Brooklyn, and the Q85 in Queens.

The Pokeys always make for a theatrical set piece underscoring the need to upgrade conventional bus routes. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has pledged to build a Bus Rapid Transit network of more than 20 lines. This week the Pratt Center for Community Development unveiled a plan for eight potential routes featuring separated busways with platform-level boarding.