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Posts from the Transportation Alternatives Category

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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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Labor and Advocacy Groups Call for Action on Unsafe Garbage Haulers

The overwhelming majority of violations were related to vehicle maintenance. Image: Transform Don't Trash NYC Coalition

The overwhelming majority of violations were related to vehicle maintenance. Image: Transform Don’t Trash NYC Coalition

A new report from Transform Don’t Trash NYC, a coalition of labor and advocacy groups including Teamsters Local 813 and Transportation Alternatives, is calling on the city to get unsafe sanitation trucks off NYC streets.

The job of collecting garbage in the city is shared by the Department of Sanitation, which handles waste from residential and governmental buildings, and more than 250 private companies, which collect commercial garbage through contracts with individual businesses. Because private haulers have contracts all over the city, they travel much wider distances than city sanitation trucks.

Union members and advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall this morning to urge the mayor to take concrete steps to improve private hauler safety. Among their recommendations: waste collection zones that would assign private haulers to more efficient, geographically-condensed routes; stricter vehicle design standards; and a crash response protocol to hold companies accountable for poorly maintained trucks.

Teamster Local 813 President Sean Campbell speaks out against unsafe sanitation trucks. Photo: David Meyer

Teamster Local 813 President Sean Campbell speaks out against unsafe sanitation trucks. Photo: David Meyer

The report, “Reckless Endangerment,” calls attention to a startling lack of vehicle upkeep by NYC’s 20 largest private sanitation companies. According to federal inspection data, 96 percent of safety violations in the last two years were related to vehicle maintenance. Forty-eight percent of all trucks operated by the city’s top 20 private hauling companies were taken out of service due to maintenance concerns — more than double the national average.

One company, Crown Container, took as many as 86 percent of its vehicles out of service due to violations. Last summer the driver of a Crown Container truck killed 46-year-old Alberta Bagu as she crossed the street in Bushwick. The driver fled the scene and no charges were filed.

The city does not track how many traffic fatalities and severe injuries are caused by drivers of private fleet vehicles, but other data point to their outsized role in fatal crashes. A 2014 U.S. DOT study found that while trucks make up for 3.6 percent of vehicles in NYC, they account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of cyclist deaths.

The most common violations are also the most dangerous, according to the report. Nineteen percent of the 20 companies’ violations were related to faulty brakes, which a 2007 report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said was a factor in 29 percent of crashes involving commercial trucks. Faulty tires, spilled cargo, and broken lights were also among the more common violations. Broken lights are a particular concern since the trucks are commonly on the streets after dark.

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Drivers Are Killing People, and the 19th Precinct Is Sending Cyclists to Court

The 19th Precinct likes to boast about local officers aggressively ticketing people for riding bikes on sidewalks. A data analysis by Transportation Alternatives shows the precinct also issues far more criminal court summonses for sidewalk riding than other Manhattan commands.

According to TA, in 2015 the Upper East Side 19th Precinct issued 116 criminal summonses for sidewalk riding, and 15 moving violations — a ratio of eight to one. TA says the typical ratio for precincts citywide is close to one criminal summons to one moving violation.

A moving violation can be resolved online or through the mail, while a criminal summons requires a court appearance. Failure to appear in court can result in a warrant that leads to jail time and barriers to employment.

NYPD greatly reduced the issuance of criminal court summonses for sidewalk riding in 2014, but the 19th Precinct is one of several that still sends hundreds of cyclists to court per year. Next month TA will release an in-depth report on bike enforcement, which will include criminal court summons data.

“In addition to disproportionately high bike enforcement in general — they issue 51 percent of all bike on sidewalk c-summonses in the Manhattan North patrol area — [the 19th Precinct is] choosing to take the extremely harsh option,” says TA Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro.

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NYC Students Rally for Speed Cameras at Every School. Where Is Jeff Klein?

With time running out on the legislative session in Albany, NYC students and parents gathered at City Hall this morning to call on the state legislature to expand the city’s life-saving speed camera program. Pending legislation in Albany would allow New York City to effectively enforce the speed limit at all of its schools, but it currently lacks support from State Senator Jeff Klein, who holds the key to getting the bill through the state legislature.

“We know [cameras] are effective when it comes to changing the reckless behavior of drivers,” said Families for Safe Streets member Sofia Russo, a school teacher whose daughter Ariel was killed by a reckless driver in 2013.

State Senator Jeff Klein has been critical to establishing NYC’s automated speed enforcement program, but he hasn’t signed on to a bill that would expand it to every school.

In a 14-month span, reckless drivers killed three students from M.S. 51 in Brooklyn. Many of the children at the rally were their classmates. “The school children that are here today are joining us because at such a young age they have already known loss,” Russo said. “This should never happen. No child should die while walking to school.”

Automated enforcement has proven effective at reducing the incidence of speeding, which is a leading cause of traffic deaths in the city. Speeding declined 60 percent where the city’s current 140 cameras have been installed, according to NYC DOT. But with nearly 2,600 schools in the city, 93 percent of them have no automated speed enforcement nearby.

Current state law limits New York City to 140 speed cameras that can only be operated within a half-mile of a school, and only during school activities. Assembly Bill 9861, sponsored by Lower Manhattan rep Deborah Glick, would address those shortcomings by allowing NYC to install speed cameras at every schools at all times.

Public Advocate Letitia James and council members Jimmy Van Bramer, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Brad Lander spoke in support of Glick’s bill this morning.

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When Will Western Queens Assembly Members Sign on to Move NY?

Members of the Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives' Queens Committee rallied for toll reform at the foot of the Triborough Bridge on Saturday. Photo: David Meyer

Members of the Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Committee rallied for toll reform at the foot of the Triborough Bridge on Saturday. Photo: David Meyer

With the clock winding down on the legislative session in Albany, Queens activists are making the case for the Move NY toll reform package. Volunteers with the Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives rallied at the foot of the Triborough Bridge Saturday to call for a tolling system that works better for drivers and transit riders than the city’s current hodgepodge of free bridges and priced MTA crossings.

Neighborhoods in western Queens are overrun by traffic heading to and from the free Queensboro Bridge. Move NY would put a price on that crossing, greatly reducing congestion in the area. But so far, State Senator Jose Peralta, whose district includes the northern part of Astoria, is the only Albany representative from the area to publicly endorse Move NY. (In the City Council, Jimmy Van Bramer is a supporter).

Western Queens representatives Cathy Nolan and Margaret Markey are not among the 28 Assembly members currently sponsoring Move NY legislation. (In eastern Queens, Vivien Cook and Andrew Hevesi have signed on.) State Senator Michael Gianaris has said he’s “skeptical” of the plan.

Move NY aims to reduce congestion by putting tolls on the four East River bridges and a cordon across 60th Street in Manhattan. It also cuts the tolls on the Triborough, Whitestone, Throgs Neck, and Verrazano, where congestion is less intense. The net revenue from the toll swap would raise billions of dollars for transit, relieving the constant upward pressure on MTA fares and accelerating investments that can add capacity to a system straining at the seams.

Long Island City and Astoria are two neighborhoods that would benefit enormously from the traffic reduction effect of Move NY. The vast majority of residents don’t own cars, and a truly small share car commute into downtown Manhattan each day. But everyone who lives in the area suffer the consequences of the city’s dysfunctional tolling system.

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Majority of NYC DAs Agree: All City Schools Should Have Speed Cameras

Cy Vance, Ken Thompson, and Richard Brown

Cy Vance, Ken Thompson, and Richard Brown

Three New York City district attorneys have endorsed Albany legislation that would allow New York City to install speed enforcement cameras outside every school.

Cy Vance, Ken Thompson, and Richard Brown, the top prosecutors in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, respectively, sent separate letters to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly Transportation Chair David Gantt, and Manhattan Assembly Member Deborah Glick in support of Assembly Bill 9861. Introduced by Glick, the bill would allow any school to have automated speed enforcement with no time of day restrictions. The bill would also make the program permanent.

Currently, NYC is limited to 140 speed cameras to cover the entire city, leaving streets used by over a million kids without enforcement to slow speeding drivers. Cameras can only be used during school hours, and the program would sunset in 2018. Tickets carry a $50 fine with no license or insurance points and are only issued to drivers who exceed the speed limit in school zones by 11 mph or more.

Speeding is down by 60 percent in areas covered by existing cameras, according to DOT. Extending camera coverage to all city schools could save 100 lives and prevent 2,700 crashes and 1,400 serious injuries annually, according to Transportation Alternatives.

“As Brooklyn’s chief law enforcement officer, I am committed to protecting pedestrians and holding drivers accountable for injuries caused by their reckless driving,” wrote Thompson. “The increased presence of speed cameras in our neighborhoods is a necessary tool in helping keep Brooklyn students and pedestrians safe.”

“My top priority as a prosecutor is public safety, and the effectiveness of school zone speed cameras in protecting New York City children and pedestrians is undeniable,” said Vance. “Speed cameras have proven to be an inexpensive way to slow down drivers and save lives.”

“Speeding is a leading cause of injury-related death for children in my county and throughout New York,” Brown wrote. “Getting drivers to slow down will reduce these injuries and deaths.”

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NYC Students Tell Albany: Speed Cameras at #EverySchool Will Save Lives

“Not one more.” Street safety advocates and students join Assembly Member Deborah Glick in calling on Albany to allow speed cameras at every school in NYC. Photo: Brad Aaron

“Not one more.” Street safety advocates and students join Assembly Member Deborah Glick in calling on Albany to allow speed cameras at every school in NYC. Photo: Brad Aaron

Students from MS 51 in Brooklyn joined family and friends of people killed by New York City drivers in Albany today to ask state lawmakers to allow the city to install speed cameras outside every school.

Organized by Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, about 140 New Yorkers met with legislators to drum up support for Assembly Bill 9861. Introduced by Lower Manhattan rep Deborah Glick, the bill would let any school have automated speed enforcement without restrictions on hours of camera operation. Glick’s bill, which only pertains to NYC, would also remove a sunset provision, now set for 2018, making the city’s speed camera program permanent.

State law currently limits NYC to deploying just 140 speed cameras, which can be used in school zones during school hours only, though most fatal crashes occur at night. Tickets are not issued unless a driver is exceeding the speed limit by 11 mph or more, and the penalty is $50 with no license or insurance points.

Speeding is down by 60 percent at camera locations, according to DOT, but the narrow scope of the program leaves the vast majority of NYC’s 6,000 miles of streets without enforcement. Streets that kids cross every day to get to school have no cameras to deter speeding.

Advocates and lawmakers who have signed on to Glick’s bill want to expand enforcement for the million-plus children who at any given time attend schools that don’t have cameras. Extending camera coverage to all NYC schools would save 100 lives and prevent 2,700 crashes and 1,400 serious injuries annually, according to TA.

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Mothers Who Lost Kids Call on Albany to Allow Speed Cams at Every School

Public Advocate Letitia James spoke alongside members of Families for Safe Streets at city hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Public Advocate Letitia James spoke alongside members of Families for Safe Streets at City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

This morning, six mothers who lost their children to traffic violence — Amy Cohen, Ellen Foote, Judy Kottick, Dana Lerner, Lizi Rahman, and Sofia Russo — spoke on the steps of City Hall, calling on Albany to expand automated speed enforcement in New York City.

Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives will go to the state capitol tomorrow to build support for Assembly Member Deborah Glick’s bill to expand the city’s speed camera program.

Current state law limits NYC’s speed cameras to 140 locations. The cameras must be placed within a quarter mile of a school on a street that directly abuts it. Moreover, enforcement is limited to school hours, providing no deterrent during the night, when fatal crashes are more likely.

Glick’s bill would address those flaws by removing the limit on the number of schools where cameras can be sited, allowing them to operate 24/7, and making the program permanent. (It is currently set to expire in 2018.)

“We have an epidemic of drivers that are not slowing down, and children are being killed,” said Lerner, whose 9-year-old son Cooper Stock was struck and killed by a cab driver who violated his right-of-way in a crosswalk at West End Avenue and 97th Street.

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TA Will Track Safety Policies of NYC’s Private Fleet Operators

Transportation Alternatives is calling on private fleet operators who do business in New York City to talk about what they’re doing to make employees safer drivers.

Operators of private trash trucks are among the most dangerous drivers in NYC. Photo: Jason Lawrence/Flickr

Operators of private trash trucks are among the most dangerous drivers in NYC. Photo: Jason Lawrence/Flickr

“Fleet management is one of the most effective ways to reduce injuries and fatalities on New York City’s streets,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White in a press release. “Fleet managers set the pace for safe driving, and we want to recognize the operators that are raising the bar for safety on New York City’s streets.”

In Sweden, a principal Vision Zero strategy is to move responsibility upward by directing reforms and incentives at the level of fleet operators. NYC does not keep track of how many people are injured and killed in crashes caused by the drivers of private fleet vehicles, but other data sets point to the extent of the problem.

A 2014 U.S. DOT study of city data found that trucks make up 3.6 percent of vehicles in the city, but account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of cyclist deaths. “Killed by Automobile,” Charles Komanoff’s 1999 analysis of city traffic fatalities, reported that private trash haulers kill more people per mile driven than other truck drivers.

In January, TA sent out surveys to more than 100 commercial truck and taxi fleet operators, with questions concerning driver training, crash avoidance technology, and collision response protocols. Three companies — Fresh Direct, Con Edison, and Academy Bus — were ahead of the pack, TA reports, and were invited to participate in a workshop at last month’s Vision Zero Cities 2016 conference.

The workshop was hosted by Keith Kerman of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. DCAS is taking steps to reduce injuries and deaths from collisions involving city fleet vehicles, including measuring and publishing data on such crashes.

DCAS has also installed “black box” tech on the department’s own vehicles, according to TA, and has pledged to install side guards on 6,000 city-owned trucks by 2024. “Through the early adoption of innovative technology and vehicle design modifications,” says the TA press release, “DCAS has triggered a race to the top for safety among private fleet operators here in New York City.”

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Jose Peralta and Michael DenDekker Call for Speed Cams at Every School

There is more than one Albany bill to loosen state restrictions on New York City’s speed camera program.

State Senator Jose Peralta introduced legislation today that would allow the city to install cameras in every school zone, up from the 140-camera cap imposed by the state. A separate Peralta bill, introduced in March, would eliminate state rules that limit the use of cameras to school hours.

In the Assembly, Deborah Glick is sponsoring a bill that would accomplish both those goals, as well as remove the sunset provision state lawmakers placed on the camera program. Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets are campaigning to get Glick’s bill passed.

Another bill from Assembly Member Michael DenDekker would suspend vehicle registrations of people who accumulate five or more speed camera tickets in a year, according to the Daily News.

“We’re happy to work with Assembly Member Glick because she’s been a leader on this issue from day one,” TA Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro told Streetsblog. Samponaro said the introduction of overlapping bills could work out for the best. “It’s good to see [Peralta and DenDekker] stepping up and taking action.”

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