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Posts from the Transportation Alternatives Category

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City Council Proposes Vision Zero Funding Increase — Will de Blasio Agree?

The City Council is proposing a significant increase in funding for street safety projects. Now it’s up to Mayor de Blasio to decide whether to devote more resources to get the city closer to his Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

Mayor de Blasio meeting with the family of Noshat Nahian, who was killed by a truck driver on Northern Boulevard, at the announcement of his Vision Zero initiative in 2014. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

The council’s budget proposal calls for an additional $52.4 million in FY 2017 to complete 98 “operational” projects — low-cost improvements that can be built quickly with paint, plastic posts, and light construction work. That would be a nearly 25 percent increase from the 80 operational projects DOT completed in 2015.

The council also wants to allocate $250 million annually to more time- and resource-intensive Vision Zero capital projects. This would represent a big increase and match the funding level called for in Transportation Alternatives’ Vision Zero Investment Report. (Current annual spending on these projects is a little fuzzy, but the de Blasio administration set aside a total of $240 million for street safety capital projects over 10 years, then added $115 million for the next four years in its 2017 budget proposal.)

The de Blasio administration has reduced traffic deaths each of the past two years. With fatalities rising the first two months of this year compared to 2015, however, the city is not on track to maintain that progress. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the council earlier this month that her agency has the resources it needs, but it’s plain that DOT’s Vision Zero budget would benefit from a significant boost if the city is going to attain its street safety goals.

Transportation Alternatives staff and volunteers had a sit-down with council members a few weeks ago to discuss what it would take for the budget to align with the city’s Vision Zero goals. Yesterday the council released its response to the mayor’s preliminary FY 17 budget [PDF, page 42], and the council proposal is “almost entirely in line” with what TA is seeking, according to TA policy and research manager Julia Kite.

“Frankly, we’ve found that we’re not on track to get to Vision Zero, even remotely close to 2024, unless the Department of Transportation is given the resources to greatly expand the number of projects it’s doing,” said Kite. “I think our message was strong and it came across well.”

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Here’s How You Can Help Bring Speed Enforcement to #EverySchool in NYC

Click on the image to tour the #EverySchool web site.

Click on the image to tour the #EverySchool web site.

Transportation Alternatives is ramping up its #EverySchool campaign to loosen Albany restrictions on New York City speed cameras.

Earlier this month, TA and Families for Safe Streets launched an effort to get state lawmakers to allow NYC to site speed cameras outside every school in the city. As of now, arbitrary state rules limit NYC to just 140 cameras, to be used in school zones during school hours only. Tickets carry a $50 fine with no license or insurance points and are not issued unless a driver is speeding by at least 11 miles per hour.

Even with those limitations, speeding is down by an average of 60 percent in locations where speed cameras are installed, according to DOT.

With just 7 percent of school zones covered by cameras at one time, TA and Families for Safe Streets are backing a bill introduced by Assembly Member Deborah Glick that would let any school have camera enforcement with no time of day restrictions. The bill would remove an Albany sunset provision, making the speed camera program permanent.

A new campaign web site allows parent groups and community organizations to join the #EverySchool Coalition. There is a form for contacting state reps about the campaign, and parents can share stories about the dangers their kids encounter when walking to school.

On May 10, TA and Families for Safe Streets will travel to Albany to encourage lawmakers to help pass Glick’s bill. People interested in making the trip can reserve a seat via the #EverySchool site, or sponsor other families that would like to go.

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Advocates Ask City Council to Fully Fund Vision Zero Street Improvements

Stephen Levin (right) was one of thirteen council members to sign onto TA's pledge to fully fund Vision Zero projects in 2016. Photo: Kristen Miller

Stephen Levin (right) was one of 13 council members who signed onto TA’s pledge to fully fund Vision Zero projects in 2016. Photo: Kristen Miller

If the city hopes to dramatically decrease the number of traffic fatalities in New York City, DOT needs more resources to redesign the city’s most dangerous corridors and intersections.

That’s the message 70 members of Transportation Alternatives brought to the City Council yesterday, meeting with 21 council members or their staff.

“We are calling on the council to increase funding and watchdog implementation of safety improvements along the priority corridors and intersections that the DOT has already identified in its Pedestrian Safety Action Plans,” TA Executive Director Paul Steely White said in a statement. “To increase staffing and pay for resurfacing, road marking, signaling, and outreach, the DOT will need an increase in the operating budget, not stagnation.”

Advocates say DOT needs more funding to address safety concerns on the city's most dangerous corridors. Image: Transportation Alternatives

Advocates say DOT needs more funding to fix the city’s most dangerous streets. Image: Transportation Alternatives

TA’s Vision Zero Report Card, released in January, pointed to the slow pace of progress on the dangerous streets and intersections identified by DOT in its borough-by-borough pedestrian safety action plans. Only 22 percent of the 154 priority corridors have undergone safety improvements, and most of those improvements were to specific intersections. Only three of the 154 corridors have receive improvements along their entire length.

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TA and Families for Safe Streets Call for Speed Cameras at #EverySchool

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Graphic: Transportation Alternatives [PDF]

Assembly Member Deborah Glick will introduce legislation to significantly expand New York City’s speed camera program. To get the bill enacted, street safety advocates will have to build support in the State Senate and ensure that Governor Cuomo signs it into law.

At a press conference this morning, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White joined members of Families for Safe Streets to call on Albany to allow automated speed enforcement by every school in NYC.

Amy Cohen spoke alongside other members of Families for Safe Streets in support of expanding the city's school speed camera program. Photo: David Meyer

Amy Cohen spoke alongside other members of Families for Safe Streets in support of expanding the city’s school speed camera program. Photo: David Meyer

State law currently limits the city’s speed camera program. No more than 140 locations can have the cameras, and they have to be placed within quarter mile of a school on a street that directly abuts the school. Enforcement is limited to hours when school activities are occurring, which leaves the speed limit unenforced during the 12 hours of the day when fatal crashes are most likely.

Glick’s bill would change the current set-up in three ways:

  • Any school in the city would be able to have speed camera enforcement within a half-mile radius, removing the limits on the number of “school zones” that can receive automated speed enforcement at any given rime.
  • Time restrictions on enforcement would be eliminated, allowing the cameras to operate 24/7.
  • The current sunset provision — under which the program would need to be renewed in 2018 — would expire, making the camera program permanent.

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Next Week Is the 2016 Vision Zero Conference — Get Tickets While You Can

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Tickets are going fast for the Vision Zero Cities 2016 Conference, hosted by Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets.

Next Thursday and Friday, March 10 and 11, attendees will hear from livable streets luminaries and public officials including Janette Sadik-Khan, Jon Orcutt, Polly Trottenberg, Ryan Russo, Ydanis Rodriguez, Antonio Reynoso, Meera Joshi, Rohit Aggarwala, Steve Vaccaro, and Barron Lerner.

To kick things off Thursday, Jill Abramson will moderate a Q&A with Bill Bratton. It’s not often you get to see the New York police commissioner field questions on traffic safety from the former editor-in-chief of the Times. There’s also a party Thursday evening to mark the release of “Street Fight,” the new book from Sadik-Khan and former DOT spokesperson Seth Solomonow.

TA staff and members of Families for Safe Streets will participate in panels on automated enforcement, engineering streets for safety, using data to guide Vision Zero policy, and transportation equity. Physicians and researchers will lead a session on the impact of traffic violence on public health. There will be walking and biking tours of Queens Boulevard and Morningside Avenue, and lots more.

This year’s conference will be held at NYU’s Kimmel Center. Tickets start at $250, and we hear they’re close to selling out.

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Envisioning a “Complete Concourse” South of 162nd Street

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What the southern portion of the Grand Concourse could look like with curbside bus lanes and median bikeway. Rendering: Street Plans Collaborative/Carly Clark via Transportation Alternatives

Will DOT go big with its redesign of the Grand Concourse? Last week the agency said it will “replace and upgrade existing bike lanes” on the Concourse, which gives an indication of what’s in store north of 162nd Street, but not to the south, where the street has no bike lanes.

Transportation Alternatives’ “Complete the Concourse” campaign is calling for bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian safety measures to improve transit and reduce the startling death toll on the Grand Concourse, which is one of the most dangerous streets in the greater New York region. So far nearly 1,900 people have signed the petition. Council members Ritchie Torres and Andy Cohen have joined the campaign, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. recently called for better bike infrastructure on the Concourse.

The Concourse is the type of street that needs a major overhaul to achieve the city’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths. Last year, in its “Vision Zero Investment” report [PDF], TA released a design concept for the southern stretch of the Concourse that envisions curbside bus lanes and a median bikeway (above).

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Advocates to Albany: Let NYC Enforce the Speed Limit at Every School

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Graphic: Transportation Alternatives

Advocates from Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets will head to Albany tomorrow calling on legislators to expand NYC’s automated speed enforcement program. They want speed cameras by each of the city’s 2,500-plus schools, operational at all times.

Speeding is a leading cause of crashes resulting in injury or death, yet state law limits New York City to just 140 active cameras. Moreover, the cameras must be placed on streets abutting schools within one-half mile of school entrances, and they can only issue tickets during school activities. During the 12 hours of the day when fatal crashes are most likely, the cameras are off.

There were no speed cameras in the city until 2013, when Albany passed its first speed camera legislation, which allowed NYC to install 20 cameras. (Title VII of the state Vehicle and Traffic Law mandates that localities cannot implement speed cameras without state approval.) The next year, the de Blasio administration pushed to expand the program, and Albany increased the number of speed cameras to 140.

Camera enforcement has proven effective in cutting speeding and increasing pedestrian safety. While the city has not released a detailed study of the cameras, traffic deaths and severe injuries reached historic lows in the two full years since automated speed enforcement took effect.

The speed camera program can be greatly expanded. Cameras now issue more than seven times as many speeding tickets as police officers, according to numbers provided by TA, but they are positioned by only 7 percent of New York City schools. The location restrictions also prevent the city from placing cameras on many dangerous streets that children cross to get to school, because those streets don’t directly abut a school entrance.

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TA: Quicker Action on Vision Zero Can Save Thousands of Lives

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At the current rate of improvement, the de Blasio administration is 31 years behind schedule on Vision Zero. Image: Transportation Alternatives

The de Blasio administration is making progress on street safety, but not fast enough to achieve the mayor’s Vision Zero target of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024, Transportation Alternatives says in a new report. At the current rate of improvement, it will take nearly 40 years to reach that goal.

Advocates from TA, Families for Safe Streets, and other groups took to the steps of City Hall this morning to call for swifter, more aggressive action from city and state officials.

TA Executive Director Paul Steely White said the city needs to cut traffic fatalities by 40 percent per year — as opposed to the present rate of 10 percent.

“We’re here to say that Vision Zero is working, but Vision Zero isn’t working fast enough,” White said, adding that there are “scores of ways the mayor, his agencies, and other key players can do a better job implementing Vision Zero and deliver Vision Zero on time so we can save lines.” Among those recommendations — budgeting more resources for DOT to implement street redesigns.

Released this morning, TA’s 2015 Vision Zero Report Card grades elected officials and public agencies on their street safety performance.

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Looking to Join Your Community Board? TA Makes It Easy to Apply

As Streetsblog readers know, too many community boards care more about on-street parking than street safety or housing affordability, even in districts where the majority of residents don’t own cars. DOT rarely implements safety measures over board objections (which Council Member Ritchie Torres would like to change).

While a small number of boards are asking DOT to be more bold with street redesigns, it’s more common to see board members threatening proposals intended to save lives.

New voices can make a major difference on community boards. By gaining a few people familiar with street design best practices, some boards have become much more receptive to projects that prioritize walking, biking, and transit in recent years.

Transportation Alternatives makes it easier for people who want safer streets to apply for spots on their local boards through its community board join ups. These events offer one-stop shopping for information and applications, complete with notary publics to make it official.

The Queens event has come and gone, unfortunately, but if you live in one of the other boroughs and you’d like to make a difference in your neighborhood, here’s where to go this month:

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TA Report: NYC District Attorneys Are Failing to Lead on Vision Zero

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Prosecutions by NYC district attorneys in 2014 reflect a failure to prioritize deterrence of driver behavior that causes the most harm. Chart: Transportation Alternatives, based on data from NYS DMV and NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services [PDF]

New York City district attorneys are not using the power of their offices to deter acts of traffic violence by holding reckless drivers accountable for harming innocent people, according to a new report from Transportation Alternatives.

TA researchers worked with representatives from all five DA’s offices for “Justice Denied: New York City’s District Attorneys Plead Out of Vision Zero” [PDF]. They found that while most motorists who injure and kill people are sober, DAs rarely bring charges for crashes that don’t involve driver impairment.

The report says that over the past year, city DAs prosecuted at least 10,000 drivers for DWI, and fewer than 40 drivers for failing to yield to a pedestrian or cyclist, though failing to yield “led to more than six times as many crashes” as DWI. Driver impairment was a factor in 897 fatal and injury crashes, TA found, while failing to yield was a factor in 5,966 collisions. Prosecutors used the Right of Way Law in just 3 percent of applicable cases, according to TA.

TA found that hit-and-run drivers are almost never held accountable in NYC. Of 4,000 hit-and-run crashes in 2015 that resulted in injury and death, fewer than 1 percent of drivers were prosecuted, the report says, with just 50 cases handled by trained NYPD crash investigators leading to 28 arrests.

While 70 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2014 were caused by driver behavior, according to New York State DMV data, the report says DAs brought homicide charges in less than 7 percent of fatal crashes. TA found that prosecutors brought charges in fewer than 2 percent of crashes where drivers were not impaired, fleeing police, or intentionally attacking the victim.

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