Skip to content

Posts from the City Council Category

21 Comments

DOT and TA: “Bike Safety Task Force” Won’t Make Biking Safer

A proposed “bike safety task force” met with resistance from city officials and safe streets advocates at a City Council transportation committee meeting this morning. DOT joined Transportation Alternatives in opposing Intro 219, which would create a two-year bike safety task force that would ostensibly make proposals for the city’s bike infrastructure.

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo said a new task force devoted exclusively to bike safety would impede existing efforts.

“We believe focusing our resources on the bike network and bike-share expansion, as well as safety and public education campaigns, is the most effective way to make cycling a real transportation option for more New Yorkers,” Russo told the committee. “If Intro 219 were to pass, resources and staff would be diverted from crucial work… to focus on the mandates of the task force.”

Russo referred to the Jamaica Bay Greenway planning process — where DOT conducted 12 workshops with six community boards over the course of a year — as an example of the department’s efforts to build support for bike infrastructure development. As for bike safety education, Russo said that DOT has distributed over 145,000 free helmets and 600,000 Bike Smart guides, as well as thousands of bells and lights.

Speaking on behalf of the bill, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer did nothing to allay the perception that the hearings will mainly serve as a venue to kvetch about cyclists. “My office fields nearly daily complaints, many from seniors, who experience near misses with bikers, many of who are breaking the law in some fashion,” she told the committee.

Later on, Jack Brown, an inveterate cyclist-basher who goes by the acronym “Coalition Against Rogue Riding,” previewed the level of discourse New York City can expect from such hearings, when he likened people on bikes to terrorists.

Testifying against the bill, TA’s Paul Steely White said a task force devoted to addressing such complaints would hinder the efforts of DOT and City Hall’s Vision Zero Task Force. “We believe [creating a new task force] would send the wrong message about cycling and Vision Zero,” White said in written testimony. “The Vision Zero Task Force should already be considering bicycling infrastructure, and to separate them would detract from efforts to make the streets safer for cyclists.”

12 Comments

Council Bills May Convolute City Policy on Cyclist Safety and Derelict Bikes

The City Council transportation committee will take up a slate of bills tomorrow, including one that would create a “bicycle safety task force” that is opposed by Transportation Alternatives.

df

The Sanitation Department is already authorized to remove abandoned bikes. The problem is the agency doesn’t act. Photo: LES BID

Intro 219, introduced in 2014 at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, would establish a panel to “develop recommendations on how make New York City more bicycle-friendly.” Speaking to AMNY, however, Matt Viggiano, director of land use and planning for bill sponsor Rosie Mendez, made it sound like the task force would be yet another venue for people to complain about delivery cyclists and e-bikes.

The two-year task force would have a broad agenda, examining issues that include the allocation of federal funding and the development of physical infrastructure. The group would be made up of commissioners or designees from DOT, the Department of City Planning, and the Parks Department, plus appointees selected by the mayor and council speaker.

Transportation Alternatives believes a task force focused exclusively on cycling should not be necessary, and that bike safety should be a major focus of the city’s existing Vision Zero Task Force instead. TA sent us this statement:

Read more…

11 Comments

Rodriguez Backs Bill to Strengthen Legal Protections for People in Crosswalks

Momentum is building in the City Council for a bill to strengthen pedestrians’ right-of-way. Introduced by Public Advocate Tish James last week, Intro 997 picked up the support of Transportation Committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez today.

Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: NYC Council

Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: NYC Council

The bill fixes a flawed city rule that says people should not start to cross the street at any point after the pedestrian signal begins flashing red. With the proliferation of countdown signals that start flashing early in the pedestrian crossing phase, at many intersections there’s very little time for people to step off the curb before their legal right to cross expires. Police and prosecutors have cited the rule when they avoid applying the city’s Right of Way Law to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Under Intro 997, the rule would state that pedestrians in the crosswalk “shall have the right of way for the duration of the flashing cycle and vehicular traffic shall yield the right of way to all such pedestrians for as long as the signal remains flashing.”

Citing the 13 people who’ve been killed while walking in New York over the past two weeks, Rodriguez said in a statement that the bill “will fix an outdated traffic law that defends drivers in the event of a pedestrian accident, even if a crosswalk signal is still counting down.”

The current rule could be amended by the de Blasio administration without legislative action, but City Hall has not acted.

In addition to James and Rodriguez, there are currently four sponsors in the City Council: Margaret Chin, Debi Rose, Peter Koo, and Costa Constantinides.

A hearing on the bill is not yet scheduled. A spokesperson for Rodriguez said the transportation committee’s agenda for the next few months is currently being formulated.

20 Comments

Will Council Members Who Want Transit Improvements Back Toll Reform?

At yesterday’s City Council transportation committee hearing, chair Ydanis Rodriguez hoped to engage the MTA and DOT concerning areas of the city that need more transit options. But despite being invited, according to Rodriguez, the MTA refused to send anyone.

Instead, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg promised to pressure the MTA to invest in transportation projects to improve commuter times between Manhattan and the edges of the city.

A bill introduced by Rodriguez and Daneek Miller would require DOT and the MTA to assess transportation availability in neighborhoods identified as “transit deserts.” Another bill would mandate that the two agencies study the feasibility of a new light rail system. Trottenberg requested that those proposals be folded into a study already underway, commissioned by the council earlier this year, on options for improved bus rapid transit.

Since Mayor de Blasio has upped the city’s MTA contribution, the administration is in a position to “exert pressure” on the MTA “to see that they are equitably serving the parts of the city that have traditionally been so under-served,” Trottenberg said. “That is very high on our agenda.”

Council members expressed skepticism that the MTA would pull through on outer-borough transit projects. Miller said that new Hudson Yards subway service, a capital project funded by the city, serves far fewer passengers per day than proposed projects in eastern Queens. “We want to make sure the services are being provided equitably, and I think right now they are not,” he said.

Bronx rep Jimmy Vacca urged Trottenberg to act urgently on improving express buses. “People in my district, and people in the Bronx, are asking for relief,” he told Trottenberg. “Now that we’re having this discussion, we can’t wait for long-term plans. We have to do what we can do now.”

Among the specific projects discussed was expansion of the MTA CityTicket program, which makes commuter rail tickets cheaper for city residents. The council is currently considering a resolution calling on the MTA to equalize the cost of commuter train travel within city limits with the cost of a subway ride.

Read more…

34 Comments

City Hall Wants Council Members to Beef Up “Bikes in Buildings” Bills

No matter how well you lock up your bike in NYC, if you leave it outside for any significant amount of time, you never know what will be left when you get back. For secure storage, nothing beats a spot inside. But thanks to a bizarre aversion to bicycles shared by many landlords and property managers, a large percentage of NYC buildings are de facto bike-free zones.

folding_bike_demo

Folding bikes are no bulkier than rolling luggage — and they’re fine in City Council chambers — so how come a lot of building managers don’t allow them in elevators? Photo: @juliakite

In 2009, the Bicycle Access to Buildings Law started to chip away at these restrictions by creating a legal mechanism for employees to win bicycle access to their workplaces. That law had its limitations, though, like a loophole that compelled some bike commuters to leave their ride at the office if the freight elevator was shut down for the day. This session, three bills have been introduced in the City Council to expand the guarantee of bike access to buildings.

The bills appear to have a clear path forward, judging by a hearing on all three in the Housing and Buildings Committee yesterday. A representative from NYC DOT commended the legislation and wants the sponsors to strengthen their proposals, signaling City Hall’s general approval of the new bills.

One problem with the 2009 law is that even if a tenant successfully petitions for bike access to a building, there is no full guarantee. Building owners can deny access to passenger elevators entirely, and while access to freight elevators is required during operating hours, it’s common for buildings to cease operating their freight elevators long before most workers head home for the day. In a DOT survey of 209 tenants who had applied for bike access to their buildings, many said that limitations on freight elevator access were a significant hindrance, according to testimony delivered yesterday by DOT’s Michelle Craven.

Read more…

32 Comments

NYPD Conspicuously Absent From City Council Vision Zero Hearing

How seriously does Police Commissioner Bill Bratton take Vision Zero? The City Council transportation committee held a hearing today to gauge the city’s progress in reducing traffic injuries and deaths, and NYPD didn’t send a single person to provide testimony or answer questions.

Hard to imagine NYPD skipping a council hearing on shootings or terrorism, but it seems traffic violence is not a priority for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Photo: Clarence Eckerson

Hard to imagine NYPD skipping a council hearing on shootings or terrorism, but it seems traffic violence is not a priority for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Photo: Clarence Eckerson

In NYPD’s absence, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg — as she often does — had to field council member queries pertaining to police traffic enforcement. Transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez wondered if NYPD is making progress in keeping dangerous violations down, and how often police are ticketing motorists for blocking bike lanes. James Vacca wanted to know if speeding ticket counts increased after the new 25 miles per hour speed limit took effect last year. Not surprisingly, Trottenberg didn’t have responses, and deferred to NYPD.

DOT does manage the city’s traffic enforcement cameras, which are making streets safer, Trottenberg said, but they could be doing more if not for arbitrary restrictions imposed by state lawmakers.

Trottenberg said violations are down 60 percent at fixed speed camera locations. Red light camera citations have dropped 71 percent since that program started in 1994, Trottenberg said. In 2014, when less than half of the city’s speed cameras were operational, cameras ticketed almost four times as many speeding drivers as NYPD.

Yet in addition to limiting the number of cameras the city is allowed to use — 140 speed cameras and 150 red light cameras — Albany limits when and where speed cameras may operate. Albany allows cameras do be turned on during school hours only. Trottenberg said location restrictions mean that in some cases, DOT is not permitted to place a speed camera on the most dangerous street that kids actually cross to get to a school. Also thanks to Albany, drivers have to be speeding by 11 miles per hour or more to get a speed camera ticket.

Council members asked Trottenberg if expanding the speed camera program was on the de Blasio administration’s Albany agenda for next year, but she didn’t give a definitive answer.

Trottenberg also said DOT has completed 26 street safety projects since the agency released its Vision Zero borough action plans, including the ongoing revamp of Queens Boulevard and 300 leading pedestrian intervals. But since DOT puts all Vision Zero projects in the same basket — from major changes to Queens Boulevard to tweaking a single intersection — a single number doesn’t convey much information.

Read more…

3 Comments

NYPD Should Open Data on All Traffic Summonses, Not Just on Truck Routes

The public should know if NYPD is targeting traffic enforcement where it's most needed, even on streets that aren't truck routes. Image: Vision Zero View

The public should know if NYPD is targeting traffic enforcement where it’s most needed, even on streets that aren’t truck routes. Image: Vision Zero View

Legislation introduced by City Council members this week would require NYPD to publish data on crashes and summonses along NYC truck routes. The bill is intended to improve safety on truck routes, but a better approach would be to have NYPD post all traffic summons data.

Intro 919, introduced by council members Margaret Chin, Jimmy Van Bramer, and transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, would require NYPD to compile stats on moving violations and crashes on city-designated truck routes and publish the numbers on a publicly accessible database. “With the information we will garner from this legislation we can ensure that we know and improve high risk truck routes,” Rodriguez said in a press release.

DOT already maps NYPD crash data for all streets citywide, albeit by intersection, so we know the streets where crashes occur. What the public doesn’t know is whether police are concentrating enforcement in areas where it’s most needed to prevent crashes. In 2014 Council Member Ben Kallos introduced a bill to require the city to release and map data on all moving violations — including date, time, and latitude and longitude coordinates — to be published at least once a month. Though Rodriguez is listed as a co-sponsor of the Kallos bill, it went nowhere.

According to DOT trucks are three times more likely to be involved in pedestrian deaths than other vehicles, yet the city has struggled to come up with a comprehensive plan to reduce the risks. A bill passed earlier this year requires DOT to complete an analysis of truck route safety by June 2016. In the meantime, oversize trucks are common on city streets, and street design improvements that would protect people — even on hellish truck routes like Canal Street — are not happening fast enough, to the extent that they’re in the pipeline at all. Adding tolls to East River bridges would get a lot of trucks off streets in Lower Manhattan, but toll reform requires action from Albany.

While Intro 919 is a nice idea, the City Council would do more good by passing the Kallos bill and increasing funds for physical improvements to make it safer to walk and bike.

11 Comments

NYC’s New Budget Fails to Fund More Low-Cost Vision Zero Street Redesigns

It’s July, which means the city’s new fiscal year 2016 budget is in effect. This spring, the de Blasio administration touted early funding for street repaving and reconstruction of four arterial streets under the “Vision Zero Great Streets” program. But the final budget the mayor’s office negotiated with the City Council fails to beef up the city’s efforts to quickly reduce deaths and injuries on its most dangerous streets.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces the fiscal year 2016 budget deal with the City Council. Photo: NYC Council/Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces the fiscal year 2016 budget deal with the City Council. Photo: NYC Council/Flickr

The most promising way to get fast results from street redesigns is through “operational” projects that use paint and other low-cost changes to calm traffic, rather than waiting years for the city to design and build an expensive capital project. But the final budget sets aside funding for just 50 of these operational projects, DOT said, which does not represent an increase in the city’s commitment.

The $5.2 million pot of money for those 50 projects, which can be as small as a single intersection, also covers safety education, signal retiming, and replacement of faded pavement markings.

To put that amount in perspective, the de Blasio administration set aside an extra $242 million this year to ramp up its street repaving efforts. Devoting similar resources to expanding the city’s program for quick and effect street redesigns could save dozens of lives each year. Without that commitment, it’s hard to see how New York will come close to achieving de Blasio’s goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

There is some good news in the final budget, but it came in small packages:

Read more…

55 Comments

Team de Blasio Makes Its Case for a One-Year “Uber Cap”

The scene at today's transportation committee hearing. Photo: Stephen Miller

The scene at today’s transportation committee hearing. Photo: Stephen Miller

The de Blasio administration made its case for temporarily restricting the growth of licenses for ride-hailing services like Uber at a City Council hearing this morning. With congestion in Manhattan getting worse, City Hall’s plan is to cap the number of new for-hire vehicles on city streets for the next year while it studies the impact of the industry on traffic.

Today, the city splits most car services into two categories: medallion yellow taxis and for-hire vehicles (FHVs), which include green boro taxis, livery services, limousines, and drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft. Each has different rules and regulations.

Yellow cabs, which are the only service subject to a surcharge that helps fund the MTA, are limited by the number of medallions. The number of boro taxis, which are supposed to pick up passengers outside the central areas of the city, is capped by state law. But the city has no mechanism to limit the number of black cars, hence City Hall’s need for legislation introduced in the City Council by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and Steve Levin.

Since the advent of Uber and other app-based services, the number of FHVs on city streets has boomed, growing 63 percent since 2011. Nearly three-quarters of trips made by the new FHVs originate in Manhattan south of 60th Street, according to DOT, and the city is worried that these trips are a major factor behind the recent increase in congestion in the center of the city, which in turn may explain why bus ridership is dropping faster in Manhattan than in the outer boroughs.

“This decrease in traffic speeds is happening at the same time that overall traffic into the Manhattan CBD has fallen,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. While traffic in 2014 was 9 percent slower in the Manhattan central business district than it was in 2010, the number of vehicles entering the CBD each day had dropped 6 percent over the same period. The implication: The spike in for-hire cars circulating Manhattan has more than offset the reduction in other vehicles driving into the city center.

Read more…

3 Comments

Council Calls on de Blasio to Double “Great Streets” Redesign Funds

bdb_yr

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez says Mayor de Blasio should increase the city’s budget for major street safety redesigns.

The City Council wants Mayor de Blasio to double funding for DOT capital projects to overhaul the city’s most dangerous streets and save more lives, faster.

At a council budget hearing last week, transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez called for additional funds in the executive budget for the “Great Streets” program. As of now the mayor’s budget proposes $250 million for safety improvements on streets selected for the initiative: Queens Boulevard, the Grand Concourse, and Atlantic Avenue and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. Motorists killed 34 pedestrians, and seriously injured 215, on those four streets from 2009 to 2013.

In April, the City Council’s preliminary budget called for a much larger “Great Streets” allocation of $500 million. Rodriguez and the council reiterated that demand in a statement published by the Daily News today. “With $250 million additional dollars we can more than double the amount of redesigned roadways,” said Rodriguez. “Though the executive budget was a good start, the more money we put in, the more results we will attain.”

De Blasio has shown some flexibility in budgeting for streets. Last month, the mayor announced an accelerated DOT repaving schedule at a conference on Staten Island, but did not mention Vision Zero.

We asked the mayor’s office about the council Great Streets ask. De Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell sent us this statement:

Read more…