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Crash Data Show NYC Is Losing Ground on Vision Zero

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Citywide traffic deaths rose slightly in the first six months of 2016. Map: Vision Zero View

After a four-month hiatus, City Hall is again updating its Vision Zero View map with new crash data, and through the first six months of 2016, traffic deaths rose slightly compared the same period last year. Through the end of June, 111 people lost their lives to traffic violence, up from 107 in the first half of 2015.

Drivers killed 58 pedestrians and 12 cyclists from January through June this year, compared to 63 pedestrians and five cyclists in the first six months of 2015.

The month of June was especially deadly, with 29 fatalities, wiping out what had looked like progress in the first five months of the year.

Traffic injuries, which are less prone to random variation, are also up from last year for pedestrians and cyclists, though Vision Zero View does not track injury severity. Motorists injured 7,110 people walking and biking through June, compared to 6,518 pedestrian and cyclist injuries during the same period in 2015 — an increase of 9 percent.

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Eyes on the Street: The Return of “Plaza 33” — Maybe for Good

Here's what happens when you close a street to car traffic in one of the busiest parts of the city. Photo: David Meyer

Here’s what happens when you make a street car-free in one of the busiest parts of the city. Photo: David Meyer

“Plaza 33” is back, transforming the eastern half of 33rd Street between Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue into a car-free public space — and it’s set to remain indefinitely.

This is the second iteration of “Plaza 33,” which was installed from July through October last year and is funded and managed by Vornado Realty Trust. Next to Penn Station, the space gets some of the most intense foot traffic in Midtown and was filled with people yesterday evening.

Some parts of "Plaza 33" remain under construction. Photo: David Meyer

Some parts of “Plaza 33” remain under construction. Photo: David Meyer

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It’s Time to Think Big to Turn Around Lousy Bus Service in NYC

 Image: TransitCenter

Bus ridership has dropped 16 percent in NYC since 2002, even as population and subway ridership have increased. Image: TransitCenter

Bus service in New York is getting worse and losing riders, and unless policy makers step in and make systemwide improvements, those trends may accelerate in a vicious cycle. New York can turn things around, advocates say, with a suite of policies to get buses moving quickly and reliably again.

Today a coalition of transit advocates unveiled their blueprint to fix the city’s surface transit system and win riders back over. The solutions they propose in “Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses,” a new report from TransitCenter, are broad and thorough but eminently achievable — rethinking the bus network, modernizing fare technology and dispatching, and expanding street design features that have already sped service on a handful of routes to improve routes all over the city.

The poor state of bus service in New York amounts to a crisis, said Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin. With an average weekday speed of 7.4 mph, New York’s buses are among the slowest in the nation, and they’re getting slower. Making matters worse is the lack of reliability — traffic congestion, lengthy routes, and shoddy dispatching often cause long gaps in service as buses bunch up in clusters of two or more vehicles.

It’s no wonder that bus ridership in New York has steadily declined even as population and jobs have increased.

TransitCenter’s report touches on a number of ways the MTA and NYC DOT should improve bus speeds and reliability while redesigning routes to reflect current rider needs, including:

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Wider Sidewalks Coming to Flushing’s Crowded Main Street

Pedestrians crossing Roosevelt Avenue at Main Street, the location of the Flushing-Main Street subway station, at around noon today. Photo: David Meyer

Foot traffic on Roosevelt Avenue at Main Street, the location of the Flushing-Main Street subway station, at around noon today. Photo: David Meyer

Main Street in Flushing gets more foot traffic than anywhere else in New York after Times Square, but its sidewalks are too narrow to handle all those people. So later this month, the city will begin expanding the sidewalks on four blocks of Main Street, Council Member Peter Koo, DOT, and the Department of Design and Construction announced this afternoon.

Set to begin next Monday, the project will also add a one-block bus lane and high-visibility crosswalks, part of a bottom-up reconstruction of Main Street between 37th Avenue and 40th Road.

This section of Main Street is located at the convergence of the 7 train, the Long Island Railroad, 13 MTA bus routes, and many private bus lines. At any given point in the day, the sidewalks are overflowing with commuters and shoppers, 83 percent of whom arrive by foot or transit, according to DOT.

Council Member Peter Koo (center) spoke this afternoon alongside DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Peter Koo (center) with DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Photo: David Meyer

Downtown Flushing’s streets are designed primarily to move motor vehicles, however, and people walking on Main Street have to contend with heavy car traffic. In 2015 alone, 28 pedestrians were injured and two were killed along the .9-mile stretch of Main Street between Northern Boulevard and Elder Avenue, according to Vision Zero View.

The $7.8 million reconstruction project will add between two and eight feet of sidewalk space, depending on the location, building on a 2011 project that used paint and flexible bollards to narrow the roadway and expand space for pedestrians. That project led to an 11 percent decline in traffic injuries, according to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Casting the wider sidewalks in concrete, she said, will “deliver on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goals.”

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Eyes on the Street: The Emergent Sixth Avenue Bikeway

Work has started on the Sixth Avenue bikeway. The pic in the above tweet is at Sixth and 18th Street. The photo below, sent to us by a reader, was taken at 16th Street.

Sixth Avenue is one of the most biked streets in the city but until now cyclists have had to make do with a narrow painted bike lane next to heavy motor vehicle traffic. DOT revealed its plan for phase one of the Sixth Avenue bikeway in late 2015, after years of advocacy led by Transportation Alternatives.

In January DOT announced that phase one would extend between Eighth Street and 33rd Street, six blocks longer than the original plan to begin the redesign at 14th Street. The revised plan also included some concrete pedestrian islands, which were not a feature of the original proposal.

DOT has said it may extend the lane south to Canal Street next year, with a northward expansion to follow at an undetermined date.

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DOT Overrides CB 10, Advances E. Tremont Safety Project After Cyclist Death

DOT will implement a road diet on the stretch of East Tremont Avenue where a motorist killed cyclist Giovanni Nin in June. Last year DOT had dropped the project in response to a hostile reception from Bronx Community Board 10.

How do Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg determine when a street safety project should move forward regardless of the local community board vote?

In early 2015, DOT proposed a number of improvements for East Tremont between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard [PDF]. The plan would reduce through traffic lanes and add a center turn lane, pedestrian islands, and other traffic-calming measures. No bike lanes were included in the project.

Hundreds of people were injured in crashes on this segment of East Tremont between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. Twenty-one of the injuries were severe or fatal. Fifty-nine of the victims were pedestrians and 10 were cyclists. In 2013, three drivers struck and killed Angel Figueroa, 74, as he tried to cross East Tremont at Puritan Avenue.

CB 10 voted against the plan after the Throggs Neck Merchants Association rallied people to oppose it, according to the Bronx Times. “DOT stated that it would be happy to abide with the CB 10 decision,” the paper reported.

A year after DOT abandoned the East Tremont project, a hit-and-run driver killed Nin, 26, while he was riding his bike about a block away from where Figueroa was hit.

At a memorial event for Nin last month, City Council Member James Vacca blamed CB 10 for derailing the East Tremont improvements. Then on July 11 he wrote to DOT Bronx Borough Commissioner Constance Moran [PDF], telling the agency to follow through on the project:

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Eyes on the Street: Much of the 158th St. Greenway Connector Is Missing

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158th Street looking east toward Riverside Drive.

A utility crew ripped up 158th Street where a two-way bike lane connects to the Hudson River Greenway and hasn’t re-installed the bike lane after patching up the asphalt.

A reader sent us photos of the bikeway, which is supposed to be a green, two-way route between Broadway and the Henry Hudson Parkway, separated from car traffic by plastic posts. A ramp at the western end of the bike lane leads to the greenway.

The bike lane was installed last year as part of a package of bike and pedestrian improvements linking the greenway and the car-free High Bridge.

We asked DOT why this happened and when it would be fixed. DOT said it “is aware of the condition of the bike lane at 158th Street, where utility work was recently done, and are working with the contractor to remedy the situation.”

Without the paint, our tipster said, the bike lane is being used for parking, like it was before the plastic posts were installed.

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Basic Pedestrian Upgrades Coming to Conduit Blvd, But No Bike Infrastructure

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Four people have been killed while walking on Conduit Boulevard between Atlantic and Sutter since 2008. The DOT plan would reconfigure six locations for improved safety. Map: DOT

Last month, DOT revealed its plan to make Conduit Boulevard less of a barrier between neighborhoods near the southeast Brooklyn-Queens border [PDF]. With better, more frequent pedestrian crossings, the project should make it easier for residents to get from one side of Conduit to the other, but the design doesn’t include any bike infrastructure and leaves much of the high-speed geometry of the street intact.

With few pedestrian crossings, wide travel lanes, and separate east- and westbound roadways divided by a large median, Conduit Boulevard functions a lot like a highway. Until recently, the speed limit was 40 mph — much higher than the 25 mph citywide default — and drivers still exceed it routinely. Since 2008, four pedestrians have been killed in the project area.

Residents of East New York, Cypress Hills, and Ozone Park must contend with those conditions to access transit, parks, and schools in their neighborhoods. Beaten paths on the median attest to the substantial foot traffic despite the lack of crosswalks and high traffic speeds.

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Walking across S Conduit and Pine Street, where there is no pedestrian crossing. Photo: DOT

The DOT project consists of basic safety improvements — adding signalized crossings and sidewalk connections, restricting left turns, and narrowing the most highway-like sections of the roadway. DOT also lowered the speed limit on the corridor to 30 mph in June, bringing it more in line with the citywide 25 mph default limit.

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TA: City Hall’s Spending Decisions Are Limiting Life-Saving Street Designs

Transportation Alternatives says the de Blasio administration’s failure to fully fund Vision Zero street improvements is limiting the number of split-phase traffic signals DOT can install to prevent collisions at dangerous intersections.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio

In June, 30-year-old cyclist Olga Cook was killed by an allegedly drunk driver who made a right turn across the Hudson River Greenway at Chambers Street, one of several spots where motor vehicle traffic is allowed to encroach on one of the busiest bike routes in the United States. Crashes at these conflict points are common, often resulting in injury and death for cyclists who use the greenway.

In a statement released today, TA Executive Director Paul White says Cook’s death could have been prevented with split-phase signals at Chambers and West streets, to prevent turning drivers and greenway cyclists traveling straight ahead from entering the intersection at the same time.

The same principle applies to designing safe intersections for pedestrians. Nearly a third of pedestrian and cyclist deaths in NYC are caused by turning drivers who fail to yield, according to TA.

“Shared-phase traffic lights do not work,” said White, “just as shared lanes for drivers and people on bikes do not work.”

Data from street redesigns with protected bike lanes — where some intersections features split-phase signals and others do not — indicates that total crashes resulting in injury decline twice as much at intersections with split phases.

After Cook’s death, DOT told the Tribeca Tribune the agency is “studying the area for safety enhancement, including a right turn lane and signal phasing upgrades.”

White points out there are hundreds of intersections across the city that need safety upgrades, but those fixes won’t happen on the timetable prescribed by Vision Zero because Mayor de Blasio denied the City Council’s request to boost the DOT budget for street improvements. The most recent city budget also cut funding for DOT Traffic Operations staff by 2 percent, according to TA.

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Driver Backing Up to Park Severely Injures Cyclist in Middle Village [Updated]

Lutheran Avenue, where a driver backing up to park injured a cyclist today. Image: Google Maps

Lutheran Avenue, where a driver backing up to park injured a cyclist today. Image: Google Maps

A driver in pursuit of a parking spot severely injured a cyclist in Queens this morning.

The victim, a 64-year-old man, was traveling northbound on Lutheran Avenue, near Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village, at about 8:35 a.m., NYPD told Streetsblog. Near the intersection of Juniper Boulevard North, a 71-year-old backing up to park hit him with a Honda sedan.

The victim was pinned under the car and sustained lower body trauma and injuries to his right leg, police said. He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital in critical condition.

The Daily News spoke with teachers at nearby Learning Tree Nursery School, who were on the scene. Teresa Kava said the victim’s feet were “‘mangled’ by the car tires.” Said Tracy Neuweiler, a second witness: “He was conscious. He thought he was going to die.”

NYPD had not released the identities of the victim or the driver as of this afternoon. No charges were filed, police said, and the investigation is ongoing.

DOT is planning bike lanes in western Queens neighborhoods, with bike lanes or sharrows proposed for the street where today's crash occurred, circled in pink. Image: DOT

DOT is planning bike lanes in western Queens neighborhoods, with bike lanes or sharrows proposed for part of the street where today’s crash occurred, circled in pink. Image: DOT

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