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Car-Free Parks: The Anticipation Builds

When City Council members Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal withdrew a bill that would have made the entire Central Park loop car-free for three summer months, the assumption was that City Hall was preparing to lead on the issue.

“The council members have been working with the administration on this, and things are moving forward outside of the legislative process,” Rosenthal spokesperson Stephanie Buhle told Streetsblog in April.

Last year, DOT repeated the Central Park plan from 2013, which cleared the loop north of 72nd Street from late June until Labor Day while allowing drivers on 72nd Street and below. No changes were made for Prospect Park.

Will the big breakthrough for car-free parks come in 2015? Everything is in alignment. Public support is not in doubt. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has expressed support for a car-free trial for Prospect Park, and Manhattan beep Gale Brewer has long been a proponent for getting cars out of Central Park.

With the unofficial start of summer upon us this weekend, hopes are high, but time is also running short to get in a full three-month car-free trial.

DOT sent us this statement today:

We continue to have productive conversations with Council Members and other stakeholders on the topic and continue to work on this. Mayor de Blasio is a long-standing supporter of car-free parks.

So it seems something is in the works, but we don’t know what.

One thing to watch is whether both sides of Prospect Park will go car-free. Currently, the east side of the park is open to motorists during the morning rush, and the west side for the afternoon rush. Word is the city has been more reluctant to make the east side car-free because it gets more traffic. Central Park south of 72nd Street also remains a question mark.

We will resume our regular publishing schedule on Tuesday. Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend, everybody.

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DOT and MTA Years Behind Schedule on Traffic Signal Tech to Speed Buses

Equipment for transit signal priority is inexpensive and has a proven track record of boosting NYC bus speeds. So why is it years behind schedule? Image: DOT [PDF]

Transit signal priority is inexpensive and has a track record of boosting NYC bus speeds. So why are plans to implement it years behind schedule? Image: DOT [PDF]

Bus riders spend a lot of time stopped at red lights, but they don’t have to. A technology called transit signal priority, or TSP, speeds up transit trips by adjusting signal timing so buses hit more green lights and fewer reds. TSP has a proven track record in New York, but on several routes, implementation is years behind schedule.

Transit signal priority uses GPS devices on buses to send a signal to a traffic management center, which can then either hold a green light as the bus approaches or shorten the amount of time a bus is stopped at a red light.

According to NYC DOT, the technology has sped bus trips between 10 and 18.4 percent. A recent evaluation of signal priority on the M15 Select Bus Service [PDF] said “the system is working well… [and] the city has the option to deploy citywide.” The problem is that only a handful of routes are outfitted with TSP.

The city’s 2011 PlaNYC update set a goal of adding transit signal priority to 11 routes citywide, but didn’t set a target completion date. So far, the city and the MTA have rolled out transit signal priority on just three corridors. Seven routes remain in various stages of planning or study.

New York’s first TSP system was installed at 14 intersections along Staten Island’s Victory Boulevard in 2008. Signal priority cut bus travel times by 16 percent during the morning rush hour and 11 percent during the evening [PDF], and 19 additional intersections on the route are in line to get it.

The city’s first Select Bus Service route, the Bx12 on Fordham Road, received TSP later in 2008, covering 35 intersections over 2.4 miles between Broadway in Manhattan and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx.

Since then, the only route to receive upgrades has been the M15 SBS, which in May 2013 received signal priority for 50 buses and 34 intersections along 2.2 miles of its route south of Houston Street. The M15 was the first in the city to use newer technology that communicates with the traffic management center, the MTA says, with Victory Boulevard and Fordham Road relying on older “line of sight” devices.

Bus riders on other routes are still waiting for improvements, in some cases years after blown deadlines.

Read more…

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Just in Time for Summer, Two Big Detours on the Hudson River Greenway

This detour, between 59th and 63rd streets, will last until the end of August so DOT can repaint the highway viaduct.

One of New York’s busiest bicycle routes has been interrupted this summer by two detours where the city is asking riders to dismount and walk for blocks.

Both work zones cropped up last week without any signage explaining why they were installed or how long they would last. A tipster who asked to remain anonymous reported the detours to Streetsblog, and here are the explanations we got from city agencies.

This detour

This detour at the 79th Street Boat Basin will return for a few months starting in June.

The first detour is from DOT, which says it is painting the Joe DiMaggio Highway viaduct between 59th and 63rd streets. Crews will intermittently close the bikeway between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, and cyclists will be directed to the pedestrian path along the river, where they must dismount and walk. DOT said it expects to finish work by the end of August. Observing the detour will add several minutes to bike trips on this stretch of the greenway.

The dismount zone is right next to one of the worst pinch points on the greenway, a section that’s been narrowed to accommodate construction work by the Department of Sanitation at 59th Street. Greenway cyclists will be able to bypass the Sanitation project once a newly-built segment by the water opens to the public.

The second detour is from the Parks Department, which is repairing Dock A at the 79th Street Boat Basin after damage from Hurricane Sandy. The Esplanade is closed entirely, with greenway users directed to the traffic circle by the Boat Basin Café.

That detour first popped up last week, but work has now been postponed until June, said Parks Department spokesperson Sabirah Abdus-Sabur. Construction should last for a few months, depending on weather.

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How Much Does DOT Use Daylighting to Reduce Dangerous Turns?

Last March a driver fatally struck Xiali Yue while making a right turn at 21st Avenue and Cropsey Avenue in Brooklyn, where visibility is limited by parked cars. Image: Google Maps

Last March a driver fatally struck Xiali Yue while making a right turn at 21st Avenue and Cropsey Avenue in Brooklyn, where visibility is limited by parked cars. Image: Google Maps

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the City Council there’s only so much DOT can do to prevent drivers from hitting people while turning, but there’s a relatively simple safety measure the agency could put to widespread use: keeping parked cars away from intersections.

Last week, Kate Hinds at WNYC reported on the problem of motorists fatally striking people while turning left. According to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, drivers making right and left turns killed 30 pedestrians and cyclists in NYC in 2014.

WNYC noted several factors that contribute to such crashes, including traffic signals that direct pedestrians and motorists into crosswalks at the same time, drivers who are occupied with several tasks at once (the feds call it “driver workload”), and “blind spots” caused by wide A pillars.

In March, Hinds reported, Trottenberg told the council “there are limits to what can be done” to prevent turning crashes.

“Left turns are a big source of crashes,” Trottenberg said. “But there’s another way to look at it: speeding and failure to yield, which are also pieces of the puzzle, are also sources. There’s no question, in cases where we can minimize left turns, or give vehicles their own turning phase, we want to try to do that.”

She added, however, “We won’t be able to do it everywhere in the city. You can’t create a special turning lane and a special signal in every intersection for left turns.”

One factor that Trottenberg didn’t mention is that many fatal turns occur at intersections where visibility is hindered by cars parked to the edge of crosswalks, a practice that is permitted in New York City but against the law in other places. As we reported earlier this year, NACTO recommends 20 to 25 feet of clearance around crosswalks.

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Will NYPD Charge Driver Who Rammed Woman on Sidewalk and Left Scene?

Beekman Street, with Spruce Street School and New York Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital at right, where a driver hit Heather Hensl on the sidewalk and left the scene. Parents say motorists routinely drive on the sidewalk in front of the school to get around traffic. Image: Google Maps

Beekman Street, with Spruce Street School and New York Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital at right, where a driver hit Heather Hensl on the sidewalk and left the scene. Parents say motorists routinely drive on the sidewalk in front of the school to get around traffic. Image: Google Maps

A motorist who deliberately drove down a Manhattan sidewalk, rammed a pedestrian, left the scene and reportedly hit a second person in Brooklyn might not be charged with a crime, according to one of the victims.

Heather Hensl was walking on Beekman Street near William Street on April 13 when a motorist struck her, knocking her to the ground, lacerating her head and fracturing her leg. The driver did not stop. In an email to Downtown Express, Hensl, a 37-year-old physician assistant, said she is on crutches and may require knee surgery, in addition to physical therapy.

The crash occurred near Spruce Street School. Parents of kids who attend the school say it’s not unusual for motorists to use the sidewalk to drive around traffic.

From Downtown Express:

Video viewed by Downtown Express shows the driver backing up several times in order to be able to make the turn onto the sidewalk and head west past a traffic jam.

Captain Mark Iocco, the First Precinct’s commanding officer, said the same car was involved in an accident in Brooklyn about 30 minutes after that incident. The car was pulling into a parking spot and hit an elderly lady, he said at last week’s meeting of the First Precinct Community Council. The elderly woman couldn’t identify her, and could only confirm that the driver was a female, he said.

The suspect has filed an insurance claim. The police are working with the insurance company and they are “investigating her up and down,” said Iocco.

The driver barely missed striking other people on Beekman, including children, who were able to get out of her path, DNAinfo reported. “[The driver] drove on the sidewalk as if it was a lane,” one witness said. “So fast that I turned my head and I didn’t see the car.”

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DOT Plans Safety Upgrades at Foot of Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown

Image: DOT [PDF]

Turn restrictions, new traffic signals, new crosswalks, and expanded pedestrian space are on tap for the tangle of streets where the Manhattan Bridge touches down in Chinatown. Image: DOT [PDF]

Choked with car and truck traffic, the Manhattan Bridge ramps around Canal Street are a danger zone. DOT has a plan to tame some of the chaotic crossings for people on foot, which the Manhattan Community Board 3 transportation committee voted in favor of last night.

Seven pedestrians and nine motor vehicle occupants were seriously injured at the intersection of Canal Street and the Bowery from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT, and one pedestrian was killed in 2009. The intersection has more serious crashes than 90 percent of Manhattan’s intersections, and residents have been calling for changes for years.

Lim Ah Yiew, 42, was killed by a driver coming off the bridge as he crossed Canal Street in 2005. “My heart pounds every time I cross that intersection,” Lim’s sister, Lim Sing Tse, told DNAinfo in 2009. “It’s really very horrible. The cars come speeding off the bridge and there’s no time for pedestrians to react.”

Under DOT’s plan, the bridge’s lower roadway, which currently reverses direction to allow Brooklyn-bound traffic from 3 to 9 p.m., will become Manhattan-bound 24 hours a day. This frees up space to add a large painted curb extension that reduces crossing distances from 84 feet to 32 feet and ensures pedestrians on the east side of the intersection will cross no more than two traffic lanes at a time.

Triangle-shaped pedestrian islands to the north and south of Canal Street on the eastern side of the Bowery will also be enlarged, and the median on the Bowery south of the intersection, installed in 2010, will be extended to provide a refuge for crossing pedestrians.

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Upper West Siders to DOT: Citi Bike Stations Need to Be Closer Together

DOT is planning 39 bike-share stations between 59th and 107th streets. Map: DOT [PDF]

DOT is planning 39 bike-share stations between 62nd and 107th streets. Click to enlarge. Map: DOT [PDF]

Citi Bike is coming to the Upper West Side, but the expansion map DOT revealed last night has big gaps between stations. Like the map for the Upper East Side, the UWS plan calls for fewer stations per square mile than the current Citi Bike service area.

Both neighborhoods are among the densest residential areas in the city and have major destinations like hospitals and museums. If stations are too few and far between, the system will be poorly-equipped to provide good service.

At a meeting of the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee last night, DOT showed the draft map for 39 bike-share stations between 62nd and 107th streets [PDF 1, 2], the product of a public planning process that stretches back several years.

Nearly 200 people showed up. While there was no shortage of Rabinowitz-esque opposition to “commercialization” and the loss of free on-street parking, most people were eager for bike-share’s arrival.

“We recognize that every parking space is needed and valued by the community,” said DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione. “But listen, there’s a trade-off. This is a great amenity and a great asset for the community.” The crowd then erupted in booming applause.

Several audience members told DOT they wanted stations spaced closer together, and closer to major destinations. “I don’t think this is going to be enough bikes to satisfy the need,” said Pamela Margolin, who lives on West 81st Street across from the Museum of Natural History. “We need to have enough bikes to make it work. I don’t think those two stations [near the museum] are going to be enough.”

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Varick Street Gets a Granite Bike Path

As any bicyclist can tell you, a bumpy ride on cobblestones is no fun. In NYC, the DOT has implemented its first granite bikeway on one block of Varick Street to make it easier for cyclists and to keep them off the sidewalks.

You will almost never see me on a sidewalk in NYC for any reason, but I confess, I have used the sidewalk for this one block in the past. The smooth granite is a great idea.

I got to speak with Nick Carey, a project manager with NYC DOT’s bicycle program, about how the project came to be and how the department might use the same idea for future bike routes.

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DOT Redesign of 165th Street in the Bronx: Road Diet and Painted Bike Lanes

An extra-wide section of E. 165th Street in the Bronx is set to get a road diet, bike lanes, and pedestrian islands. Image: DOT [PDF]

Extra-wide E. 165th Street in the Bronx is set to get a road diet, bike lanes, and pedestrian islands. Image: DOT [PDF]

A section of E. 165th Street near the Grand Concourse is set to get a road diet, bike lanes, and concrete pedestrian islands under a DOT plan to cut down on traffic injuries [PDF]. While the redesign would be a big improvement over the status quo, it doesn’t take advantage of the widest sections to put in protected bike lanes.

Between Walton and Sherman Avenues, E. 165th Street is 75 feet wide, expanding from one lane in each direction to two. There’s a lot of open, unmarked asphalt.

With a design like that, it’s no wonder the street is among the most dangerous in the Bronx, with a higher crash rate than 90 percent of the borough’s streets. There were 16 serious injuries on E. 165th Street between Jerome Avenue and the multi-leg intersection with Melrose, Park, and Webster Avenues from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT. Two people were also killed at the intersection with the Grand Concourse, including Yvette Diaz, struck by a hit-and-run driver who was turning left while she was walking in the crosswalk.

Left-turn crashes are especially common on E. 165th Street. Half of all collisions involving pedestrians on this section involved a driver failing to yield, 50 percent higher than the average rate in the Bronx. In addition, 28 percent of all crashes involved a driver turning left, nearly three times the borough-wide average.

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Canarsie Set to Get On-Street Bike/Ped Connection to Jamaica Bay Greenway

The proposed bikeway (in red) joins a lane installed last year on Paerdegat Avenue North. Map: DOT

The proposed 1.75-mile biking and walking path (in red) will connect to the Jamaica Bay Greenway. Map: DOT

DOT has proposed a 1.75-mile on-street biking and walking path from Flatlands Avenue to the Jamaica Bay Greenway [PDF]. The plan received the support of Brooklyn Community Board 18, which had rejected bike lanes proposed for other streets in the neighborhood.

The project route follows Shore Parkway, E. 102nd Street, Seaview Avenue, and E. 108th Street, which border Canarsie Park and Fresh Creek Nature Preserve. It would function as a protected path for both biking and walking on streets that currently lack sidewalks along park edges. To create a safe bike connection to the Jamaica Bay Greenway and Canarsie Pier, Jersey barriers will be added along the northern edge of Canarsie Circle. The multi-lane rotary will also get a road diet and high-visibility crosswalks, improving safety for the 16,000 visitors who get to Canarsie Pier by walking or biking each year.

To making room for the path, eastbound Seaview Avenue will be trimmed from three lanes to two between E. 102nd and E. 108th Streets. Car parking will be removed from E. 102nd Street but will be added to Seaview, resulting in a net addition of approximately five parking spaces, plus a new bus stop island. The northbound traffic lane on E. 108th Street will also be eliminated.

Community Board 18 voted to support the project at its meeting on April 15, according to DOT. The agency expects to install it early this summer.

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