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Eyes on the Street: Red Paint for “Queue-Jump” Bus Lanes on the M86

A new bus lane next to the right-turn lane keeps buses from getting stuck at the back of the line as they exit the 86th Street Transverse at Fifth Avenue. Photo: Stephen Miller

A “queue-jump” bus lane next to the right-turn lane keeps buses from getting stuck at the back of the line as they exit the 86th Street Transverse at Fifth Avenue. Photo: Stephen Miller

Select Bus Service on 86th Street in Manhattan won’t be getting full bus-only lanes, but riders will benefit from short bus lanes at busy intersections. DOT has added two “queue-jump” lanes where 86th Street and 84th Street meet Fifth Avenue, to keep buses from getting stuck behind traffic waiting at lights.

The most important component of the M86 SBS upgrade is off-board fare collection. The sidewalk fare machines have been installed, but are not yet turned on for passengers.

When the upgraded service launches, the SBS vehicles will also receive flashing blue destination signs so riders can easily distinguish them from local buses. The new signs have begun rolling out on the M15 SBS on First and Second avenues.

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Ferreras: “My Focus Is to Make 111th Street One Hundred Percent Safe”

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Council Member Julissa Ferreras, left, listens in during a workshop about a plan for 111th Street yesterday. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

A grassroots effort to improve safety on extra-wide 111th Street in Corona yielded a DOT plan for a road diet, better pedestrian crossings, and a protected bike lane this spring. Then two members of Queens Community Board 4 stymied the proposal, at least for the time being. To keep the project moving forward, Council Member Julissa Ferreras has organized two neighborhood town halls this month.

Nearly 50 people turned out yesterday afternoon for the first meeting at the New York Hall of Science. DOT gave a presentation before splitting participants into small groups to get feedback on the proposal [PDF] and hear concerns about safety on 111th Street, which widens to become a multi-lane divided road alongside Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The heart of the plan is reducing the street to one motor vehicle lane in each direction and adding a curbside protected bike path next to the park. With fewer car lanes, speeding will be reduced and crossing the street to get to the park won’t be so challenging.

Most attendees were in favor of the change. “It’s going to be safe for me and my kids,” said Delia Tufino, who began bicycling a year ago as part of a program launched by Immigrant Movement International and the Queens Museum. “I think it’s important to bring the community out,” she said of the workshop.

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Motivate and DOT Squabble, Jeopardizing Success of Bike-Share Expansion

A dispute between NYC DOT and the company that runs Citi Bike threatens to rob New York City’s bike-share expansion of the very quality that’s made the existing service so useful. The key issue is station density, and whether the stations where Citi Bike expands will be within easy walking distance of each other like in the rest of the system.

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DOT’s expansion plan for the Upper West Side falls 10-13 stations shy of the recommended standard, and that could spell trouble for the bike-share system as a whole. Map: Transportation Alternatives

The density of stations in the current Citi Bike network sets it apart from other American bike-share systems and helps explain why it’s used much more intensely. You can go anywhere in the service area and know that a station to pick up or drop off a bike is a short walk away. But DOT’s bike-share maps for the Upper East Side and Upper West Side abandon this core design principle.

The expansion plans for these neighborhoods each fall about a dozen stations shy of the density recommended by the National Association of City Transportation Officials, 28 per square mile [PDF]. On the Upper West Side, for instance, you can see the station deficit in this visualization produced by Transportation Alternatives — each orange disc represents a zone that should have a bike-share station in DOT’s plans but doesn’t.

The dearth of stations has been abundantly clear to participants at public meetings about the expansion, but when Streetsblog asked for comment from City Council members Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos, neither office wanted to speak up on the issue.

The Upper East Side and Upper West Side are two of the most densely populated neighborhoods in New York, right next to Midtown and all its jobs. Both areas also have large museums and hospitals and lots of latent demand for convenient cross-town travel. The appetite for bike-share should be enormous, and so should the revenue from Citi Bike memberships and day-passes — revenue that can, in effect, subsidize bike-share service in less dense parts of town.

That’s why thinning out the network in these expansion areas risks more than inconveniencing bike-share users who live in the neighborhood. If people can’t expect a short walk to and from stations, and if they can’t count on a redundant station nearby in the event their preferred station is full or empty, they won’t pay for bike-share and there won’t be much revenue to redirect toward service in other areas of the city.

DOT’s reluctance to go with the NACTO-recommended station density is tied to a dispute with Motivate, the company that runs Citi Bike.

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Central Park Above 72nd Street Is Now Car-Free Forever

Last week, people walking and biking on the Central Park loop had to worry about taxi drivers and car commuters motoring through the park as a rush hour shortcut. This morning was different: Above 72nd Street, you could ride your bike, walk your dog, or go for a run on a safer, quieter path with a lot more elbow room.

Officials and advocates celebrated the permanent expansion of the park’s car-free zone under sunny skies this morning. While traffic is still allowed in the heavily-used southern section of Central Park, today’s ceremony marks a big step on the path to completely car-free parks.

“This is a great day in Central Park,” said Douglas Blonsky, president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy. “The conservancy for 35 years has been fighting to get cars out of the park and to see this happen is awesome.”

The changes, announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this month, build upon the gradual expansion of car-free hours that advocates have fought for since the 1960s, when the loop was overrun by traffic at all hours, every day.

Effective today, the Central Park loop north of 72nd Street is permanently car-free, except for emergency and service vehicles [PDF]. In Prospect Park, the West Drive will go car-free next Monday, July 6 [PDF]. Traffic will continue to be allowed at various hours on the Central Park loop south of 72nd Street, and during morning rush hour on the East Drive in Prospect Park.

“It’s terrific that we’re getting cars out of the park for the north side of the loop,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who co-sponsored car-free parks legislation with Council Member Mark Levine before the de Blasio administration took up the issue earlier this year. “I think we have a little bit of work to do to get [cars] out of the south side. I think that’s where the challenge really is. So we have some good work ahead of us to get that done.”

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Eyes on the Street: Protection for Cyclists on Bruckner Boulevard

DOT crews were out on Bruckner Boulevard yesterday putting in Jersey barriers to protect a new two-way bike lane. The bikeway will run for half a mile between Hunts Point Avenue and Longwood Avenue, the first phase in what should eventually be a link between the Bronx River Greenway and Randall’s Island. For the time being, it will terminate at Longwood, with sharrows pointing to the less-stressful Southern Boulevard.

The bikeway is part of a package of improvements that will help people safely walk and bike between the neighborhoods around Bruckner Boulevard, which many must cross to access the 2, 5, and 6 trains. It’s one of the most dangerous streets in the Bronx: Between 2009 and 2013 there were almost 600 traffic injuries at the five intersections covered by this project [PDF].

The bikeway on Bruckner Boulevard should extend south and connect to Randall’s Island. Image: NYC DOT

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Cy Vance Nets Felony Conviction of Driver Who Killed Senior Shu Ying Liu

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance secured a felony hit-and-run conviction against a truck driver who killed a senior in Hell’s Kitchen.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

On February 5, 2013, Jack Montelbano ran over 69-year-old Shu Ying Liu with a private dump truck as Liu crossed 41st Street at Ninth Avenue in the crosswalk and with the right of way. The Times reported that Montelbano drove away from the scene though witnesses alerted him to the collision.

Liu, who reportedly once worked as a magazine editor in China, lived on W. 54th Street, near the site of the crash. She was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.

Police found Montelbano in New Jersey, where he lived and where the truck was registered. A prosecutor with Vance’s office said Montelbano was “involved in a fatal car crash at that same spot several years ago,” the Post reported after Montelbano’s arrest.

Vance charged Montelbano with felony leaving the scene. Montelbano pled not guilty and was convicted at trial last Friday, June 19. The case was prosecuted by ADA Patricia Stolfi Collins.

To convict a driver for hit-and-run in New York State, prosecutors must prove a motorist knew or had reason to know an injury occurred. This is more difficult than it may seem. Under state law, “I didn’t see her” is not an admission of guilt, but a potent defense strategy. In another case brought by Vance, a jury acquitted the postal worker who killed cyclist Marilyn Dershowitz, despite video evidence showing the driver stop his truck after the collision before driving away from the scene.

Montelbano was convicted of a class D felony, which carries penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July.

Years before Liu was killed, Community Board 4 asked DOT to give people more time to cross at Ninth Avenue and W. 41st Street, an intersection with a history of crashes. Liu’s death sparked renewed calls for DOT action, and the agency finally made improvements, including a dedicated pedestrian signal phase, last summer.

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Eyes on the Street: A Better Bikeway Linking the High Bridge to Highbridge

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This parking-protected contraflow bike lane on 170th Street in Highbridge is ready for some green paint. Photo: Ben Fried

Ten days ago, DOT broke ground on a nice set of new bike lanes linking Upper Manhattan to the reopened High Bridge. Meanwhile, bike access improvements on the Bronx side are already pretty far along.

This is the new contraflow bike lane on 170th Street, leading east from the High Bridge. It’s part of a package of bike lanes (and sharrows) linking the High Bridge viaduct to the neighborhood of Highbridge and the waterfront parks to the north.

As built, this short, two-block contraflow bike lane is a step up from the proposal DOT showed the local community board last year [PDF]. It’s protected from traffic by parked cars instead of putting cyclists between the parking lane and moving vehicles.

The rest of the project includes no protected segments but makes good use of contraflow bike lanes to create coherent routes — mostly on low-traffic streets — tying the High Bridge to the existing bike network.

Update: An anonymous tipster sends a more recent photo. Here’s the view looking toward the High Bridge (looks like the stencils went down too soon):

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For First Time, NYC Will Fund Plaza Maintenance in Low-Income Areas

Since it launched nearly eight years ago, DOT’s public plaza program has relied on a public-private model: The city funds plaza installation and construction, while local partners pick up the tab for maintenance and operations. This works well in some parts of town but is a more difficult proposition in low-income communities. Now, for the first time, the city budget will fund plaza maintenance in neighborhoods that could use additional help.

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Spaces like New Lots Triangle could get a boost from new city funding for plaza maintenance in low-income communities. Photo: Noah Kazis

The de Blasio administration’s latest executive budget [PDF] includes $5.6 million over four years for plaza maintenance as part of its OneNYC environmental and equity plan.

“Previously, the plaza program, there’d been no city money put in. We just called on all the community partners to come up with the funding,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “Some neighborhoods, it’s easier to do that than others. It’s an equity measure, making sure these kinds of programs can be in every part of the city.”

The city funds are intended to supplement, rather than replace, local partners, though exact details of how DOT will distribute the funds have yet to be worked out. “This is money that’s supposed to continue to leverage other sources and work with community groups,” Trottenberg said. “We just got this money a little while ago, so we’re now putting together a plan about what we think makes sense and how we want to spend it.”

Plaza advocates welcomed the new funding. “It’s so good because the agency and the mayor are acknowledging that plazas are part of their equity agenda,” said Laura Hansen, managing director of the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership. NPP, a program of the Horticultural Society of New York, relies on donations to assist the work of plaza partners in low-income areas.

There are currently 49 plazas across the city, with 22 more underway, according to the mayor’s budget.

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Envisioning a New Purpose for the Space Beneath NYC’s Elevated Structures

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Space beneath the elevated train along Rockaway Freeway reimagined as a safe place for walking and bicycling. Image: Rockaway Waterfront Alliance

There are nearly 700 miles of elevated highways, rail lines, and bridges crisscrossing New York City. They tend to be dreary places, but they don’t have to be. A report released today by the Design Trust for Public Space and DOT, Under the Elevated, envisions new uses for the spaces beneath these elevated structures.

Already, land beneath elevated structures in HarlemDumboLong Island CitySunnysideNew Lots, and the Rockaways is being repurposed. To keep a good thing going, the report provides a toolkit the city can use to reinvigorate more of these spaces.

Map: Design Trust for Public Space

There are nearly 700 miles of elevated structures in New York. Rail lines are in red, and highways are in blue. Map: Design Trust for Public Space

There are approximately 7,000 miles of elevated structures in cities across the nation, mostly highways, according to dlandstudio principal Susannah C. Drake, who served as a fellow with the Design Trust. DOT and Design Trust staff said they aren’t aware of another city that had taken such a comprehensive look at the spaces beneath elevated structures.

“You can reclaim that space. You can do some beautiful things with it,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at an event this afternoon announcing the report. “We’re really going to put some resources into improving these spaces.”

The possibilities include building greenways, adding retail, livening up spaces with events, and implementing permeable surfaces to absorb stormwater.

One of the report’s major recommendations is the “El-Space Program,” a DOT initiative that will focus specifically on under-the-elevated projects. DOT’s four-person urban design staff, led by Neil Gagliardi, will take the lead. “This is really a comprehensive approach, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time,” Gagliardi said.

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CB 7 Backs Caton Ave Safety Fixes After Lander Urges “Yes” Vote

This plan, which drops Caton Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one, was almost derailed by a few members of Brooklyn Community Board 7 last night.

This plan, which drops Caton Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one, was almost derailed by a few members of Brooklyn Community Board 7 last night. Image: DOT [PDF]

Safety improvements for Caton Avenue in Brooklyn almost didn’t get a thumbs up from Community Board 7 last night when a few people spoke against the loss of five parking spaces. But Council Member Brad Lander stepped in and urged the board to support the redesign, leading to a vote in favor.

The plan [PDF] was developed after middle schooler Mohammad Uddin was killed by a hit-and-run driver at E. 7th Street and Caton Avenue in November 2014. On this short stretch of Caton, between Ocean Parkway and Coney Island Avenue, two bicyclists and one motor vehicle occupant were severely injured between 2009 and 2013.

A Caton Avenue road diet, going from two lanes in each direction to one, would more closely match other sections of the street nearby. The plan calls for turn lanes and three concrete pedestrian islands at intersections, along with a left-turn ban and signal changes at Ocean Parkway to give pedestrians a head start.

Although Caton Avenue west of Ocean Parkway has a bike lane, DOT is not extending it as part of this plan. Instead, the agency is proposing extra-wide parking lanes.

The project will remove five parking spaces to improve visibility at corners on neighborhood streets north of Caton Avenue. Separately, curb extensions are in the works for the intersection of Caton Avenue and E. 7th Street this summer and on Caton west of Ocean Parkway in 2017. DOT will also install a number of safety improvements near schools in the area.

After Uddin was killed, more than 150 people came out to the first public meeting with DOT about making local streets safer. Community Board 12, which covers the south side of Caton Avenue, later voted to support the road diet. The project also received the backing of the CB 7 transportation committee in a 7-1 vote last month. But last night the full board faltered at first.

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