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Pedestrian Islands Coming to Deadly Northern Boulevard Intersection

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The intersection of Northern Boulevard and 61st Street in Woodside, where an unlicensed truck driver making a left turn through a crosswalk killed 8-year-old Noshat Nahian on his way to school last December, is set for some pedestrian safety fixes after months of work by elected officials and street safety advocates.

Members of Make Queens Safer said they hoped it was the first of many design changes DOT would make to Northern Boulevard, which ranks as one of the most dangerous streets for pedestrians in Queens.

The plan for the 61st Street intersection, first reported by the Daily News, includes the addition of concrete pedestrian islands and the elimination of left turns from westbound Northern Boulevard to southbound 61st Street. It will also adjust signals to increase crossing time for pedestrians and feature new school zone crosswalk markings and signage. DOT has already restricted some on-street parking to “daylight” the intersection’s northeast corner and improve visibility for pedestrians and drivers. Construction is set to begin this month and wrap up within weeks.

Immediately prior to announcing his Vision Zero agenda last January at PS 152, where Nahian was walking to school before he was killed, Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the intersection with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

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Will de Blasio Make Good on His Pledge to Build Great Bus Rapid Transit?

During his campaign for mayor, Bill de Blasio called for the creation of a citywide, “world-class” Bus Rapid Transit network consisting of at least 20 routes. These new routes would provide a crucial link for communities beyond the reach of subways and speed trips that are poorly served by the city’s Manhattan-centric rail system.

Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/61135621@N03/10930906743/in/photolist-hDVKKn-hDVKQ2-hDVKJR-hDV4r7-hDVL2K-hDV4d1-hDUmsp-hDV4HE-hDVL3r-hDVKwX-f1oBUU-f1oBKY-byEi8c-bDQkXm-bDQm73-deteve-detdRd-7C9G1Q-dwvtyZ-dwvtG2-aZLEg6-8BGt6h-fsrcaf-bzRdWF-br2R68-ga79rs-ga72Uv-ga76tL-im8tYQ-9cWWhF-842X7k-dbhDNz-iAhMCg-dR7Fb5-f19hpM-f1oBSA-f1oBQf-f19hkg-f19haD-f19hkz-8EYxLP-detcU5-bSK3sg-bDQmdW-fC42nb-fBNERP-9KE38J-daxWUc-9UJNum-br2KDF-br2PpP##MTA/Flickr##

Photo: MTA/Flickr

Now that he is mayor, de Blasio will have to build out new routes much more rapidly than his predecessor if he is to keep his campaign promise.

While de Blasio has not offered a timetable for completing the rapid bus network, it took the Bloomberg administration approximately six years to build the city’s first six Select Bus Service routes.

“It’s possible to pick up the pace,” said Joan Byron of the Pratt Center for Community Development. “The constraint is staffing.”

The Department of Transportation will likely need more planners and community liaisons in order to work on multiple projects at the same time.

“If you have one team working on planning for SBS, you can get one route done per year. If you have two teams you can get two routes done, and so on,” says Byron.

One key challenge for de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg will be to accelerate the public engagement process while following through on his campaign language about “extending [outreach] beyond the community board.” As public advocate, de Blasio criticized Bloomberg and transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan for moving too fast on major street redesigns. Now that he’s mayor, he will likely have to contend with the opposition that has met previous SBS projects.

It’s not impossible to imagine that future Select Bus Service routes will encounter less friction than before. SBS is now up and running successfully in several neighborhoods, and the concept is no longer new and alien to residents and community boards. There is a clear record of success.

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Speed Cam Data: See How Enforcement Drops Off a Cliff Each Afternoon

State law keeps the city's speed cameras from issuing tickets beyond one hour before and one hour after school events. 20 cameras are allowed by Albany; five are currently operating. Image: Streetsblog via NYC Open Data

State law keeps the city’s speed cameras from issuing tickets beyond one hour before and one hour after school events. 20 cameras are allowed by Albany; five are currently operating. Source data via NYC Open Data

New data offers a glimpse of how New York’s small speed camera program is performing under the restrictions of current Albany legislation. Among other things, you can see that the cameras don’t issue any tickets at night, when fatal crashes are most prevalent.

The speed camera law Albany enacted last year allows up to 20 cameras, but there are only five cameras in operation since the city starting issuing tickets on January 16. DOT didn’t say why the other 15 cameras aren’t up and running, but the agency did say that as of this week, cameras have issued 11,500 tickets to drivers speeding near schools.

A peek inside the data, some of which is available through the city’s open data portal, shows that the five cameras were turned on for the 27 school days between January 16 and February 25, issuing tickets no earlier than 7:01 a.m. and no later than 4:10 p.m. That means that thanks to Albany’s school-hour restrictions, the cameras are functioning less than half the day.

While speeding was the leading cause of NYC traffic deaths in 2012, the cameras aren’t on at all between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., when three-quarters of all NYC traffic fatalities occur, according to 2012 DMV data [PDF].

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Cumbo Calls for Safer Atlantic Ave, and Trottenberg Promises Action

Photo: Ben Fried

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo with advocates from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Make Brooklyn Safer, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, and Transportation Alternatives. Photo: Ben Fried

Minutes after Council Member Laurie Cumbo and street safety advocates called for immediate action to reduce traffic violence on Atlantic Avenue, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the audience at a Vision Zero forum in Crown Heights last night that DOT intends to make Atlantic one of its early priorities for safety fixes.

Atlantic Avenue is one of the biggest and most dangerous streets in the city, running east-west across the length of Brooklyn. It routinely ranks near the top of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s list of the borough’s deadliest streets for pedestrians. From 2002 to 2013, more than 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists were injured on Atlantic.

At a press conference preceding last night’s Vision Zero town hall at Medgar Evers College, Cumbo stressed the need to act soon. “We can’t wait for another child to be the face of why we need Vision Zero,” she said. “So many of these accidents could be avoided with the right measures.”

As it happens, the city intends to tackle Atlantic Avenue soon. During the forum, Trottenberg said Atlantic would be one of the 50 street safety projects DOT takes on this year. Noting that Atlantic Avenue is a big, wide, heavily trafficked street, Trottenberg said, “That’s the kind of street that DOT views as a challenge, and we want to step up.” The city’s Vision Zero action plan calls for “arterial slow zones” on streets like Atlantic that see a disproportionate share of injuries and deaths.

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Tonight: Crucial Meeting on Lafayette Street Protected Bike Lane

NYC DOT’s proposal for Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue would swap the parking lane and the bike lane and slow speeding drivers with narrower motor vehicle lanes. Image: NYC DOT

NYC DOT’s proposal to upgrade the northbound buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue to a protected lane is up for a vote at Community Board 2 tonight, and while the plan sailed through the board’s transportation committee earlier this month, a “Yes” vote is far from a sure thing. Redesign opponents who didn’t show up at the committee meeting are expected to make an appearance at the full board vote, and that could jeopardize the project.

The Lafayette redesign entails a simple change — flipping the current position of the parking lane and the bike lane, which will narrow crossing distances for pedestrians, protect bicyclists, and reduce speeding without removing traffic lanes. It’s an important step toward creating safer north-south biking conditions in the middle of Manhattan island, and tonight you can help put it over the top.

If you support a safer Lafayette Street, it’s important to turn out and prevent this opportunity from slipping away. To sign in to speak, show up by 6:00 at the Tishman Auditorium in the New School, 63 Fifth Avenue.

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Eyes on the Street: Real-Time Bus Arrival Display on Nostrand Ave [Updated]

bus_stop

New York finally has real-time bus arrival information and excellent route maps posted at bus stops. Or rather, at least one bus stop has this info, and it looks like the kind of thing that should spread to a lot more bus stops.

NYC DOT policy director Jon Orcutt posted this photo on Twitter over the weekend, when Bus Time went live in Brooklyn and Queens, bringing real-time arrival information to every borough. This display is at the Church Avenue stop for southbound Nostrand Avenue B44 Select Bus Service.

The bus arrival screen is integrated into one of NYC DOT’s WalkNYC wayfinding boards, which has also been customized with B44 route maps. The display shows how many stops away the next four arrivals are — both local and SBS buses. After years of looking jealously at other cities’ real-time bus stop displays, NYC seems to be on the verge of catching up.

It’s unclear how rapidly the displays will be rolled out. The WalkNYC maps are currently in four neighborhoods. We have a request in with DOT about whether the Bus Time-enabled displays will be coming to more bus stops.

Update: DOT says this is a prototype installed last fall for the launch of B44 SBS, with the arrival info switched on when Bus Time went live this weekend. The prototype is still being tested so there’s no timetable yet for a full rollout, but the plan is to eventually bring these displays to all SBS routes, starting with the B44, M34, and M60.

I went over to Church and Nostrand this afternoon and got a few more up-close shots of the display. (Sidenote: The parking situation on this stretch of Nostrand and Rogers is literally a free-for-all. No meters, double-parking everywhere, drivers bypassing the stopped vehicles by violating the bus lane. To make SBS work as well as it should here, there needs to be a price on the curb.)

Take a look:

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TLC Tells City Council It’s Looking to Get Dangerous Cabbies Off the Road

Here are more highlights from Thursday’s City Council transportation committee budget hearing.

  • Conan Freud, chief operating officer for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, said the agency is working on driver education, implementing technology, and increasing enforcement to improve driver safety. Freud said the TLC is looking to incentivize safe driving and remove unsafe cab drivers from the road “before tragic events occur.” Many safety initiatives won’t require extra funds, and the TLC should have figures on those that will “relatively soon,” he said.
  • Freud said 9,600 illegal cabs were seized in 2013, a big increase over prior years. Freud said the agency now has “unlimited” impound space, which allows for more vehicle seizures.
  • Freud told committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez that TLC operations have not been hampered while the agency is without a commissioner.
  • MTA representatives said the agency is communicating with DOT concerning Vision Zero, but offered no commitment to augment its existing bus safety measures. Spokesperson Lois Tendler told Council Member Steve Levin that the MTA considered rear wheel guards like the ones installed on buses in other major cities, but decided against using them. “We think they don’t work for us,” Tendler said, as the guards don’t help with “the type of crashes [the MTA has] been seeing.” At least 10 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by MTA bus drivers in the last 12 months, including Marisol Martinez, who was hit in a Brooklyn crosswalk on March 1.
  • Meanwhile, the MTA is testing four systems to help reduce subway track fatalities, and is studying platform doors. Tendler said the agency would be open to Rodriguez’s proposal for a “Vision Zero for subways.”
  • The MTA plans to have Select Bus Service on Harlem’s M60 line in the spring. MTA and DOT are working on identifying future routes. Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to bring 20 SBS routes online in the next four years is “an ambitious goal,” Tendler said.
  • The timeline for completion of East Side Access is 2021 to 2023, and the projected budget is $10.1 to $10.7 billion, MTA reps said. In other mega-project news, the MTA is counting on the Second Avenue Subway to relieve crowding on the Lexington Avenue line, as adding more trains would not be possible without upgrading to communication-based train control. CBTC is expected to be operational on the 7 line by 2017.
  • Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT has installed 4,300 pedestrian countdown clocks, and 4,500 more are on the way. Trottenberg called the timers a “fantastic safety improvement.”

Pete Donohue of the Daily News spoke with Trottenberg after the hearing about the possibility of a Citi Bike rate hike. Story here.

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Council Members Say DOT Needs Funds for Vision Zero, Bike-Share Expansion

City Council members today expressed strong support for Vision Zero, bike-share expansion, and other safe streets initiatives, but it’s not clear how they will be funded.

At a transportation committee budget hearing, council members heard from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the MTA, and DOT. Among other issues, reps from each agency were asked how they planned to help reduce traffic injuries and deaths.

“Vision Zero is already underway at DOT,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Among other projects, work on the Brooklyn Greenway and new public plazas in Bushwick and Washington Heights are on the agenda for FY 2015.

In response to questions about the Vision Zero time frame from chair Ydanis Rodriguez and committee member Jimmy Van Bramer, Trottenberg said DOT is planning a series of borough town hall meetings, followed by more localized forums, to gather citizen input. Still, she said, “Our goal is 50 projects per year,” in keeping with Mayor de Blasio’s pledge for citywide pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure improvements.

Van Bramer, of Queens, and Brooklyn rep Brad Lander asked Trottenberg about bike-share expansion. Lander said he would like to see a “full build-out” of the system, with city funds if needed. While DOT is “very keen” to develop a long-term expansion plan, Trottenberg said, “We’re not there yet.” On a couple of occasions Trottenberg referred to issues caused by the Bixi bankruptcy as one obstacle to overcome. “We’re going to get there as quickly as we can,” she said.

When Van Bramer asked if DOT could more quickly respond to requests for stop signs and speed bumps, which he said can take years to address, Trottenberg said the agency doesn’t have the funds to process all requests at once.

Council members Margaret Chin and Debi Rose complained about through traffic on Canal Street, with Rose citing the Sam Schwartz fair toll plan as a potential solution. Chin also asked if DOT could deploy “pedestrian managers” as an antidote to NYPD TEA agents, who tend to prioritize vehicle throughput over pedestrian safety.

In addition to supporting bike-share, Lander said the city should come up with funds for DOT to devote to Vision Zero initiatives in general. Steve Levin, of Brooklyn, asked if more money is needed for Slow Zones. More resources are always helpful, Trottenberg said.

While it was generally agreed that it will take additional funds to carry out Vision Zero, no specific figures were discussed.

We’ll have more on the hearing tomorrow.

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Tonight: Support a Safer Lafayette Street at Manhattan CB 2

Swapping the parking lane and the bike lane will make Lafayette safer for walking, biking, and driving without changing the general traffic lanes. Image: Google Maps/Brooklyn Spoke

One of the first new street redesigns of the de Blasio administration calls for upgrading the northbound section of the Lafayette Street bike lane, between Spring and 14th Street, from a buffered lane to a protected lane. Manhattan Community Board 2 will consider the proposal tonight, and if you want a safer Lafayette Street it’s important to turn out and tell CB 2 why this project matters.

Lafayette Street has one of the first buffered bike lanes in the city — maybe the first — implemented at a time when protected bike lane designs weren’t in DOT’s toolkit. It already takes up as much street space as needed for a safe, protected bike lane. Swapping the bike lane and the parking lane would make the street safer for everyone by reducing speeding, and it would keep motorists out of the bike lane without changing how motor vehicle traffic flows. As Doug Gordon says, it’s a no-brainer.

But even this low-hanging fruit may be tough to pluck if people don’t turn out tonight and support the project. Recently, even suggestions as mundane as slowing down the traffic signal progression on Prince Street have had trouble gaining traction at CB 2. Word is that the local BID is change-averse and doesn’t want this redesign to happen.

To speak up for a safer Lafayette Street, head to the meeting at the NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, Room 520, a little before 6:30 p.m.

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First Look at Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero Report and Street Safety Agenda

Mayor Bill de Blasio at today’s announcement, with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on the left and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton on the right. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio and several of his agency commissioners released the administration’s Vision Zero report at a school on West End Avenue this afternoon. Streetsblog’s Stephen Miller will have more from the mayor’s event later today. In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of the major takeaways from the report [PDF], which outlines both an ambitious multi-agency approach to reducing traffic violence that City Hall can pursue on its own, and a legislative agenda that asks Albany to let the city control its speed limits and traffic enforcement methods.

Like the January press conference launching the Vision Zero initiative, today’s announcement is first and foremost a sign that de Blasio is putting a high priority on reducing traffic deaths and injuries. The report, produced by a task force that de Blasio convened last month, rededicates NYC DOT to designing safer streets and brings NYPD on board in a big way, committing to increase traffic enforcement at the precinct level with more officers, modern technology, and better training. It also outlines several steps the Taxi and Limousine Commission can take to reduce dangerous behavior by for-hire drivers, and highlights how the city can operate its massive vehicle fleets with safety firmly in mind.

The report has a multi-pronged Albany agenda, including home rule over the allocation of automated enforcement cameras, which de Blasio campaigned on. The state legislature puts up a fight every time NYC asks for greater control over speed cameras and red light cameras, but the appeal from City Hall has never had quite this high a profile. It appears that the mayor’s street safety agenda in the state capitol is not going to get drowned out by his other Albany priorities.

Image: NYC Mayor's Office

Dangerous driving contributed to 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities in NYC from 2008 to 2012. Image: NYC Mayor’s Office

While these recommendations are more specific and wide-ranging than what de Blasio’s team produced during the mayoral campaign, the administration is leaving room to refine and build on the ideas in the report, which it calls “just a beginning.” A permanent Vision Zero task force, “comprised of the key agencies and partners needed to implement and extend this plan,” will report to the Mayor’s Office of Operations.

In an introductory letter to the report, de Blasio affirms that “the fundamental message of Vision Zero is that death and injury on city streets is not acceptable, and that we will no longer regard serious crashes as inevitable.” He asks New Yorkers “to talk to your neighbors, speak up at community boards and block associations, and help foster a broader understanding that it is within our power to prevent tragedies on our streets.”

Here are some of the more notable recommendations and factoids from the report:

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