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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:

Read more…

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DOT Eyes Improvements for Deadly Grand Avenue in Maspeth

After meeting with Assembly Member Marge Markey, DOT is planning an engineering fix for the Maspeth intersection where a senior was killed by a driver making an illegal turn, and is considering improvements at other dangerous locations along deadly Grand Avenue.

DOT will install bollards to prevent left turns from 69th Place onto Grand Avenue, where Angela Hurtado was killed in January. Photo:  ##http://theforumnewsgroup.com/2014/01/23/after-pedestrians-death-in-maspeth-residents-cry-out-for-change/##The Forum##

DOT will install bollards to prevent left turns from 69th Place onto Grand Avenue, where Angela Hurtado was killed in January. Photo: The Forum

Angela Hurtado, 68, was struck as she crossed Grand Avenue at 69th Place in the late morning hours of January 18. Driver Abel Tinoco hit Hurtado with an SUV as he turned left into the crosswalk, disregarding signage that prohibits left turns from 69th onto Grand.

The crash that killed Hurtado happened two blocks from where Francis Aung Lu drove onto a sidewalk and ran over five kids near a school, at Grand Avenue at 71st Street, last September.

Markey met with DOT and NYPD after Hurtado’s death. “Clearly there needs to be more enforcement of driving rules and safety improvements to protect our citizens,” said Markey in a press release. “At our meeting, DOT Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall has made a commitment to quickly implement safety improvements at the dangerous intersection where Angela Hurtado was killed in January.”

There were 23 crashes at Grand Avenue and 69th Place, resulting in four injuries, from August 2011 through December 2013, according to NYPD data mined by NYC Crashmapper.

According to DOT, a “qwick kurb” treatment — bollards installed in the roadbed — will be added at Grand and 69th Place to “further deter” left turns there. “We will also continue to review this location and others nearby for additional potential improvements,” a DOT spokesperson told Streetsblog.

Markey’s press release said other locations targeted by DOT include Grand Avenue at 69th Street, 53rd Avenue, and 65th Place. Changes to Grand and 69th Place are expected to be implemented this month, according to Markey.

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Safer, Saner Brooklyn Bridge Entrance on Track for Next Year

The Downtown Brooklyn entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is set for some major upgrades. Image: DDC

The Downtown Brooklyn entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is set for some major upgrades. Image: DDC

After years of planning and advocacy, an effort to improve the dangerous, ugly asphalt expanse on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge is set to take a big step forward tonight. Community Board 2 is meeting to vote on a resolution in support of a plan to expand space for walking and biking, realign car lanes, and add trees [PDF] that cleared its transportation committee with a unanimous 7-0 vote last month. Construction on the first phase is on track to begin as soon as the end of this year.

The Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge walking and biking path consists of a long, narrow concrete chute, sandwiched between the exhaust-choked car lanes of the Adams Street bridge approach. At the intersection of Adams and Tillary Street — both very wide streets dominated by motor vehicle traffic heading to and from free bridges — pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate a chaotic mess of traffic lanes, poorly coordinated signals, and narrow curb cuts to get to or from the bridge path.

The current design isn’t just unappealing, it’s dangerous for bike riders, walkers, and drivers alike: From 2008 to 2010, according to DOT, 339 people — including 24 cyclists and 32 pedestrians — were injured at nine intersections along the stretches of Tillary and Adams near the bridge.

The heart of the redesign is the intersection of these two streets, where the widened, tree-lined Brooklyn Bridge path entrance will have much more generous proportions for pedestrians and cyclists. South of Tillary Street, a center-running two-way bike lane would continue along Adams briefly before directing cyclists to striped bike lanes next to the parking lane on the next block, as Adams approaches Fulton Street. To make room for this wider median between Tillary and Johnson Streets, the service lanes on either side of this block of Adams will be eliminated.

Image: DDC

The plan for the western blocks of Tillary Street. Click to enlarge. Image: DDC

To make the whole area feel less like a highway, the city proposes reducing the amount of overhead signage and the presence of concrete barriers. Instead of the cattle chute, for example, pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge approach north of Tillary will be separated from car traffic by vegetation and a low chain barrier.

Read more…

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Brooklyn CB 3 Votes Against Saving Lives in Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill

Heat map of crashes within the proposed Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy Slow Zone from August 2011 through December 2013. Click to enlarge. Image: ##http://nyc.crashmapper.com/11/8/13/12/standard/collisions/2/17/40.685/-73.960##NYC Crashmapper##

Heat map of crashes within the proposed Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy Slow Zone from August 2011 through December 2013. Click to enlarge. Image: NYC Crashmapper

On Monday, Brooklyn Community Board 3 voted against a Slow Zone in a crash-prone area that encompasses parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Clinton Hill. Opponents said slowing down drivers would cause gridlock, and the board doubted that slower speeds would reduce crashes, according to DNAinfo.

The proposed zone is bordered by Washington Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, Bedford Avenue, and Fulton Street. DOT data show the .2-square mile area has an average of 62.4 traffic injuries a year, and six severe injuries or fatalities per road mile. There are four schools inside the zone and eight pre-K or daycare centers. Scores of pedestrians and cyclists were injured by motorists within the proposed zone area between August 2011 and December 2013, according to NYPD data mined by NYC Crashmapper.

DOT only proposes Slow Zones where residents apply for them. DNAinfo reported that 14 local groups and officials endorsed the Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy zone, which is one of five slated to be installed this year. The Community Board 2 transportation committee voted in favor of the Slow Zone last month, with a vote by the full board expected Wednesday.

After a 45-minute presentation from DOT, CB 3 members voted 27-4 against writing a letter of support.

[T]he department struggled on Monday to make its case for the plan with a presentation critics called confusing. They said it lacked specific details on how the plan would lead to a decrease in accidents.

“Was there a traffic study done?” asked board secretary Kimberly Hill. “Your presentation lacks the data necessary for us to feel comfortable and confident.”

“Classon Avenue is a traffic jam during the morning hours, and they blow their horns and blow their horns,” said Demetrice Mills, president of the Classon-FulGate Block Association, which rescinded its support for the zone. ”Making the speed limit even slower will make things even worse.”

First, if people are honking, they’re already going slower than 20 miles per hour. A 20 mph zone won’t make gridlock worse, but it will slow drivers on streets where they are currently able to drive at unsafe speeds.

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Watch NYC Reclaim Its Streets With the Swipe of a Finger

Image: A/N Blog

Images: A/N Blog

If you didn’t spend at least some of your Friday ogling this post on the Architect’s Newspaper Blog, you’ve been missing out. A/N Blog overlaid before and after shots of 25 Bloomberg-era NYC street transformations, allowing readers to “slide” between views.

“With little more than paint, planters, and a few well-placed boulders, Bloomberg and former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan‘s street interventions have been some of the most evident changes around the city,” writes Branden Klayko. “Whether it’s at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza or at Snøhetta’s redesigned Times Square, these road diets shaved off excess space previously turned over to cars and returned it to the pedestrian realm in dramatic fashion.”

A/N Blog used DOT photos to highlight street reclamations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Slide on over and feast your eyes.

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DOT Plans Changes for UWS Intersections After Pedestrian Deaths [Updated]

Video: Barron Lerner, uncle of Cooper Stock, speaks at last night’s CB 7 forum.

Update: DOT’s presentation on the intersection of Broadway and W. 96th Street is here.

DOT last night presented proposals to improve conditions for pedestrians in an area of the Upper West Side where three people were killed by motorists in January.

The Community Board 7 forum was packed with residents and electeds, who are looking to the city to take action in the wake of the deaths of Cooper Stock, Alexander Shear, and Samantha Lee.

At 96th and Broadway, where Shear was struck by the driver of a tour bus, the biggest change would be a ban on left turns from Broadway by southbound drivers, and the addition of a crosswalk linking Broadway’s center medians north and south of 96th, according to CB 7 member Ken Coughlin.

There is a subway entrance in the middle of Broadway on the south side of the intersection, a project that precipitated the removal of a significant amount of sidewalk space. Coughlin told Streetsblog pedestrians at the northwest corner of the intersection can be forced to wait almost two minutes to reach the subway entrance, since they have to cross both 96th Street and Broadway.

In addition to reducing conflicts between pedestrians and turning drivers, Coughlin says “The new plan gives pedestrians a second option, to cross in the middle, and cuts the wait way down.” Left turns from northbound Broadway onto 96th would still be allowed, Coughlin says.

“These [southbound] turns are currently very dangerous for pedestrians because the turn phase starts before those crossing 96th on the east side of Broadway get their walk signal,” says Coughlin. “Seeing traffic on 96th stopped for a red, many pedestrians start walking, unaware that turning traffic is coming toward them to their left.”

At W. 97th Street and West End Avenue, Gothamist reports that DOT has increased the leading pedestrian interval from six to 12 seconds, will be adding “yield to pedestrians” signage, and will consider adjusting signal times on 97th from Amsterdam Avenue to Riverside Drive. Most important, DOT will daylight the intersection by removing three parking spots, according to Gothamist.

Read more…

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Next Week: DOT to Preview Ped Safety Improvements for 96th and Broadway


The public will hear from DOT next week at a Community Board 7 meeting on proposed improvements at Broadway and 96th Street, after three pedestrians were fatally struck by drivers at or near the intersection this month.

“Safety is our top priority and we are actively identifying and evaluating a range of options for the area,” said DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel in an email. ”As we mentioned last week, we are developing a proposal with pedestrian safety enhancements for the intersection of West 96th Street and Broadway, and will present it to Community Board 7 as soon as possible.”

The last major change to this stretch of Broadway came when DOT hacked away nine feet of sidewalk as part of a project that added a new subway entrance in the middle of the street. Clarence Eckerson and Streetsblog Publisher Mark Gorton interviewed pedestrians about crowded conditions on Broadway for Streetfilms when that plan was revealed in 2006, when Iris Weinshall was DOT commissioner.

There were 73 pedestrian and cyclist injuries at Broadway and 96th between 1995 and 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. NYPD data mapped by NYC Crashmapper showed 72 crashes there from August of 2011 through October 2013, an average of 2.67 crashes per month. Eight pedestrians and four vehicle occupants were injured at the intersection during that period.

The area got the attention of Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton when a spate of crashes resulted in the deaths of pedestrians Alexander Shear, Samantha Lee, and Cooper Stock. Shear was struck by an MTA bus driver at Broadway and 96th; Lee was hit by an ambulance driver on 96th between Broadway and West End Avenue; and 9-year-old Stock and his father were run over by a cab driver at West End Avenue and 97th Street.

Residents and electeds last week demanded safer streets at a vigil for Stock and Shear. Unfortunately, the city’s response to this point has been to focus on the behavior of those who are being injured and killed. At a CompStat meeting this morning, Bratton again praised the 24th precinct for “taking action” and doing an “excellent job” by ticketing pedestrians at Broadway and 96th. De Blasio made similar comments after the precinct summonsed 18 pedestrians and five motorists last weekend, when a senior ended up bloodied and criminally charged after he was stopped by police for crossing against the signal.

“It will take time to fix that very dangerous intersection,” Bratton said, according to the NYPD Twitter feed.

Read more…