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Mothers Who Lost Kids Call on Albany to Allow Speed Cams at Every School

Public Advocate Letitia James spoke alongside members of Families for Safe Streets at city hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Public Advocate Letitia James spoke alongside members of Families for Safe Streets at City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

This morning, six mothers who lost their children to traffic violence — Amy Cohen, Ellen Foote, Judy Kottick, Dana Lerner, Lizi Rahman, and Sofia Russo — spoke on the steps of City Hall, calling on Albany to expand automated speed enforcement in New York City.

Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives will go to the state capitol tomorrow to build support for Assembly Member Deborah Glick’s bill to expand the city’s speed camera program.

Current state law limits NYC’s speed cameras to 140 locations. The cameras must be placed within a quarter mile of a school on a street that directly abuts it. Moreover, enforcement is limited to school hours, providing no deterrent during the night, when fatal crashes are more likely.

Glick’s bill would address those flaws by removing the limit on the number of schools where cameras can be sited, allowing them to operate 24/7, and making the program permanent. (It is currently set to expire in 2018.)

“We have an epidemic of drivers that are not slowing down, and children are being killed,” said Lerner, whose 9-year-old son Cooper Stock was struck and killed by a cab driver who violated his right-of-way in a crosswalk at West End Avenue and 97th Street.

Read more…

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“Textalyzer” Bill Would Enable Cops to Detect Distracted Driving Like DWI

State lawmakers want to give police the ability to field test motorists’ cell phones following a crash.

txt_drive

Photo: Wikipedia

Sponsored by Brooklyn Assembly Member Felix Ortiz and Westchester State Senator Terrence Murphy, the bill would let investigators use a “textalyzer” — which detects electronic device usage without revealing data stored on the device — after crashes that result in property damage, injury, or death.

Driver inattention and distraction contributed to over 12,000 crashes in New York City in 2014, according to state DMV data, including more than 9,800 crashes that resulted in injury and 38 fatal collisions.

Driver phone records, which open up more data than the “textalyzer” bill proposes to, are obtainable only with a court order. As it stands, it’s practically never clear whether investigators look at phone records after a crash or not. If police were given the tools to check for driver distraction in much the same way they test for the presence of alcohol, it should make for an effective deterrent.

The bill would allow motorists involved in crashes to refuse to submit phones for field testing, absent a subpoena, but drivers who do so would be subject to a license suspension.

The proposed legislation was prompted by the family of a college student, Evan Lieberman, who was killed in 2011 when the driver of a car he was riding in crashed in Orange County. The DMV determined that the driver was using his phone before the crash, which injured two other passengers.

“There’s a significant number of drivers who continually engage in reckless behavior, such as texting, using apps and browsing the web on their mobile devices while behind the wheel,” Ortiz said in a press release. “These people will continue to put themselves and others at risk unless we come up with a protocol to successfully stop them.”

The bill is currently in committee in the Assembly and the Senate.

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Jose Peralta and Michael DenDekker Call for Speed Cams at Every School

There is more than one Albany bill to loosen state restrictions on New York City’s speed camera program.

State Senator Jose Peralta introduced legislation today that would allow the city to install cameras in every school zone, up from the 140-camera cap imposed by the state. A separate Peralta bill, introduced in March, would eliminate state rules that limit the use of cameras to school hours.

In the Assembly, Deborah Glick is sponsoring a bill that would accomplish both those goals, as well as remove the sunset provision state lawmakers placed on the camera program. Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets are campaigning to get Glick’s bill passed.

Another bill from Assembly Member Michael DenDekker would suspend vehicle registrations of people who accumulate five or more speed camera tickets in a year, according to the Daily News.

“We’re happy to work with Assembly Member Glick because she’s been a leader on this issue from day one,” TA Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro told Streetsblog. Samponaro said the introduction of overlapping bills could work out for the best. “It’s good to see [Peralta and DenDekker] stepping up and taking action.”

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Here’s How You Can Help Bring Speed Enforcement to #EverySchool in NYC

Click on the image to tour the #EverySchool web site.

Click on the image to tour the #EverySchool web site.

Transportation Alternatives is ramping up its #EverySchool campaign to loosen Albany restrictions on New York City speed cameras.

Earlier this month, TA and Families for Safe Streets launched an effort to get state lawmakers to allow NYC to site speed cameras outside every school in the city. As of now, arbitrary state rules limit NYC to just 140 cameras, to be used in school zones during school hours only. Tickets carry a $50 fine with no license or insurance points and are not issued unless a driver is speeding by at least 11 miles per hour.

Even with those limitations, speeding is down by an average of 60 percent in locations where speed cameras are installed, according to DOT.

With just 7 percent of school zones covered by cameras at one time, TA and Families for Safe Streets are backing a bill introduced by Assembly Member Deborah Glick that would let any school have camera enforcement with no time of day restrictions. The bill would remove an Albany sunset provision, making the speed camera program permanent.

A new campaign web site allows parent groups and community organizations to join the #EverySchool Coalition. There is a form for contacting state reps about the campaign, and parents can share stories about the dangers their kids encounter when walking to school.

On May 10, TA and Families for Safe Streets will travel to Albany to encourage lawmakers to help pass Glick’s bill. People interested in making the trip can reserve a seat via the #EverySchool site, or sponsor other families that would like to go.

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Transit Riders: The MTA Can’t Run on Cuomo’s IOUs

Riders Alliance organizer Masha Burina speaking outside the Bowling Green subway station this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Straphangers can’t pay the MTA with an IOU, so why should Governor Andrew Cuomo get away with it?

That’s the message Riders Alliance members brought to the MTA board meeting this morning. After trying and failing to swipe into the Bowling Green subway station with a giant “IOU” Metrocard, the group proceeded to MTA headquarters.

In October, Cuomo committed to contribute $7.3 billion to the MTA’s five-year capital program on top of $1 billion provided in last year’s budget. This year’s budget, however, includes zero dollars for the capital plan (but somehow musters $3.4 billion for roads). Instead, Cuomo’s proposal makes a vague gesture to provide that money sometime in the future — once the MTA has exhausted all other funding sources.

“The machine wouldn’t take it, the agent wouldn’t take, and the turnstile wouldn’t take it,” Riders Alliance member Macartney Morris told the board. “If I can’t use an IOU, Governor Cuomo shouldn’t either.”

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers’ Campaign called Cuomo’s funding scheme “magical” and questioned the sincerity of the governor’s commitment. “It’s like in one of those fairy tales, you know, ‘I’ll give you the money, but first go pick up a clover, and then some blonde hair, and then magic potion,’” he said. “Only for you, the MTA, it’s, ‘First go out and spend $100 million, and then buy a big building — two big buildings, three big buildings — sell them, then go charge your customers $6 billion.’ This is not a good IOU for you or the public.”

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Cuomo’s Capital Budget: $3,400,000,000 for Roads, $0 for MTA

Here’s something NYC representatives should be screaming about in Albany: Governor Cuomo’s budget allocates more than $3 billion to roads and bridges but nothing to the MTA’s capital program, according to an analysis released today by the Riders Alliance. The discrepancy amounts to a gigantic transfer of resources from the New York City region to the statewide road program.

When Cuomo announced a few months ago that the state would commit $8.3 billion to the MTA’s five-year capital program, upstate representatives started howling about “parity” between funding for roads and bridges and funding for NYC transit. They saw the MTA getting a slice of state funds, and they wanted a cut for their districts.

But once the governor revealed his executive budget, the disparity actually ran in the other direction: Billions in direct subsidies were slated for roads and bridges, and no state money had been set aside for the MTA this year.

There’s no public policy rationale for transportation funding “parity” — just a political tradition of divvying up state resources in a manner that can garner a majority of votes in the state legislature. Viewing Cuomo’s budget proposal in that light, why should New York City’s assembly members and state senators vote for a spending plan that blatantly swindles their constituents?

Over the full five-year capital plan for roads and bridges, Cuomo is planning for $11.9 billion in direct state funding for the Department of Transportation, plus $2 billion in subsidies for the Thruway Authority, according to the Riders Alliance. By contrast, Cuomo has only spent $1 billion on the MTA’s five-year capital program. While the governor promised $7.3 billion in additional support, his budget delays that contribution indefinitely, essentially letting Cuomo avoid funding the MTA for as long as he remains in office.

And while the NYC region pays for a sizable share of the MTA capital plan — $11 billion — out of its own collective pocket through fares, tolls, and dedicated regional taxes, none of the state DOT’s capital funds come from local, dedicated revenue streams, the Riders Alliance reports. If the state continues to leave the MTA capital plan unfunded, subway and bus riders will end up shouldering more of the burden through higher fares.

This current budget proposal shows the huge imbalance created by Cuomo’s big dodge on MTA funding. Unless Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and NYC’s representatives change the governor’s budget, roads will get $3.4 billion in direct state subsidies plus $200 million in bank settlement funds, and New York City transit will get zilch.

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NYS Assembly Wants $20M for Safe Streets — Will Cuomo and Senate Agree?

In its one-house budget, the State Assembly is proposing to dedicate $20 million to safe streets projects statewide. It would be the first time New York has set aside dedicated funding for the state’s Complete Streets program, but so far neither Governor Cuomo nor the State Senate have included any such funding in their respective budget proposals.

New York State hasn’t guaranteed a dime for biking and walking projects since Governor Cuomo signed the Complete Streets law five years ago. Photo: Pat Arnow/Flickr

New York State hasn’t guaranteed a dime for biking and walking projects since Governor Cuomo signed the Complete Streets law five years ago. Photo: Pat Arnow/Flickr

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign reports that, since Cuomo signed a Complete Streets bill into law five years agoNew York hasn’t guaranteed any funding for walking and biking projects, while the federal pot for such projects has dwindled.

The law requires state and local transportation projects that fall under the jurisdiction of the state DOT and get federal and state funding to take walking and biking into account when appropriate.

Though $20 million doesn’t seem like much, Tri-State notes that it would almost double the $26 million in complete streets funding New York State is supposed to get from the feds annually under the FAST Act.

Given that people who walk and bike account for one in four traffic deaths in New York — the worst ratio of any state in the country, according to the Alliance for Biking & Walking — it’s vital that Albany help safe streets projects come to fruition.

“This is the first time a state budget bill has ever dedicated any state money to pedestrian and bike projects, so we consider this a big step forward,” Tri-State’s Nadine Lemmon told Streetsblog via email. “TSTC works in local communities across the state, and we often hear from mayors and leaders, ‘Why bother? There is no money to do what we want to do.’ If we can let them know New York State has stepped up, it will be a shot in the arm for local activists.”

Tri-State is asking New Yorkers to contact their State Senate reps and urge them to include $20 million in the Senate budget for Complete Streets.

It wouldn’t hurt to remind Cuomo that the safety of New Yorkers who aren’t driving motor vehicles matters too.

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TA and Families for Safe Streets Call for Speed Cameras at #EverySchool

speed_cam_every_school

Graphic: Transportation Alternatives [PDF]

Assembly Member Deborah Glick will introduce legislation to significantly expand New York City’s speed camera program. To get the bill enacted, street safety advocates will have to build support in the State Senate and ensure that Governor Cuomo signs it into law.

At a press conference this morning, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White joined members of Families for Safe Streets to call on Albany to allow automated speed enforcement by every school in NYC.

Amy Cohen spoke alongside other members of Families for Safe Streets in support of expanding the city's school speed camera program. Photo: David Meyer

Amy Cohen spoke alongside other members of Families for Safe Streets in support of expanding the city’s school speed camera program. Photo: David Meyer

State law currently limits the city’s speed camera program. No more than 140 locations can have the cameras, and they have to be placed within quarter mile of a school on a street that directly abuts the school. Enforcement is limited to hours when school activities are occurring, which leaves the speed limit unenforced during the 12 hours of the day when fatal crashes are most likely.

Glick’s bill would change the current set-up in three ways:

  • Any school in the city would be able to have speed camera enforcement within a half-mile radius, removing the limits on the number of “school zones” that can receive automated speed enforcement at any given rime.
  • Time restrictions on enforcement would be eliminated, allowing the cameras to operate 24/7.
  • The current sunset provision — under which the program would need to be renewed in 2018 — would expire, making the camera program permanent.

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36 Assembly Members to Cuomo: Stop Playing Games and Fund the MTA

Andrew Cuomo wants New Yorkers to think he’s taken care of the multi-billion dollar funding shortfall for the MTA capital program, even though his new budget allocates no new funds for the MTA. Well, 36 members of the Assembly aren’t buying it.

In a letter to Cuomo, Brooklyn Assembly Member Jim Brennan called on the governor to commit $1.825 billion annually over the next four years to the MTA. This would cover the $7.3 billion gap that remains in the capital program, the five-year package of critical maintenance projects and upgrades for the region’s transit system. Another 35 members of the Assembly have signed on to the letter.

In October, Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio reached an agreement in which the city would contribute $2.5 billion and the state $8.3 billion to the capital plan. The state had already allocated $1 billion of its share in previous budgets, but Cuomo’s proposed FY 2017 budget does not allocate any additional funding. Instead, it says the state will follow-through on its commitment to the capital plan only when the MTA has exhausted all other sources of funding, including loans.

Transit advocates and budget watchdogs pointed out that Cuomo was not making a real commitment, and that his stalling tactics could lead to excessive borrowing or a slowdown of necessary work on the capital program.

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Donovan Richards Wants Safer Conditions at Deadly Rosedale Intersection

Motorists injure dozens of people a year at the Queens intersection where a driver killed 16-year-old Alexa Smith. Image: DOT Vision Zero View

Motorists injure dozens of people a year at the intersection of Conduit Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard, where a driver killed 16-year-old Alexa Smith. Image: DOT Vision Zero View

City Council Member Donovan Richards wants DOT to put speed cameras at the Rosedale intersection where a hit-and-run driver killed a teenage girl earlier this month — a request the city may not be able to fulfill due to restrictions imposed by Albany. Richards also urged DOT to make physical improvements to protect people from speeding drivers.

Donovan Richards

Donovan Richards

Alexa Smith, 16, was crossing Conduit Avenue at Francis Lewis Boulevard in the crosswalk just after midnight on February 11 when she was hit by the driver of a vehicle believed to be a dollar van. Her killer did not stop to summon help or render aid. Smith was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital.

South Conduit Avenue is a high-speed road slicing through RosedaleThe speed limit on the avenue is 40 miles per hour where it crosses Francis Lewis Boulevard. Drivers injure dozens of people every year at the triangle formed by Conduit Avenue, Francis Lewis Boulevard, and 243rd Street, according to DOT crash data.

Locals interviewed after Smith’s death told the press that reckless drivers make crossing the street a life-and-death proposition, a point repeated by Richards at a press event last Friday.

From the Times-Ledger:

Richards said he would call on the Department of Transportation to add speed cameras at the intersection, which would have helped identify the perpetrator of the accident. He said additional pedestrian safety measures have also been suggested to ensure that residents will no longer have to risk their lives to cross this busy intersection.

“As Vision Zero spreads a wider net of pedestrian safety across the city, we also need the Department of Transportation to look at dangerous intersections such as right here at Sunrise and Francis Lewis,” said Richards.

“This is why we need speed cameras to slow drivers down and to hold them accountable for when they break the law. We also need the DOT to look at pedestrian-focused crossing signals that will ensure that they can cross the street without having to worry about frantic drivers trying to beat the light,” he said.

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