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Will DOT Make Safety Upgrades Over Objections of Sheepshead Bay Cranks?

DOT is reportedly going ahead with a plan add pedestrian space and eliminate B36 turns, including one at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin last December, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

DOT is reportedly going ahead with a plan to add pedestrian space and eliminate B36 turns, including one at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin last December, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

Update: DOT confirmed this project is happening.

DOT intends to go ahead with a project to straighten out a bus route and add pedestrian space in Sheepshead Bay, reports the Brooklyn Daily. DOT had let the project stall after Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Community Board 15 opposed it, but after a bus driver killed a pedestrian in December while performing a turn that would have been eliminated under the plan, the improvements now appear to be moving forward.

The plan was first put forward in 2014, when DOT and the MTA proposed eliminating a winding detour on the B36 bus route between E. 17th Street and E. 14th Street, removing bus turns at intersections that see a lot of collisions. Sheepshead Bay Road would be converted to one-way eastbound between Jerome Avenue and E. 14th Street, and a taxi stand would be installed near the B/Q entrance, where livery cab drivers now park illegally to wait for passengers getting off trains.

The plan would also replace a slip lane on E. 17th Street at Sheepshead Bay Road with space for people, and convert one block of E. 15th Street to a public plaza.

Seventy-four people were injured in crashes within the project area between 2009 and 2013, DOT says, and seven people were killed or seriously injured. A driver killed a pedestrian on Avenue Z at E. 15th Street in 2008, according to DOT.

But DOT shelved the plan after CB 15 and Council Member Chaim Deutsch objected to the street design changes and the proposed E. 15th Street plaza. Deutsch said he was concerned about plaza upkeep, and that bus riders would have to walk a block to transfer between the train and the B36. CB 15 chair Theresa Scavo was okay with the taxi stand but otherwise wanted Sheepshead Bay Road to remain as is. “The problem comes down to enforcement,” Scavo told Streetsblog. “If you have proper enforcement, traffic will move on Sheepshead Bay Road.”

Six months later a bus driver making a left turn killed 62-year-old Eleonora Shulkin at Avenue Z and E. 17th Street, an intersection where bus turns would have been eliminated had the redesign been implemented.

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Streetsblog USA
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A New Blueprint for Streets That Put Transit Front and Center

This template shows how transit could be prioritized on a wide suburban-style arterial. Image: NACTO

A template for transit-only lanes and floating bus stops on a wide street with parking-protected bike lanes. Image: NACTO

The National Association of City Transportation Officials has released a new design guide to help cities prioritize transit on their streets.

How can cities integrate bus rapid transit with protected bike lanes? How can bus stops be improved and the boarding process sped up? How should traffic signals be optimized to prioritize buses? The Transit Street Design Guide goes into greater detail on these questions than NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide, released in 2013.

Before the publication of this guide, city transportation officials looking to make streets work better for transit still had to hunt through a few different manuals, said NACTO’s Matthew Roe.

“The kinds of problems that the guide seeks to solve are exactly the kinds of design problems and questions that cities are trying to solve,” said Roe. “How do you get transit to get where it’s going quicker, without degrading the pedestrian environment? Some of that has to do with the details of design.”

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Streetsblog USA
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The Fight for Better Access to Jobs in Detroit and Milwaukee, Using Buses

Low-income residents of Detroit and Milwaukee face formidable obstacles to job access. These two Rust Belt regions are consistently ranked among the most segregated in the country, and neither has a good transit system.

Bus riders in Detroit. Photo: Ditched by DDOT

Bus riders in Detroit. Photo: Ditched By DDOT

In both regions, the places that have been growing and adding jobs fastest have been been overwhelmingly sprawling, suburban areas inaccessible to people without cars.

A 2013 Brookings study ranked Detroit number one in the U.S. in job sprawl. According to that report, 77 percent of the region’s jobs are at least 10 miles outside of downtown. The national average is 43 percent.

Detroit’s woeful job access issues were perhaps best illustrated by James Robertson, a factory worker who commutes to a suburb that “opted out” of the regional transit system. Robertson’s brutal commute went viral, and while it was extreme even for Detroit, it highlighted a disjointed transit network that limits opportunity for many other residents.

Milwaukee faces a similar set of problems. As of December 2014, Milwaukee County had only regained 35 percent of the jobs lost during the recession, while outlying counties had regained 70 percent, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis. A 2013 study by Public Policy Forum found that about a third of the region’s 29 major job centers were inaccessible by transit. A local civil rights group recently prevailed in a suit against the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for its continued prioritization of costly highway projects at the expense of vital transit connections.

Now, both Detroit and Milwaukee are considering similar measures to improve job access: high-quality bus service that will connect workers from the city to suburban job centers.

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StreetFilms
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High Frequency: Why Houston Is Back on the Bus

Every so often, every city should do a “system reimagining” of its bus network like Houston METRO did.

Back in 2012, Houston’s bus network was in trouble. Ridership was down, and weekend ridership was especially weak. Frequent service was rare. Routes didn’t go directly where people needed to go. If you wanted to get from one place outside downtown to another place outside downtown, you still had to take a bus downtown and transfer.

It was a system that had basically stayed frozen since the 1970s. And as you can surmise, the service it provided was not effective, convenient, or appealing for many types of trips.

METRO’s solution was to wipe the slate clean. What would Houston’s bus network look like if you designed it from scratch? By re-examining every bus route in the city, talking to bus riders, and making tough decisions, METRO reinvented its bus network. The new system features better, more efficient routes, shorter wait times, and increased service on nights and weekends. The changes were essentially revenue-neutral — Houston now runs a better bus system on the same budget, because it optimized the use of existing resources.

This Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, the first in a series of four films looking at transit innovation in American cities.

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Three Hack-tastic Ideas to Fix Staten Island’s Broken Bus System

For all intents and purposes, Staten Island’s bus network is broken. Which isn’t surprising when you consider that the borough’s 31 local routes have barely changed in the last half-century. For the most part, ancient bus lines that pre-date the Verrazano Bridge (which opened in 1964) don’t go where people actually need to get around.

manhattan_stops

In Manhattan, Staten Island express bus stops can be consolidated around areas where many passengers board or alight (the darker spots), saving a lot of time. Image: Sri Kanajan

Then there are the express bus routes that take Staten Island commuters to and from Manhattan. These are some of the city’s slowest and least reliable express buses, plagued by traffic jams and stops that are spaced too close together.

At the request of Borough President James Oddo, last summer the MTA announced a full-network study of all 51 bus lines serving Staten Island.

As part of the effort, Oddo and the MTA co-sponsored a “Bus Hackathon” with TransitCenter and NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation on Saturday. They invited teams of software developers and tech-savvy urbanists to use MTA ridership data to diagnose problems and propose solutions for the borough’s bus system. The 150 participants cranked out 15 proposals for improving bus service, from which a panel of judges selected three winners.

TransitCenter’s Jon Orcutt said the hack-a-thon was a way to “get a fresh set of eyes” on the problems plaguing buses serving not just Staten Island but all of New York City. Bus ridership has continued to decline in recent years even as subway ridership climbs to historic highs.

“A lot of things are the way they are because no one’s taken a look at them in a long time,” Orcutt said. “This isn’t rocket science, but someone has to look at it.”

Here’s a look at some of the most enlightening analysis from the hack-a-thon — you’ll notice a lot of overlapping ideas. (TransitCenter also posted a summary today.)

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MTA to Boost Frequency of Q70 to LaGuardia

The Riders Alliance says improved Q70 service could revolutionize travel to LaGuardia Airport. Image: Riders Alliance

Service on the Q70 to LaGuardia will run more frequently — the Riders Alliance says more can be done. Image: Riders Alliance

The MTA announced this morning that it plans to increase service on the Q70 Limited bus to LaGuardia Airport and hopes to roll out Select Bus Service on the route later this year. Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin applauded the news as “a great step toward implementing a real airport shuttle from the subway” but said the MTA can do more.

A November report from the Riders Alliance suggested that rebranding the route as a “Free LaGuardia Subway Shuttle” would provide travelers with easy transit access to the airport at minimal cost to the MTA. The proposal contrasts with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s billion-dollar AirTrain to LaGuardia project, which would actually be slower than existing transit options.

The Q70 runs between the 61st Street-Woodside LIRR/7 train stop, Jackson Heights, and the airport. It currently runs every 12 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes overnight. Starting this spring, the MTA will increase frequency to every eight minutes during weekday peak and evening hours, every 10 minutes on weekends, and every 20 minutes overnight. The agency says it will roll out off-board fare collection later this year, further cutting trip times.

The Riders Alliance plan calls for a few other steps, including the elimination of fares and improving the branding and signage for the service, which can be hard to find, especially for travelers new to NYC. The November report highlighted the fact that 90 percent of Q70 riders transfer to the subway or LIRR, so making the bus free would have a minimal revenue impact.

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DOT Proposes Complete Street for Second Ave Above 68th Street

second_ave_complete

DOT plans to add a protected bike lane and bus lane to Second Avenue north of 68th Street. Image: DOT

With the conclusion of Second Avenue Subway construction on the horizon, DOT is preparing to move forward with a 2010 plan to add a bus lane and protected bike lane to Second Avenue on the Upper East Side. The project will close a gap in the Second Avenue bus lane and extend the protected bike lane on the avenue from 105th Street to 68th Street. Construction should begin this summer if the MTA meets its schedule for restoring the street.

The plan, which DOT presented to the Manhattan Community Board 8 transportation committee yesterday, promises to create a much safer neighborhood street and nearly 60 blocks of continuous protected bike lane stretching from East Harlem to the UES, but between 68th Street and the Queensboro Bridge, the bike lane will give way to sharrows. For now, DOT has no proposal to extend the Second Avenue protected lane to 34th Street and close a dangerous gap remains in the east side bike network.

After subway construction no longer impedes the surface of Second Avenue, DOT will paint a bus lane for M15 Select Bus Service, filling a gap between 105th Street and 60th Street. Like other M15 bus lanes, these will be enforced from 7 to 10 a.m. and from 2 to 7 p.m. Midday and in the evening, the bus lane will be used for metered parking, and overnight it will be free parking.

The new protected bike lane segment will run from 105th to 68th, though there will be a one-block gap in protection between 69th Street and 70th Street to accommodate a wider sidewalk and new subway entrance. Intersections with one-way streets where car traffic turns across the bike lane will get the “mixing zone” treatment, while at two-way streets, signals will give cyclists and pedestrians a head start on left-turning drivers. At other crossings, pedestrian islands will be installed between the bike lane and car traffic.

From 68th Street to the Queensboro Bridge, a “transitional design” will only add sharrows, providing no protection where traffic becomes most intense. DOT Acting Director of Bicycle and Greenway Programs Ted Wright said at last night’s meeting that a protected lane was too much to tackle in this project since congestion on Second Avenue is so severe, but that a future project could extend the protection.

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Streetsblog USA
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Ridership on the Upswing After Houston’s Bus Network Redesign

Houston's bus system before, on the left and after a complete system redesign on the right.

Houston’s bus map before and after a thorough system overhaul.

In August, Houston debuted its new bus network, reconfigured to increase frequent service, expand weekend hours, and improve access to jobs.

The implementation was contentious at times, and when we last checked in on the results — two months after the changes took effect — bus ridership was down 4 percent overall but up dramatically on weekends. That was to be expected, wrote transit consultant Jarrett Walker, who worked on the project, because it takes some time for people to adjust to changes and familiarize themselves with the new routes.

Now, after just two more months, METRO is reporting that bus ridership has climbed above previous levels. November totals were up 4 percent compared to the previous year.

“The upswing in ridership on the New Bus Network launched on Aug. 16, 2015 is immensely gratifying,” said METRO Board Chairman Gilbert Garcia in a press release. “The countless hours of researching routes, community meetings and input, planning changes, and redirecting and training our staff is paying off and we’re confident that trend will continue to grow.”

In October, Walker said he would expect ridership to increase about 20 percent by two years after the redesign, provided good management by the local transit agency. We’ll see, but the returns after just a few months are promising.

These results should be encouraging to cities like Columbus that are considering similar changes.

Metro is also getting ready to roll out a new transfer policy expected to boost ridership more. Previously, riders paying with cash did not get free transfers. Under the new policy, tickets will be good for a free transfer for up to three hours.

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DOT, Chaim Deutsch, and CB 15 Set Stage for Latest MTA Pedestrian Death

When Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Brooklyn CB 15 objected, DOT dropped a plan that would have eliminated B36 turns at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

When Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Brooklyn CB 15 objected, DOT dropped a plan that would have eliminated B36 turns at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

An MTA bus driver killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk in Sheepshead Bay Monday. The crash happened at an intersection where DOT planned to eliminate bus turns, but the project was shelved in response to opposition from City Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Brooklyn Community Board 15.

Eleonora Shulkin, 62, was crossing E. 17th Street at around 6 p.m. when she was struck by the driver of a B36, who was turning left from Avenue Z.

The intersection where the crash occurred has marked crosswalks and traffic signals, with no apparent dedicated turn phase for vehicles. Shulkin was crossing east to west in the E. 17th Street crosswalk, according to WABC. Anonymous police sources told News 12 the victim had the right of way, but the NYPD public information office could not confirm. Police have not released the driver’s name and no charges were filed as of this morning.

MTA bus drivers have killed at least four people walking since November 1. Three of the four victims were in the crosswalk and were hit by bus drivers making turns.

Reducing conflicts between pedestrians and turning buses is one Vision Zero strategy to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths. Last summer DOT and the MTA proposed to straighten the B36’s circuitous route on Avenue Z and Sheepshead Bay Road between E. 17th Street and E. 14th Street. By keeping buses on Avenue Z, where stops would have been centralized, DOT aimed to improve safety at a number of crossings where collisions are frequent — including the site of Monday’s crash, where the left turn for B36 buses would have been eliminated.

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Tish James and Queens Pols to DOT: Finish Strong on Woodhaven BRT

tish_donovan_jvb

Public Advocate Tish James with City Council members Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer on the steps of City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Public Advocate Letitia James joined Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Council Member Donovan Richards, and Queens transit activists on the steps of City Hall this morning to push the de Blasio administration to follow through on its plans for better bus service along Woodhaven Boulevard.

Earlier this year, DOT presented plans for bus lanes and pedestrian safety improvements along 14 miles of Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard [PDF], from Jackson Heights to the Rockaways. The project would speed up the Q52 and Q53, which serve 30,000 passengers each weekday but currently spend just 57 percent of the time in motion. New pedestrian islands and medians are also expected to reduce injuries on one of the deadliest streets in the city.

The rally comes at an important moment. While Richards and several other council members have called for full-fledged Bus Rapid Transit on Woodhaven Boulevard, the reallocation of street space from cars to buses is encountering some resistance in the neighborhood of Woodhaven.

With capital construction not set to begin until 2017, the implementation process is going to last at least two more years. The rally was a reminder that support for overhauling Woodhaven Boulevard runs deep, sending a message that DOT and City Hall shouldn’t buckle to pressure to water down the project. The BRT for NYC Coalition has now collected 7,000 signatures in favor of it.

For sections of Woodhaven and the Rockaways where high poverty rates couple with long commute times, said Richards, the project “is a transit equity issue.”

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