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Posts from the "Buses" Category

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Vance: Tour Bus Driver Who Killed Pedestrian Convicted of Manslaughter

A tour bus driver who killed a pedestrian in Hell’s Kitchen while driving drunk has been convicted of manslaughter and homicide.

Victim Timothy White. Photo via ##http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2011/05/08/philadelphia-man-killed-in-tour-bus-accident-in-new-york-city/##KYW-TV##

Victim Timothy White. Photo via KYW-TV

Steve Drappel, now 60, was making a left turn from 47th Street onto Ninth Avenue at around 10 p.m. on May 7, 2011, when he ran over 29-year-old Timothy White, according to published reports and a press release from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.  White, who was in a crosswalk, was dragged for half a block before witnesses alerted Drappel by screaming and banging on the bus.

White was in town from Philadelphia to visit family and was walking to his cousin’s home after dinner, according to a DNAinfo story published the day after the crash.

“He was the perfect son,” his father Robert White, 67, said Sunday from his Pennsylvania home.

The devastated dad said his son had battled health problems and “was an inspiration to all of us.”

“Tim was a hero,” his mom Julia said. “He was a hero to all of us.”

Police found a cup containing vodka next to Drappel’s seat, and an open bottle of vodka in the luggage compartment of the bus, which reports said Drappel admitted was his. His blood alcohol level was .14.

The Post reported that Drappel had been in three crashes since 1997, and had citations for speeding and driving with a suspended license. Drappel was driving a bus owned by TraveLynx, a Florida company, for Chinatown-based tour operator L & L Travel, reports said.

According to the Vance press release, Drappel was convicted this week, following a bench trial in New York State Supreme Court, of second degree vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and two counts of driving while intoxicated.

Read more…

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Select Bus Service Comes to Brooklyn

Photo: Ben Fried

Boarding at Nostrand and Flushing on the first day of B44 SBS service. Photo: Ben Fried

Yesterday was the first day of service for Brooklyn’s first Select Bus Service route, upgrading the B44 Limited with a dedicated bus lane, off-board fare collection, bus bulbs, and fewer stops. It’s the sixth SBS route to enter service, following two in the Bronx, two in Manhattan, and one in Staten Island.

In addition to improving transit speeds, these measures should help reduce bus bunching on what has been one of the most unreliable routes in the city — in 2009 the B44 took home the Straphangers Campaign Schleppie Award for NYC’s least reliable bus route.

At noon, Mayor Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan will announce the launch of the new service, and we’ll have a report from the presser later today. Just a note for now about how the coverage of this bus upgrade is playing out: Whenever a new SBS route launches, it takes some time for people to acclimate, and the first stories tend to zero in on how riders have trouble adjusting to the payment system or the elimination of stops. It’s not until several months later, maybe a year, that the performance metrics come in, showing better bus speeds and increased ridership.

The changes to the B44 are more significant than other SBS projects because northbound service is switching from New York Avenue to Rogers and Bedford Avenues, which are wider, one-way streets that can more readily accommodate transit lanes and bus bulbs. (The local B44 northbound will remain on New York, where it provides direct access to Kings County Hospital.) So there’s certainly going to be an adjustment period.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke to two women, Gem and Meg (they swore those were their real names and the palindrome was a coincidence), who were getting off a northbound B44 SBS bus at Fulton Street. They were returning from a trip to visit family at Nostrand and Flatbush, about three and a half miles away. Most passengers were confused about how to pay fares, they said, but the trip was still about 10 minutes faster than it used to be.

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Bus Time Went Live in Manhattan This Morning

Bus Time is now operational for Manhattan buses. The service, already in the Bronx and Staten Island, is planned for Queens and Brooklyn within six months. Image: MTA

After signs went up in subway stations last week, the MTA made it official this morning: real-time bus tracking is now available for all Manhattan buses, joining Staten Island and the Bronx, with Queens and Brooklyn to come online within six months.

Bus Time for Manhattan buses appeared shortly after midnight last night, adding 36 routes and 1,800 bus stops to the program. Bronx and Staten Island buses that have portions of their routes in Manhattan are already equipped with the tracking technology, which was developed in part by OpenPlans, Streetsblog’s parent organization.

As of today, the MTA says there are 2,852 buses in its fleet with the GPS devices, serving 6,000 bus stops in the three boroughs with Bus Time.

Real-time tracking information — which tells users how many stops or miles away a bus is, instead of calculating a countdown estimate — is available online and on phones via app, text message, or scannable QR code at each bus stop.

While Bus Time allows users to track their buses, some council members want real-time information to go one step further and are calling for the city to rewrite its bus shelter contract to include countdown clocks for buses, like those in some subway stations, so riders can get service information without checking their phones.

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MTA Plans Busway Beneath the M Train in Ridgewood

The MTA is working on a plan for a short busway in Ridgewood that would run for six-tenths of a mile beneath the elevated M tracks, between Fresh Pond Road and Palmetto Street. While the project wouldn’t transform a car-choked traffic sewer into a pedestrian-friendly transit boulevard (the right-of-way is currently a series of weed-strewn parking lots), it could be NYC’s first new separated busway since the Fulton Mall opened in the 1970s.

The western end of the Ridgewood Busway route, beneath the elevated M train at Onderdonk Avenue. Photo: Google Maps

The busway would have one lane in each direction and three bus stops. (Overhead, the M train stops at Fresh Pond Road, Forest Avenue, and Seneca Avenue.)

In its recently-released 20-Year Capital Needs Assessment [PDF], the MTA said the busway, which leads directly to the Fresh Pond bus depot, ”will reduce travel times and reduce operating costs for several bus routes.” The MTA says the project would save approximately $1 million in operating costs annually.

Buses currently running east-west in the area are the Q58, B13, and B20, which carry a combined 41,428 passengers on an average weekday. Slightly more than two-thirds of that ridership is on the Q58.

Engineering and planning firm Parsons Brinckerhoff performed a conceptual engineering study for the busway in 2012. The project, included in the regional transportation funding plan approved last month by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council [PDF], would be funded by $11.64 million from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program and $2.91 million in matching funds from the MTA scheduled for Fiscal Year 2015. The total project cost is between $12.5 and $19 million; the MTA says the cost has not been finalized and that it has not yet made a decision on whether to proceed with the project.

New York has no bus routes where cars can’t intrude and slow down transit riders. A DOT plan to build a separated busway on 34th Street was scuttled in 2011, resulting in a more modest plan to improve the M34 SBS route. The MTA has proposed a busway along an elevated railroad track on Staten Island’s north shore, but the Ridgewood project looks like it could be up and running first. While it won’t set a precedent for carving a separated busway out of car lanes, it would help show how quickly, smoothly, and reliably buses can run when traffic doesn’t get in the way.

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Bus Time Set to Expand to Manhattan This Month; Queens and Brooklyn Next

Coming soon to Manhattan. Photo: secondavesagas/Instagram

Nearly a year after the Bronx became the second borough to get real-time bus tracking on all its buses, the MTA’s Bus Time program is set to expand to Manhattan this month, according to signs spotted in Manhattan subway stations by Twitter user David Rose and Second Avenue Sagas.

In March, the MTA announced that Bus Time would go live in Manhattan “this year,” followed by Brooklyn, then Queens. The authority said that by April 2014, all five boroughs will have Bus Time. The program, piloted in 2011 on the B63 in Brooklyn and rolled out to Staten Island last year, is a popular feature for the city’s buses, which have struggled with ridership even as the number of subway passengers has soared.

The MTA says it will be making an official announcement about Bus Time’s Manhattan rollout early next week, and that “all five boroughs will be online sometime in the spring 2014.”

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Genielle Laboriel, 21, Killed by Bus Driver in the Bronx; No Charges Filed

A school bus driver struck and killed a woman who was riding a skateboard in the Melrose section of the Bronx yesterday.

Genielle Laboriel. Photo via DNAinfo

The crash occurred at around 7:15 Wednesday morning. Genielle Laboriel, 21, was crossing E. 160th Street from the Melrose Avenue sidewalk when she was hit by the bus driver, who was making a right turn, according to reports. From DNAinfo:

Witness Nelson McKinsey was nearby when he heard the crash, he said.

“I heard a shriek and when I turned around, the front tires were on top of her,” said McKinsey, who lives nearby.

Laboriel flailed her arms as a passerby waved at the bus, urging it to reverse off of her, McKinsey said.

The bus driver remained on the scene and was not immediately arrested, cops said.

“He had a look of panic on his face,” McKinsey said.

The three children on board the bus were unharmed, police said.

The intersection of Melrose and E. 160th — a two-lane street with bike lanes and a one-way, single-lane street, respectively — has traffic and pedestrian signals. If the bus driver had a green light, and the signals were functioning properly, Laboriel would have presumably had a walk signal. If the bus driver and Laboriel were traveling in the same direction, as reports indicate, Laboriel would have had the right of way.

Denis Slattery and Tina Moore of the Daily News cited a witness, Juanita Hernandez, who said Laboriel was wearing headphones and was not wearing a helmet. The Daily News and DNAinfo noted that the same witness, who saw security footage of the crash, said Laboriel was “going too fast” and “lost control” of her skateboard. ”It was neither of their faults,” Hernandez said. ”It was a tragic accident.”

Neither story mentions how fast the driver was going or who had the right of way. DNAinfo reporters Patrick Wall and Aidan Gardiner wrote that Laboriel “died after careening into the path of a school bus,” and that the victim “collided” with the bus, suggesting that reckless behavior by Laboriel led to her death.

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Eyes on the Street: Painting SBS Bus Lanes on Nostrand Avenue

DOT crews were painting bus lanes on Nostrand Avenue this morning at Carroll Street. Photo: Haruka Horiuchi

Brooklyn’s B44 bus carried more than 12.5 million passengers last year between the base of the Williamsburg Bridge and Sheepshead Bay, making it the city’s fifth-busiest bus route. But the B44, which runs primarily along Nostrand Avenue, is notoriously unreliable and spends less than half of each run in motion. Half the time, it’s stuck in traffic or at bus stops and red lights.

There are 300,000 residents within a quarter-mile of the bus route, and 62 percent of households in that area are car-free, according to DOT and the MTA. Since 2009, the two agencies have been working to bring Select Bus Service to the B44. Limited-stop service would be converted to SBS, while local service on the B44 would remain.

Like other SBS projects, this one will add off-board fare collection, camera-enforced dedicated bus lanes, and transit signal priority to keep buses moving with green lights. It will also include curb extensions at bus stops, also known as bus bulbs, to keep the buses from having to move in and out of traffic every time they reach a stop.

The project, which received a $28 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, is nearing completion. Workers are painting the red bus lanes, and earlier this month, crews were spotted pouring concrete at a bus bulb near the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street.

A presentation from last year [PDF] says the project will be complete by “late 2013,” with the more intensive reconstruction of Nostrand Avenue between Flushing and Atlantic Avenues set to wrap by fall 2014.

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Will Letters From Two Uptown Electeds Get DOT to Restart 125th Street SBS?

The plan for 125th Street Select Bus Service died on the vine after a lack of support from community boards and elected officials. But now, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito [PDF] and State Senator Adriano Espaillat [PDF], along with council candidate Mark Levine, are asking Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to restart plans to bring SBS to the crosstown route.

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and council candidate Mark Levine are urging DOT to restart planning for SBS on 125th Street. Photo: Benjamin Engle/Instagram

In their letters, all three note that the vast majority of area residents are car-free, that SBS would deliver significant improvements to thousands of crosstown bus riders on a notoriously slow route, and that SBS has the potential to bring more customers to businesses along 125th Street.

Shortly before DOT and the MTA pulled the plug on the SBS project last month, Community Board 11′s transportation committee voted [PDF] to reverse a supportive resolution it had passed earlier in the spring, rejecting SBS unless the M35 bus to Randalls Island — an unrelated bus line — was rerouted. Neighbors had long complained about the route’s passengers hanging out at the busy corner of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street.

In her letter urging DOT to restart SBS planning, Mark-Viverito backed a proposal to move this bus stop, though she did not condition her support of SBS on the stop’s relocation. “I have heard the concerns of El Barrio/East Harlem residents regarding the placement of the M35 bus stop,” she wrote. “The alternate proposal to move the stop in front of the Pathmark is one that I support.”

I asked Mark-Viverito why she had not spoken out publicly in support of SBS as the project was being attacked and scaled back earlier this year. “We had made very clear in conversations throughout the debate around the 125th Street SBS that we supported the project,” Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “When the DOT released a scaled back proposal for SBS, it still kept the project whole in El Barrio/East Harlem, which is the area that I represent.”

When DOT cancelled SBS, the agency said it would be implementing other bus improvements on 125th Street, but there has been no further information about what those changes might be or when they would be implemented. “We received the letters from the elected officials and will be responding,” DOT spokesperson Nicole Garcia said via e-mail. ”We still hope to work to improve bus service throughout the corridor in dialog with the community.”

This post has been corrected to note that CB 11′s transportation committee, and not the full board, voted on resolutions regarding 125th Street SBS. At no time did CB 11′s full board express an opinion on the project.

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Kenneth Yard, 65, Killed by MTA Bus Driver and Unforgiving NYC Streets

A man who stepped out of his car onto Rockaway Boulevard was struck and killed by an MTA bus driver Sunday.

Kenneth Yard. Photo via New York Post

Kenneth Yard, 65, was driving at around 11:40 p.m. when he began to feel unwell and pulled over, according to the Post.

“He kept squeezing his head, his chest, stomach,” said his devastated wife, who added that he pulled over near Rockaway Boulevard and First Street in Meadowmere.

“I was wondering if he was having a heart attack,” said [Betty] Yard. Kenneth had told her that his vision had become blurry, and he began pacing around.

“I said, ‘Why is he crossing that street for? He knows he can’t cross that busy street,’ ” Yard said.

It was then that the Q113 bus struck him.

“I ran to his rescue, and he was looking up in the sky,” she said.

The speed limit on this stretch of Rockaway Boulevard is 30 mph. As is usually the case, reports don’t indicate what role, if any, driver speed may have played in the collision. It’s also possible that, had Yard kept driving, he may have caused an even more serious crash. (The Daily News reported that, according to police, Yard “intentionally leaped in front of the bus to end his life.” As no other outlet that we’ve found repeated this version of the story, it could be an extreme example of NYPD leaking only those crash details — accurate or not — that serve to absolve the driver.)

As much as anything, the crash that killed Kenneth Yard points to the unforgiving nature of most New York City streets: Wander into the street, for any reason, regardless of your age, and the odds against your survival are unacceptably high.

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Quinn Proposes Triboro BRT Line With Separated Bus Lanes

Since Scott Stringer left the mayoral field for the comptroller race, the mayoral candidates haven’t spoken much about the Triboro RX, a plan to bring circumferential rail service to Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx using existing tracks and rights of way. But they have spoken highly, if not very specifically, of Bus Rapid Transit. And a few have zeroed in on the transit needs of outer-borough communities, where job growth is outpacing Manhattan, but commute times are lengthening.

Quinn would build a Bus Rapid Transit line instead of rail along the Triboro RX route. Image: Quinn campaign via Capital NY

Today, Christine Quinn came forward with a proposal that merges the Triboro transit concept and her campaign’s emphasis on speedier bus routes. Her proposal would link the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn with a more robust version of Select Bus Service.

Dana Rubinstein at Capital New York reports:

Quinn said that her Triboro line would differ from the city’s existing and relatively ineffective Select Bus Service lines, because it would have real, protected bus lanes, allowing buses to move in rapid succession like street-level subway cars.

The route overlaps part of a plan from the MTA and DOT to extend SBS to LaGuardia Airport. In a policy book released earlier this month, Quinn said her first priority for BRT would be a primarily physically-separated line on the North Shore of Staten Island that is already being planned by the MTA.

Joan Byron of the Pratt Center for Community Development told Rubinstein that the general concept of linking the three boroughs is sound, but said it might make more sense to provide some of this service as separate routes. (The Quinn campaign’s map shows several zigzagging turns in Brooklyn.)

Quinn’s proposal comes the day after Council Member Brad Lander introduced a bill that would require DOT to create a comprehensive plan for citywide BRT. When asked about the potential of local political opposition to derail efforts for dedicated bus lanes on city streets, Quinn didn’t exactly strike a politically fearless tone, saying the city should do a better job involving communities in planning the system.