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Assembly Member Nick Perry Tried to Weaken Bus Lanes All Over NYC

Riders board the B46 SBS at the bus stop where the route connects to the 3 and 4 trains. Photo: David Meyer

Perry bill’s aimed to weaken bus lane enforcement on Brooklyn’s busiest bus route — the B46, where Select Bus Service debuted last week — as well as bus lanes throughout the city. Photo: David Meyer

Upset at the prospect of camera-enforced bus lanes on Utica Avenue, which carries more bus passengers than all but a few other streets in New York, Assembly Member N. Nick Perry introduced a bill in Albany this session that would have rendered every bus lane in the city next to useless during midday hours. The bill picked up a sponsor in the State Senate majority — Brooklyn Republican Marty Golden, who later withdrew the bill, preventing a vote.

Assembly Member N. Nick Perry

Assembly Member N. Nick Perry

New York has the nation’s slowest buses, but NYC DOT and the MTA have started to tackle the problem in recent years by rolling out Select Bus Service routes that feature dedicated bus lanes. With less car congestion and double parking blocking the right of way, the lanes make bus travel faster and more reliable. Together with improvements like off-board fare collection, bus lanes have improved travel times for passengers in the range of 15 to 30 percent.

The newest camera-enforced bus lane is on Utica Avenue in Perry’s East Flatbush district. Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, the B46, runs on Utica and carries 44,000 passengers each weekday. SBS launched there last week, making the B46 the tenth SBS route with bus lanes or bus-only segments. Several older bus lane segments on major avenues are also eligible for camera enforcement.

All of these bus lanes could have been compromised by Perry’s bill, introduced in April, to let drivers travel in bus lanes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if they stay at least 250 feet away from buses. Text accompanying the bill argued that “bus lane violations serve as a trap for tickets and summons by the police.”

In practice, the bill would render bus lanes unenforceable during the middle of the day, when ridership remains high and service is frequent on busy bus routes. On the B46, for instance, buses run every 5-6 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Golden introduced a companion bill in the State Senate in May but then withdrew it from consideration the following month.

Perry claimed his bill would make bus lanes “more efficient.” “If [drivers] see a bus approaching behind them, they should safely exit the bus lane,” he said. “But when there are no buses using the bus lane, we should not waste [road space].

But that scenario highlights why the bill would not work for either cars or buses — the constant merging by drivers in and out of the bus lane would slow down both motorists and bus passengers.

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Relief for Riders on Brooklyn’s Busiest Bus Route as B46 SBS Debuts

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Riders boarding the B46 SBS at the connection from the 3 and 4 trains no longer have to wait for everyone to dip a Metrocard. Photo: David Meyer

The B46 on Utica Avenue is Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, with more than 44,000 trips each weekday. Like other high-volume NYC bus routes, the B46 has also been susceptible to paralyzing traffic congestion and a boarding process that takes ages, as each passenger dips a Metrocard at the front of the bus. But B46 riders got some relief from slow, unreliable service this weekend with the launch of Select Bus Service.

With camera-enforced bus lanes, off-board fare collection, fewer stops, and priority for buses at traffic signals, NYC DOT and the MTA implemented a suite of improvements similar to the nearby B44, where travel times improved 15-30 percent after the debut of SBS.

Dedicated bus lanes were implemented on Utica Avenue in 2014 and 2015. Image: DOT

Bus lanes were implemented on Utica Avenue in 2014 and 2015, but camera enforcement didn’t begin until this month. Image: DOT

Where it runs through East Flatbush, the B46 serves some of the densest neighborhoods in the city outside of convenient walking access to the subway. (Last year, Mayor de Blasio suggested extending the subway from Eastern Parkway down Utica Avenue.)

DOT implemented bus lanes and transit signal priority on Utica in 2014 and 2015. On Sunday, off-board payment, bus stop consolidation, and camera enforcement of the bus lanes took effect, though drivers who violate the bus lanes will receive warnings instead of fines for the first 60 days. Bus bulbs — which enable passengers to board without the bus driver pulling in and out of traffic — will be installed next year.

On the evening commute yesterday, Elizabeth Bruno, who takes the B46 one stop between her home and the Utica Avenue subway station on Eastern Parkway, said she has noticed improvements even though riders are still adjusting to the service. “Because it’s new, I think, it takes a little while for people to get accustomed to, but once they get accustomed to [it], I think it will be fine,” Bruno said. “The Select is moving really faster because you don’t stop at every stop.”

“With the Select, it has gotten a little better,” said Yvette Glover, who rides the B46 every day from Eastern Parkway to Broadway and Myrtle. “I believe it’s a good thing.”

The B46 SBS runs from DeKalb Avenue to Kings Plaza, replacing the old B46 Limited that ran the length of the route but made express stops between DeKalb Avenue and Avenue H. The local B46, which previously stopped at DeKalb Avenue, will now make local stops from Kings Plaza all the way to the Williamsburg terminus.

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B44 Moving 15-30 Percent Faster After Select Bus Service Upgrades

Total travel times have gone down since the implementation of Select Bus Service on the B44 route. Image: DOT/MTA

Total travel times have improved 15-30 percent since the implementation of Select Bus Service on the B44. Image: DOT/MTA

As bus speeds decline in NYC, the few routes that are getting dedicated bus lanes and off-board fare collection are bucking the trend. The newest evidence comes from the B44 route along Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn, where buses are moving 15-30 percent faster since NYC DOT and the MTA upgraded the line to Select Bus Service, according to an update the agencies released yesterday [PDF]. Ridership on the route increased in 2015, going against the borough-wide pattern, following years of ridership losses before and during SBS implementation.

SBS upgrades make routes faster and more reliable via camera-enforced bus lanes, off-board fare collection, bus bulbs that expand waiting areas and enable bus drivers to make stops without pulling in and out of traffic, stop consolidation, and traffic signals that prioritize buses. On the B44, which runs between Sheepshead Bay and Williamsburg, total northbound travel times improved 31 percent during the morning peak and 20 percent in the evening after SBS launched. Southbound travel times improved by 19 percent in the morning and 15 percent in the evening.

The SBS improvements reduced the amount of time B44 buses spend motionless at stops, traffic lights, and stuck behind general traffic. While total time in motion before and after SBS remained relatively steady on the B44, it now accounts for 57 percent of travel time, compared to 45 percent before implementation.

The most substantial reductions in travel time occurred where dedicated bus lanes were installed, primarily north of the intersection of Nostrand and Flatbush Avenue. Between Flatbush and Fulton Street, where most of the bus lanes were installed, northbound travel times improved by 37 percent in the morning and 33 percent in the evening. (The lack of bus lanes on the southern part of the route shows: The agencies note that overall B44 speeds are lower than on other bus lines where DOT installed dedicated lanes along the entire route.)

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Brooklyn DA Charges Driver With Manslaughter for Killing Victoria Nicodemus

The allegedly unlicensed driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on the sidewalk faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Her family says Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson is OK with that.

After getting pressure from the victim’s family, DA Ken Thompson, right, filed felony charges against the driver who veered onto a Fort Greene sidewalk and killed Victoria Nicodemus, left, in December.

A grand jury has indicted Marlon Sewell for second-degree manslaughter six months after he jumped a curb in Fort Greene and killed 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus while driving with a suspended license, Gothamist reports. Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson had refrained from pressing felony charges until Nicodemus’s family pressured his office to take action.

On December 6, Sewell, driving a Chevy SUV on eastbound Fulton Street, veered onto a crowded sidewalk instead of slowing down for a bus pulling into a stop near S. Portland Avenue, according to witnesses. He struck Nicodemus, her boyfriend, and another person.

“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” a witness told the Daily News. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”

At first Thompson charged Sewell only with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, an unclassified misdemeanor, and operating a motor vehicle uninsured, a traffic infraction. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor is 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

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Driver Who Killed Man While Fleeing NYPD Pleads to Manslaughter

The press reported that Raymond Ramos was chased by police before he crashed into another vehicle and killed Dave Jones on a Brooklyn sidewalk. Image: News 12

The press reported that Raymond Ramos was chased by police before he crashed into another vehicle and killed Dave Jones on a Brooklyn sidewalk. Image: News 12

A driver who killed a man on a Brooklyn sidewalk while attempting to evade police pled guilty to manslaughter.

Police pulled Raymond Ramos over at Sterling Place and Schenectady Avenue in Crown Heights shortly after midnight on March 9, 2015. As officers approached his car, Ramos, then 18, drove off.

The Post and DNAinfo reported that police chased Ramos before he hit a second vehicle at Nostrand Avenue and St. Johns Place, about a mile away from the traffic stop. The impact sent both vehicles onto the sidewalk, fatally striking 21-year-old Dave Jones.

Photos published by the Daily News show both vehicles heavily damaged and overturned in front of a neighborhood shop, next to a shattered bus shelter. Three other vehicle occupants were reported injured.

NYPD and District Attorney Ken Thompson charged Ramos with manslaughter, two counts of assault, homicide, reckless endangerment, fleeing police, reckless driving, unlicensed driving, speeding, and other traffic infractions. On May 31, Ramos pled guilty to manslaughter, the top charge against him, according to court records.

It was never clear how much NYPD’s pursuit contributed to the crash.

NYPD policy says police must terminate vehicular pursuits “whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community.” When Streetsblog asked Mayor de Blasio’s office if NYPD was investigating whether the police who stopped Ramos followed department protocol, we received a one-sentence, generic response: “The Crash Investigation Squad is conducting a full investigation.”

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DA Ken Thompson Still Hasn’t Charged Driver for December Sidewalk Killing

The allegedly unlicensed driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on the sidewalk faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Her family says Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson seems OK with that.

The allegedly unlicensed driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on the sidewalk faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Her family says Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson seems OK with that.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged the driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Fort Greene sidewalk with unlicensed driving, but did not file charges for taking the victim’s life. Six months after the crash, Nicodemus’s family says the DA is dragging his feet on the case.

Marlon Sewell hit Nicodemus, her boyfriend, and another person with a Chevrolet SUV on the afternoon of December 6, 2015, as the victims walked in front of 694 Fulton Street, near South Portland Avenue. Police told WPIX Sewell was “zooming” down the street. An NYPD statement said Sewell swerved onto the sidewalk to avoid hitting a second vehicle, which witnesses said was a bus.

“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” a witness told the Daily News. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”

Victoria Nicodemus was 30 years old.

The current charges against Sewell are aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, an unclassified misdemeanor, and operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, a traffic infraction. For crashing on a sidewalk reportedly at a high rate of speed, killing one person and injuring two others, allegedly while driving without a valid license, Sewell faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. That’s the same penalty an unlicensed driver would face for making a turn without signaling.

“It seems to my family that they’re really beginning to be OK with just standing pat on the misdemeanor charges, and for us that’s unacceptable,” says Hank Miller, Nicodemus’s brother.

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Driver Pleads to Manslaughter for Killing 12-Year-Old on Brooklyn Sidewalk

Update: Robert DeCarlo was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison.

A man who drove a stolen minivan into a woman and her two children on a Brooklyn sidewalk, killing a 12-year-old girl and leaving the other victims with life-altering injuries, has pled guilty to manslaughter.

Joie Sellers

Joie Sellers

Robert DeCarlo hit Joie Sellers, her 9-year-old sister Charlie, and their mother Marcia Landais, 38, as the victims walked on Flatlands Avenue near E. 46th Street on July 2, 2014.

The Daily News reported that DeCarlo knocked down a fence and hit a fire hydrant before coming to a stop. “He was going 120 miles an hour,” one witness told the News. “He lost control. It was crazy.”

“One of the babies was under the car,” the witness said. “We pushed the car up. I take the baby out.”

Joie died at Kings County Hospital. The Post reported that Charlie was rendered blind and paralyzed by the crash, and that Landais sustained a fractured pelvis.

DeCarlo, who reportedly had a criminal background, ran from the scene on foot, and later turned himself in to police. District Attorney Ken Thompson filed over a dozen charges against him, including manslaughter, assault, leaving the scene, driving without a license, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and speeding.

Last Friday, DeCarlo pled guilty to manslaughter, a class C felony, and four counts of assault, a class D felony, according to court records. He is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

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If NYC Builds the Streetcar, It Will Run Right Through Flood Zones

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Map of streetcar route: NYC mayor’s office. Map of flood-prone areas: FloodHelpNY.org

As others have noted, the proposed Brooklyn-Queens streetcar route would run right through city- and FEMA-designated high-risk flood zones. This raises questions about how the streetcar infrastructure and vehicles would be protected from storm surges, as well as the general wisdom of siting a project that’s supposed to spur development in a flood-prone area.

Yesterday, reporters at City Hall’s streetcar press conference asked how the city would plan for future flood events along the streetcar route. Neither de Blasio nor the city officials at his side could explain how the streetcar plan would specifically address flooding — no details were given about where the vehicles would be stored or how the power supply would be shielded. Instead, the mayor started out by taking a very wide view of the situation.

“This city is deeply committed to the goal of reducing emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050,” the mayor said. “This is one of the ways we do it — get more and more people onto mass transit. Get them out of their cars. Use transportation that does not create harmful emissions. That’s why the BQX is such a powerful idea in terms of the environment to begin with.”

De Blasio then argued that the city’s flood resiliency efforts, which includes some measures to fortify areas like Red Hook against future storms will ensure that waterfront neighborhoods are sufficiently protected. “We’re going to be in a very different situation than we were a few years ago when Sandy hit,” he said.

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Brooklyn Electeds to DOT: Put Safety First at Atlantic and Flatbush

For Valentine’s Day, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin asked DOT to “complete” Atlantic Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

About a dozen people braved the cold Saturday morning to call for pedestrian safety improvements at Brooklyn’s Times Plaza and along the whole Atlantic Avenue corridor.

Times Plaza is the triangular public space at the convergence of Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth avenues. At a public meeting last month, local residents were disappointed that the redesign proposed by Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner, which is contractually obligated to fund the project, failed to address pedestrian safety concerns.

“It was clear at the meeting from the community turnout that what we really needed at this plaza was a safer place to cross,” Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn Committee Co-Chair Bahij Chancey said on Saturday.

Chancey and TA were joined by Borough President Eric Adams, council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, and representatives from Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s office and the Atlantic Avenue BID.

“How could you plan a plaza here before you make it safe?” Lander asked. “The intersection has to be safe before the plaza is made lovely. Lovely is good, safety is essential, so let’s start there.” DOT has said it plans to present pedestrian improvements for the intersection this spring.

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Keep L Train Passengers Moving With Great BRT

Full-BRT---Brooklyn-Side

Claiming street space for full-fledged BRT can help L train riders weather the impending Canarsie Tube closure and meet the long-term transit needs of northern Brooklyn better than a waterfront streetcar. Click to enlarge. Map: Sahra Mirbabaee/BRT Planning International

The news that Sandy-related repairs will require closing one or both directions of the L train under the East River (the “Canarsie Tube”) for one to three years has understandably caused panic among the estimated 230,000 daily passengers who rely on it. Businesses in Williamsburg that count on customers from Manhattan are also concerned about a significant downturn in sales. When the Canarsie Tube was shut down on weekends only last spring, it was bad enough for their bottom line, and this will be much worse.

Fixing the Canarsie Tube is imperative, but it doesn’t have to result in a massive disruption that threatens people’s livelihoods. The key to keeping L train passengers moving is to create new, high-capacity bus rapid transit on the streets.

Since the potential closure went public, several ideas have been floated to mitigate the impact. None of them do enough to provide viable transit options for L train riders. Only setting aside street space for high-capacity BRT can give riders a good substitute for the train. This can be done in time for the impending subway closure while also creating long-term improvements that address surface transit needs in northern Brooklyn much better than a waterfront streetcar ever could.

The Inadequacy of Current Proposals

While some L passengers will be able to switch to other subway lines, a huge number will face significant inconveniences. Passengers from Bedford Avenue to Union Square, for example, will face up to three new transfers.

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