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Posts from the Manhattan Category


CB 5 Committee to DOT: You Oughta Take a Traffic Lane Outta Sixth Avenue

The DOT proposal for Sixth Avenue adds a protected bike lane but doesn’t remove any motor vehicle lanes. Image: NYC DOT

Like their counterparts at Community Board 4, members of the Manhattan Community Board 5 transportation committee think DOT’s proposed redesign of Sixth Avenue isn’t bold enough. Unlike CB 4, the committee voted for the plan anyway in a unanimous decision last night.

The proposal would add a protected bike lane from 14th Street to 33rd Street, narrowing the avenue’s four motor vehicle lanes without eliminating any [PDF]. Committee members were concerned that the plan won’t slow traffic and lacks various treatments that would better protect pedestrians, like wider sidewalks and raised concrete islands.

“This seems to me to prioritize traffic over pedestrians,” said committee chair Alan Miles.

DOT’s Ted Wright said other community boards are not as eager for more drastic changes. “I wish more community boards were asking for radical things,” he said.

“We ask every time you come here,” Miles quipped. “You’re always concerned about parking spaces.”

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Will the Sixth Avenue Protected Bike Lane Get Done in 2016?

Image: NYC DOT

Image: NYC DOT

DOT presented a plan for a protected bike lane on 19 blocks of Sixth Avenue to the Manhattan Community Board 4 transportation committee last night. From 14th Street to 33rd Street, the design calls for carving out a six-foot bike lane and three-foot buffer protected from moving motor vehicles by a lane of parked cars [PDF].

Sixth Avenue is both very dangerous, with a high injury rate, and one of the most heavily biked streets in New York, where people bicycling already account for a significant share of traffic. So far more than 16,000 people and 160 local businesses have signed on to Transportation Alternatives’ campaign for better walking and biking infrastructure on Sixth Avenue and Fifth Avenue.

Community Board 4 has generally supported complete streets redesigns but the committee did not vote for this one, reports Janet Liff, whose volunteer work with TA has built major momentum for a safer Sixth Avenue. The major sticking points were the absence of split-phase signals at most intersections and DOT’s proposed use of painted pedestrian islands instead of raised concrete islands, she said.

Split phase signals give pedestrians and cyclists a dedicated phase with no conflicts with turning drivers. DOT’s design puts them at 14th Street and 23th Street, the intersections with the highest crash rates. The agency thinks split phases could be problematic if installed at every intersection with left-turning traffic, Liff said, since they lower the share of crossing time for pedestrians, and on a crowded street like Sixth Avenue that could create pressure for people to disregard walk signals.

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Eyes on the Street: The First Avenue Bike Lane Gap Is Shrinking

DOT tweeted a status report this afternoon on the First Avenue protected bike lane gap. Green paint is down on the newly protected section between 49th Street and 56th Street:

This project will close most of the 10-block gap in the First Avenue protected bike lane in Midtown. The last few blocks up to 59th Street, where left-turning motor vehicle traffic heading to the Queensboro Bridge is most intense, will remain unprotected for now. DOT has said it will return to the local community board with a plan to protect those blocks after this phase has been completed.

In addition to the green paint, DOT will be adding pedestrian islands on these blocks this fall. That should prevent fatalities on a very dangerous stretch. Since 2009, the pedestrian death rate on First Avenue along the 10 blocks without a protected bike lane has been much higher than on the rest of First Avenue, according to DOT.


Next Up for SBS: 23rd Street in Manhattan, Canarsie to Gravesend in Brooklyn

What people are saying about the B6 and B82

What people are saying about the B82. Image via NYC DOT

Two more enhanced bus routes are entering the project pipeline in NYC, one along a busy Manhattan crosstown street and the other snaking across a transit-hungry stretch of Brooklyn.

The Manhattan project will run across 23rd Street. The Brooklyn project would tackle a long route following the B6 and B82 between East New York and Gravesend, which carried a combined 69,586 riders on an average weekday last year, according to the MTA.

The general sweep of the southern Brooklyn route was first identified in the 2009 SBS “phase two” expansion plan. A more fine-grained map emerged in the de Blasio administration’s OneNYC environmental and equity plan, released in April.

DOT and the MTA have already gotten started on the southern Brooklyn route. The project website includes reports from the field, where staffers set up tables at busy bus stops in August and September to find out what riders want. The top complaints: Buses are too slow, too crowded, and not running frequently enough.

There are also online maps — one for the B6, another for the B82 — so riders can pinpoint areas in need of improvement.

The B82 seems to offer the best opportunity for bus lanes, especially along Flatlands Avenue and Kings Highway. Getting these changes might take some effort: The route crosses City Council and community board districts where representatives don’t have a great record on reallocating street space.

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Mark Your Calendars: Summer Streets Returns in August

Another summer, another edition of Summer Streets.

For the eighth year, New York’s spin on Ciclovia is coming to nearly seven miles of streets on Manhattan’s east side. For three Saturdays in August — the 1st, 8th and 15th — Park Avenue, Lafayette Street, and a portion of 72nd Street between Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge are going car-free between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Each year Summer Streets has something new as the main attraction. This time, New Yorkers will be able to ride a tube down “Slide the City,” which in a promotional video looks like a large, multi-block Slip ‘N Slide. It will be installed at Foley Square — but be warned, walk-ups are not allowed. Participants must register online in advance.

Another new addition this year: a dog run and agility course at Astor Place sponsored by the American Kennel Club. Dogs not your thing? Maybe try riding a handcycle, also at Astor Place. Activities returning from previous years include a zip line and parkour workshops.

The theme this year is “accessibility.” “Whether you want to slide on water, bike, run, play soccer, take a self-guided architectural tour or play with your dog, our streets are an accessible and fun place for city residents and visitors of all ages to enjoy those activities,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a press release.

Since launching on three Saturdays in 2008, Summer Streets has not expanded to cover more streets or hours of the day. A major factor is the police presence required by NYPD. At last year’s Summer Streets announcement, Trottenberg said that cost limits the city’s ability to expand the event.

Looking for more car-free summer fun? Bronxites might also want to check out Boogie on the Boulevard, organized in part by the Bronx Museum. The event turns the center lanes of the Grand Concourse between 161st and 167th streets into car-free spaces featuring music and other programs from noon to 4 p.m. on the first three Sundays of August.


Team de Blasio Makes Its Case for a One-Year “Uber Cap”

The scene at today's transportation committee hearing. Photo: Stephen Miller

The scene at today’s transportation committee hearing. Photo: Stephen Miller

The de Blasio administration made its case for temporarily restricting the growth of licenses for ride-hailing services like Uber at a City Council hearing this morning. With congestion in Manhattan getting worse, City Hall’s plan is to cap the number of new for-hire vehicles on city streets for the next year while it studies the impact of the industry on traffic.

Today, the city splits most car services into two categories: medallion yellow taxis and for-hire vehicles (FHVs), which include green boro taxis, livery services, limousines, and drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft. Each has different rules and regulations.

Yellow cabs, which are the only service subject to a surcharge that helps fund the MTA, are limited by the number of medallions. The number of boro taxis, which are supposed to pick up passengers outside the central areas of the city, is capped by state law. But the city has no mechanism to limit the number of black cars, hence City Hall’s need for legislation introduced in the City Council by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and Steve Levin.

Since the advent of Uber and other app-based services, the number of FHVs on city streets has boomed, growing 63 percent since 2011. Nearly three-quarters of trips made by the new FHVs originate in Manhattan south of 60th Street, according to DOT, and the city is worried that these trips are a major factor behind the recent increase in congestion in the center of the city, which in turn may explain why bus ridership is dropping faster in Manhattan than in the outer boroughs.

“This decrease in traffic speeds is happening at the same time that overall traffic into the Manhattan CBD has fallen,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. While traffic in 2014 was 9 percent slower in the Manhattan central business district than it was in 2010, the number of vehicles entering the CBD each day had dropped 6 percent over the same period. The implication: The spike in for-hire cars circulating Manhattan has more than offset the reduction in other vehicles driving into the city center.

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With Congestion Getting Worse, City Wants to Stem Flood of Uber Licenses

The de Blasio administration and the City Council want to slow the growth in new black car licenses over the next year. With companies like Uber adding tens of thousands of black cars to the mix over the past few years, mainly in the most congested parts of Manhattan, the city wants to get a better handle on how the industry is affecting traffic.

Are for-hire vehicles like Uber making Manhattan traffic worse? The city thinks so, and wants to slow down new licenses to study the issue. Photo: Clemens v. Vogelsang/Flickr

Are for-hire vehicles like Uber making Manhattan traffic worse? The city wants to slow down new licenses to study the issue. Photo: Clemens v. Vogelsang/Flickr

“The rate at which new cars are coming on the road is tremendous. I think it’s something we all see traveling around the streets of Manhattan,” Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi said on a conference call this afternoon [PDF].

The for-hire vehicle fleet, which includes Uber and other black cars but not yellow or green taxis, has grown 63 percent since 2011. Over the past year, the city issued 2,000 new for-hire vehicle licenses each month, 64 per day. The surge has swelled the for-hire fleet from 38,000 to 63,000 vehicles since 2011. That’s 25,000 more vehicles in constant circulation.

Joshi said new app-based services have increased overall demand for car travel, with the growth of for-hire trips outpacing a drop in trips by medallion taxis. “The pie has grown,” she said. “The number of people that want to take for-hire vehicles from place A to place B has grown.”

While TLC has collected trip data from the city’s 13,587 yellow taxis for years, it only began collecting less-detailed information on for-hire trips last year. Crunching the new numbers, the city found that the fastest-growing for-hire companies do 72 percent of their business in Manhattan south of 60th Street.

“What happens to congestion in Manhattan when you start adding lots of new vehicles to the fleet, and they do most of their work in Manhattan?” Joshi asked. “It highlighted some of the negative externalities when we have a concentration of traffic in an already-dense area.”

There are early indications that this crop of black cars is making congestion worse. After seeing average speeds on Manhattan streets creep upward in recent years, traffic speeds dropped to 8.51 mph last year, DOT said, a 9 percent decline from 2010. Rush hour MTA buses were also 5 percent slower last year than they were in 2013, DOT said. Manhattan bus ridership has also suffered, dropping 5.8 percent last year.

To get a better handle on the data, the city is proposing to cut down on new for-hire vehicle licenses over the next year while it prepares recommendations to deal with the industry’s growth, including potential long-term restrictions on the number of licenses.

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The Case for 24/7 Access to the High Bridge

Video of opening day on the High Bridge: Clarence Eckerson.

New York City’s bike network would be a shell of its current self without the segments that run through parks. The most heavily traveled bike route in the city — the Hudson River Greenway — is in a park. Paths in Central Park, Prospect Park, and other public parks provide options for safe, quick bicycle travel that simply aren’t available on the city’s car-centric streets.

But bike routes in parks are not managed like other transportation routes in the city. The Parks Department closes greenways after a rough storm and imposes curfews that shut off legal access well before many people head home for the night.

With the opening of the High Bridge earlier this month, there’s finally a safe route to bike or walk between Washington Heights and the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx. The High Bridge, as it happens, is run by the Parks Department. As tremendous an improvement as the restored bridge may be, its curfew is also emblematic of broader problems with how the Parks Department manages critical active transportation routes.

The city has redesigned streets to make biking and walking to the High Bridge safer and more convenient. Anyone can use those streets 24 hours a day. The parks on each side of the bridge are open until at least 10 p.m. The High Bridge, meanwhile, closes at 8.

Reader Steven Kopstein wrote in to express his disbelief that the High Bridge is publicly inaccessible for 11 hours each day. Here’s his message, lightly edited:

I was anxiously anticipating the re-opening of the High Bridge. As a resident of Upper Manhattan with strong Bronx ties, I was very excited to finally have a way to cross into the borough on my bike without having to either ride on a crowded narrow sidewalk or on a dangerously busy bridge. I was also thrilled at the prospect of having a tourist draw and truly unique feature to show off to and enjoy with friends and relatives. I love the prospect of new recreational facilities being developed in an area that has been blatantly underserved for many, many years.

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Want Safer Biking and Walking Across the Harlem River? Tell DOT Your Ideas

Residents from the Bronx and Manhattan told DOT last night how they want to improve walking and biking across the Harlem River bridges. It was the second of four Harlem River bridges workshops this month.

Bronx and Upper Manhattan residents had plenty of suggestions for DOT last night. Photo: Stephen Miller

Bronx and Upper Manhattan residents had plenty of suggestions for DOT last night. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT is looking to improve access at all 16 bridges along the Harlem River, including the soon-to-open Randall’s Island Connector. Streets up to a mile inland on both sides of the river fall within the scope of the project.

“We’re not coming here with a plan,” project manager Alice Friedman told the approximately 15 people at last night’s workshop. “We’re really here to hear from you.”

Attendees last night split into three groups to highlight problem areas and offer suggestions. Most wanted wider paths on the bridges, safer intersections where the bridges touch down, and protected bike paths connecting nearby neighborhoods to the crossings. There were also smaller requests, such as better signage, more lighting, mirrors on blind corners, and improved snow clearance.

Mychal Johnson of South Bronx Unite said he often uses Exterior Street on rides to Mill Pond Park. “This is our safest route,” he said. “And there’s nothing protecting bikes. And there should be.”

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Gale Brewer Reappoints Safe Streets Foes to Manhattan Community Boards

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has reappointed a slate of community board members with a long history of opposing safer streets and better transit.

Brewer announced her 2015 board appointments on Monday. Among those granted another two-year term was Community Board 7’s Dan Zweig. Zweig was recommended by Council Member Helen Rosenthal and reappointed by Brewer despite protests by neighborhood residents and traffic violence victims all-too-familiar with his hostility toward projects that would save lives and reduce injuries on Upper West Side streets. Zweig’s reappointment will complicate efforts to install a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue, which Rosenthal has said she supports.

Gale Brewer tells traffic violence victims how nasty they are for urging her to remove street safety obstructionists from community boards. Photo: Stephen Miller

Gale Brewer told street safety advocates they were “nasty” for urging her to remove obstructionists from Manhattan community boards. Photo: Stephen Miller

Community board votes are supposed to be advisory, but in practice, if a board opposes a street redesign, nine times out of ten DOT will water it down to the board’s satisfaction or withdraw the project altogether. Board member objections usually center on perceived impediments to driving and parking.

Hostile community boards are a huge obstacle to Vision Zero. Yet Brewer said last year she would not remove board members who oppose transit and street safety improvements. Through two rounds of appointments she has stayed true to her word.

Led by chair Henrietta Lyle, Harlem’s CB 10 has held up bus lanes on 125th Street and delayed safety fixes on streets including Morningside Avenue and Lenox Avenue. Lyle has dismissed census data showing that most Harlem households are car-free, and complained to Streetsblog that “empty” bus lanes on 125h Street slow her cab rides to the subway. Lyle was nominated this year by Council Member Inez Dickens and reappointed by Brewer. Brewer also reappointed CB 10’s Barbara Nelson, who opposes road diets and almost single-handedly stalled a plaza proposed by Harlem neighborhood groups.

Ted Kovaleff marshaled a CB 9 transportation committee vote against a road diet for Riverside Drive and pedestrian islands for W. 120th Street. The decision was based in part on Kovaleff’s belief that Riverside should remain conducive to speeding because traffic congestion used to interfere with his weekend car trips to Vermont. Brewer reappointed Kovaleff to CB 9.

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