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Posts from the Bill de Blasio Category

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Crash Data Show NYC Is Losing Ground on Vision Zero

vzview

Citywide traffic deaths rose slightly in the first six months of 2016. Map: Vision Zero View

After a four-month hiatus, City Hall is again updating its Vision Zero View map with new crash data, and through the first six months of 2016, traffic deaths rose slightly compared the same period last year. Through the end of June, 111 people lost their lives to traffic violence, up from 107 in the first half of 2015.

Drivers killed 58 pedestrians and 12 cyclists from January through June this year, compared to 63 pedestrians and five cyclists in the first six months of 2015.

The month of June was especially deadly, with 29 fatalities, wiping out what had looked like progress in the first five months of the year.

Traffic injuries, which are less prone to random variation, are also up from last year for pedestrians and cyclists, though Vision Zero View does not track injury severity. Motorists injured 7,110 people walking and biking through June, compared to 6,518 pedestrian and cyclist injuries during the same period in 2015 — an increase of 9 percent.

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Mayor de Blasio Needs to Step Up to Keep L Train Passengers Moving

This morning the MTA announced that starting in 2019, it will close the L train between Eighth Avenue and Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg for 18 months to repair damage caused by Superstorm Sandy — surprising no one who’s been paying attention.

For several months now, it’s been obvious that the MTA and the de Blasio administration will have to work together on a plan to keep hundreds of thousands of L train passengers moving during these repairs. The MTA will have to adjust subway service and run more buses, and the city will have to allocate space on the streets for high-capacity busways and safe bicycling.

But in a statement to the Times, Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris framed the shutdown as a problem of the MTA’s own making:

We are deeply concerned that it would announce an 18-month shutdown of this critical service without a clear plan or a commitment of resources for mitigating the impact of this closure on hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Well before this shutdown occurs, New Yorkers deserve clarity from the M.T.A. on how it intends to minimize inconvenience and keep people moving throughout the duration of the construction.

And when Mayor de Blasio addressed the L train shutdown this morning, he didn’t stray from that message:

So, we’re looking at that very seriously. First of all, I’ll remind everyone the MTA is run by the State of New York. The amount of time that they have projected — the 18 months — is a very big concern for me and for the City government. We’re going to have some very serious conversations about the MTA, about whether it has to take that long and how it’s going to be handled. I want to make sure there’s a lot of redundancy in place. By the time it happens, one — small but important factors — we’ll have the citywide ferry service in place, so that’ll be helpful, but we’re going to need a lot more than that, obviously. So I want to press the MTA to show us that 300,000 riders really will have good and consistent alternatives. And we’re certainly going to look at what we have to do in terms of the bridge as part of that. We’ll have an answer on that after those discussions with the MTA.

Noticeably absent from de Blasio’s statement is a specific mention of buses and bikes as “redundancy” measures. Ferries can help, but setting aside street space to move large numbers of bus passengers and bike riders will do more to make up for the loss of L train service.

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DOT Overrides CB 10, Advances E. Tremont Safety Project After Cyclist Death

DOT will implement a road diet on the stretch of East Tremont Avenue where a motorist killed cyclist Giovanni Nin in June. Last year DOT had dropped the project in response to a hostile reception from Bronx Community Board 10.

How do Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg determine when a street safety project should move forward regardless of the local community board vote?

In early 2015, DOT proposed a number of improvements for East Tremont between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard [PDF]. The plan would reduce through traffic lanes and add a center turn lane, pedestrian islands, and other traffic-calming measures. No bike lanes were included in the project.

Hundreds of people were injured in crashes on this segment of East Tremont between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. Twenty-one of the injuries were severe or fatal. Fifty-nine of the victims were pedestrians and 10 were cyclists. In 2013, three drivers struck and killed Angel Figueroa, 74, as he tried to cross East Tremont at Puritan Avenue.

CB 10 voted against the plan after the Throggs Neck Merchants Association rallied people to oppose it, according to the Bronx Times. “DOT stated that it would be happy to abide with the CB 10 decision,” the paper reported.

A year after DOT abandoned the East Tremont project, a hit-and-run driver killed Nin, 26, while he was riding his bike about a block away from where Figueroa was hit.

At a memorial event for Nin last month, City Council Member James Vacca blamed CB 10 for derailing the East Tremont improvements. Then on July 11 he wrote to DOT Bronx Borough Commissioner Constance Moran [PDF], telling the agency to follow through on the project:

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TA: City Hall’s Spending Decisions Are Limiting Life-Saving Street Designs

Transportation Alternatives says the de Blasio administration’s failure to fully fund Vision Zero street improvements is limiting the number of split-phase traffic signals DOT can install to prevent collisions at dangerous intersections.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio

In June, 30-year-old cyclist Olga Cook was killed by an allegedly drunk driver who made a right turn across the Hudson River Greenway at Chambers Street, one of several spots where motor vehicle traffic is allowed to encroach on one of the busiest bike routes in the United States. Crashes at these conflict points are common, often resulting in injury and death for cyclists who use the greenway.

In a statement released today, TA Executive Director Paul White says Cook’s death could have been prevented with split-phase signals at Chambers and West streets, to prevent turning drivers and greenway cyclists traveling straight ahead from entering the intersection at the same time.

The same principle applies to designing safe intersections for pedestrians. Nearly a third of pedestrian and cyclist deaths in NYC are caused by turning drivers who fail to yield, according to TA.

“Shared-phase traffic lights do not work,” said White, “just as shared lanes for drivers and people on bikes do not work.”

Data from street redesigns with protected bike lanes — where some intersections features split-phase signals and others do not — indicates that total crashes resulting in injury decline twice as much at intersections with split phases.

After Cook’s death, DOT told the Tribeca Tribune the agency is “studying the area for safety enhancement, including a right turn lane and signal phasing upgrades.”

White points out there are hundreds of intersections across the city that need safety upgrades, but those fixes won’t happen on the timetable prescribed by Vision Zero because Mayor de Blasio denied the City Council’s request to boost the DOT budget for street improvements. The most recent city budget also cut funding for DOT Traffic Operations staff by 2 percent, according to TA.

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Albany Failed to Act on Safe Streets, So de Blasio’s Gotta Do It on His Own

With the Albany session over and legislative leaders failing to advance a bill to add 60 speed cameras in NYC, 2016 is going to be the first full calendar year since 2012 in which the city does not expand its automated speed enforcement program.

Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg can’t let a disappointing session in Albany spoil progress on street safety.

Advocates put together an impressive coalition for speed cameras, and they’ll be back fighting for a better enforcement program next session. If it wasn’t clear already, though, it is now: New York City has to implement street safety policy as if no help is coming from Albany. If the governor and legislative leaders come through in the future, so much the better. But their political calculus is too obscure and unpredictable to depend on.

The rollout of NYC’s complement of 140 speed cameras coincided with a 22 percent decline in traffic deaths from 2013 to 2015. Without new speed cameras this year, DOT’s street safety programs will have to shoulder more of the load to keep the positive trend going.

Despite a new city budget that grew by $3.6 billion dollars, however, DOT’s street safety programs are not in line for much of a boost. The de Blasio administration failed to budget for the 25 percent increase in funding for low-cost, fast-build street redesigns that the City Council requested in the spring.

It’s not like City Hall is scrounging around for loose change. The administration has set aside $325 million over the next few years for ferries (ferries projected to get fewer riders than the city’s 40th-busiest bus route). And if you think the $2.5 billion BQX streetcar is really going to “pay for itself,” I have a bridge over Newtown Creek to sell you. A budget boost for safe streets was just not a priority.

That leaves one resource the de Blasio administration can draw from to accelerate change on the streets: willpower. DOT may not have more money to spend, but the agency can do more with the money at its disposal if it has a firmer mandate from de Blasio to redesign dangerous streets.

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City Hall Has Allowed a Blackout on Vision Zero Crash Data Since February

A trucker killed cyclist James Gregg in Park Slope in April. With City Hall withholding crash data, the public doesn’t know how many other serious crashes are occurring. Photo: Eric McClure

A trucker killed Brooklyn cyclist James Gregg in April, one of the serious crashes that have yet to be accounted for on City Hall’s Vision Zero View site. Photo: Eric McClure

Is NYC reducing traffic injuries and deaths as called for by Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative? The public has no way to know, because the city hasn’t published crash data since the end of February and won’t start again until sometime this summer.

City Hall’s Vision Zero View map was a breakthrough when it debuted in 2014, providing frequent updates on traffic deaths and injuries. It quickly became an indispensable tool to assess progress on street safety, with data refreshed every month. But the most recent data in the system is now three months old.

After City Hall stopped posting new data, with no advance notice, a note on the map said the city is “transitioning to a new electronic crash data reporting system,” and Vision Zero View would be updated when the transition is complete. No timeline was provided.

NYPD also stopped posting its monthly crash reports after February. However, the department recently resumed publishing crash data on the city’s open data portal, after the feed went dark for about two months.

We asked de Blasio’s office when City Hall expects the new Vision Zero View system to come online, and why the city can’t continue publishing data on the current platform while the new one is in development.

“We expect the feed to be restored this summer at which point any old data will be posted retroactively,” de Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan replied via email.

Can you imagine the city putting an indefinite hold on the release of gun crime stats while NYPD developed CompStat 2.0? Yet de Blasio’s office won’t say why it was necessary to stop using the existing traffic crash data platform, and won’t provide a hard deadline for the resumption of data releases.

Until that undetermined date, when it comes to tracking progress on street safety, New Yorkers are in the dark.

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De Blasio Talks Vision Zero on WNYC

WNYC’s Brian Lehrer started off his Friday “Ask the Mayor” segment with Bill de Blasio by taking questions about Vision Zero. No earthshaking news came up, but it’s always interesting to hear how the mayor conveys messages about street safety and urban mobility to the public.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio

The first call came from a woman upset over the city’s focus on motor vehicle enforcement. “All of the penalties and all of the enforcement come down on drivers,” she told de Blasio. “With the city, it seems like they’re afraid of upsetting the bikers lobby or pedestrians.”

De Blasio, who earlier in the segment had called enforcement an “education” tool to shape driver behavior, did not mince words. He said that the city would enforce cycling laws, but that pedestrians and cyclists aren’t the source of the problem

The greatest degree of danger comes from motor vehicles. That’s 100 percent clear. That’s historically where the vast majority of death and injuries come from — is someone using their motor vehicle in an inappropriate fashion. We don’t give a speeding ticket when someone speeds. We don’t give a failure to yield ticket when someone yields. Let’s be blunt: If people are breaking the law and putting others in danger, I’m not going to back down on that. We’re going to go, in fact, do more enforcement of that.

A bicyclist who endangers others, of course we’re going to enforce. The amount of damage they can do is not the same as what a car can do or a truck can do, but of course we’re going to enforce that.

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De Blasio Advances Queens Boulevard Redesign Despite CB 4 Shenanigans

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Lizi Rahman and Council Member Danny Dromm led a rally for the Queens Boulevard redesign before last night’s CB 4 meeting. Rahman lost her son Asif in 2008 when he was struck by a truck driver and killed on Queens Boulevard. Photo: David Meyer

Mayor de Blasio has instructed NYC DOT to move forward with the redesign of Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst following a contentious meeting of Queens Community Board 4 last night, in which the chairman hastily pushed through a vote against the bike lane portion of the project.

“I respect those who disagree with us, but in the end, the safety of our neighbors and our children is the most fundamental responsibility we have in this work,” de Blasio said in a statement released this afternoon. “Today, I have instructed the Department of Transportation to move forward on the next phase of safety enhancements to Queens Boulevard, including a protected lane for cyclists.”

The CB 4 meeting last night was a travesty of public process even by the standards of New York City community boards.

Immediately after arguing that Queens Boulevard “is not a park, it is a very heavily traveled vehicular roadway,” CB 4 Chair Lou Walker moved to “accept the safety plan for Queens Boulevard except the bike lane.” The resolution passed in a quick show of hands, with one member opposed and one abstention, but multiple board members appeared to be confused by Walker’s phrasing and the rush to vote.

Some board members walked out in dismay right after the vote, and dozens of people in the audience who supported the bike lane turned their backs to the board and then left the room.

The median bikeway is a centerpiece of the Queens Boulevard redesign and the project would make no sense without it. DOT implemented the same basic template — claiming space on service roads to create continuous paths for walking and biking on the medians — on 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard in Woodside last year. The proposal on the table at CB 4 last night would extend that design another 1.2 miles from 74th Street to Eliot Avenue. A third phase through Rego Park and Forest Hills is scheduled for 2017.

Queens Boulevard is one of the only direct east-west routes across the borough, and many people already brave its chaotic traffic on bikes. The portion of the street covered by this phase of the redesign includes the block between 55th Road and 55th Avenue where a truck driver struck and killed Asif Rahman in 2008.

At a rally before the meeting, his mother, Lizi Rahman, called for action. “It’s been more than 8 years, and ever since I lost my son I have been fighting for a bike lane on Queens Boulevard,” she said. “It was pretty difficult from the beginning — almost for the first seven years I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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De Blasio’s Budget Has No Funding Increase for Street Safety Projects

Mayor de Blasio released his executive budget yesterday, and it does not include the increases for street safety projects that the City Council recommended earlier this month, says Transportation Alternatives. Without more funding for street redesigns, TA says, the administration won’t be able to improve safety at the pace needed to attain the mayor’s stated goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

On street safety, de Blasio hasn’t put his money where his mouth is.

De Blasio’s revised executive budget includes a small 1.3 percent increase for DOT’s Traffic Operations division, which executes the low-cost “operational” street safety projects that can be completed much faster than years-long capital projects. It’s not a meaningful change.

At a March budget hearing in the City Council, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said DOT would need to double the number of low-cost redesigns projects it completes each year in order to meet its Vision Zero goals.

At the same hearing, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said it would take “many billions of dollars” to redesign the priority corridors and intersections identified in the city’s pedestrian safety plans, while insisting, “We very much feel we have the resources we need.”

But at the current pace of improvement, NYC won’t get to zero traffic deaths until the 2050s.

The City Council recommended an additional $52.4 million in FY 2017 for 98 “operational” projects in its response to the mayor’s budget, a roughly 25 percent increase. The council also proposed $250 million in annual capital funding for street redesigns.

The budget City Hall released yesterday follows none of those recommendations.

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City Council Proposes Vision Zero Funding Increase — Will de Blasio Agree?

The City Council is proposing a significant increase in funding for street safety projects. Now it’s up to Mayor de Blasio to decide whether to devote more resources to get the city closer to his Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

Mayor de Blasio meeting with the family of Noshat Nahian, who was killed by a truck driver on Northern Boulevard, at the announcement of his Vision Zero initiative in 2014. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

The council’s budget proposal calls for an additional $52.4 million in FY 2017 to complete 98 “operational” projects — low-cost improvements that can be built quickly with paint, plastic posts, and light construction work. That would be a nearly 25 percent increase from the 80 operational projects DOT completed in 2015.

The council also wants to allocate $250 million annually to more time- and resource-intensive Vision Zero capital projects. This would represent a big increase and match the funding level called for in Transportation Alternatives’ Vision Zero Investment Report. (Current annual spending on these projects is a little fuzzy, but the de Blasio administration set aside a total of $240 million for street safety capital projects over 10 years, then added $115 million for the next four years in its 2017 budget proposal.)

The de Blasio administration has reduced traffic deaths each of the past two years. With fatalities rising the first two months of this year compared to 2015, however, the city is not on track to maintain that progress. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the council earlier this month that her agency has the resources it needs, but it’s plain that DOT’s Vision Zero budget would benefit from a significant boost if the city is going to attain its street safety goals.

Transportation Alternatives staff and volunteers had a sit-down with council members a few weeks ago to discuss what it would take for the budget to align with the city’s Vision Zero goals. Yesterday the council released its response to the mayor’s preliminary FY 17 budget [PDF, page 42], and the council proposal is “almost entirely in line” with what TA is seeking, according to TA policy and research manager Julia Kite.

“Frankly, we’ve found that we’re not on track to get to Vision Zero, even remotely close to 2024, unless the Department of Transportation is given the resources to greatly expand the number of projects it’s doing,” said Kite. “I think our message was strong and it came across well.”

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