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Posts from the “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz Category


Details of Sam Schwartz’s “Fair Plan” and Other Orcutt+Komanoff Highlights

NYU students got a sweeping overview of NYC transpo and traffic issues from two of the city’s top thinkers this afternoon, as DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt and independent analyst/congestion pricing advocate Charles Komanoff took turns on the mic at a forum moderated by NYU Law School professor Roderick Hills. I got so caught up in the moment that I completely forgot to snap a photo of Orcutt and Komanoff sharing the stage.

The tolls are higher now than they were when Gridlock Sam started showing this slide in 2007, and the dysfunction remains.

With the MTA budget all over the headlines and “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz’s plan to rationalize NYC bridge tolls nabbing a full-throated endorsement from former Times editor-in-chief Bill Keller, the juiciest info to come out of the forum were the road pricing plans that Komanoff outlined. He went over the basics of the current Sam Schwartz plan and his own “Move NY” package, both of which now mix fees on driving into the Manhattan CBD with toll discounts on crossings in the other boroughs.

Each plan promises to fund the region’s transit system while curbing traffic on city streets that see the heaviest pounding from motor vehicles. First up, the basics of Gridlock Sam’s “Fair Plan,” as presented by Komanoff:

  • $5 E-ZPass or $7.50 cash fee each way for motorists crossing the Manhattan CBD cordon (assessed at the East River crossings and 60th Street).
  • An average 39 percent toll reduction on the seven MTA bridges that don’t enter the CBD (i.e. the Verrazano, Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Triborough, Henry Hudson, Cross Bay, and Marine Parkway bridges).
  • Truck tolls would be 2.2 times higher than private car tolls.
  • A $1.00 “drop fee” assessed on each cab trip.
  • About one percent of vehicles would be exempt from tolls (not clear how the exemption would be determined).
  • In addition to funding transit with its projected $1.2 billion in net annual revenues, the Fair Plan would set aside funds for regional highway investments and three new bike-ped bridges into Manhattan — one over the Hudson, one from Long Island City, and one from the Brooklyn waterfront that would connect to the Battery via Governors Island.

You can see how Komanoff calculates the benefits of the Gridlock Sam plan in his Balanced Transportation Analyzer spreadsheet.

Komanoff’s Move NY Plan, which is being advanced by the campaign that grew out of Ted Kheel’s advocacy for road pricing combined with lower transit fares, has a time-variable tolling structure, like the 2008 congestion pricing plan. You can also look up the projected benefits and costs in Komanoff’s spreadsheet. It features:

Read more…


JSK: Plaza Program Will Expand; Gridlock Sam: Backlash Nothing New

Plans for a plaza at Fulton Street and Marcy Avenue, in the first phase of the plaza program. Image: NYC DOT

Last night’s Municipal Arts Society panel, “Shared Streets: Making It Work,” mainly covered familiar ground for those who have been following the city’s efforts to repurpose its streets over the last four years. Participants touted the improved bus speeds along Select Bus Service routes, the safety gains where protected bike lanes have been installed, and the economic boost of pedestrian plazas in Times and Herald Square. Two things jumped out at as noteworthy, though.

First, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced that the department will be accepting applications for a fourth round of its plaza program. When you include both the plazas constructed through the city’s capital program and those built on a “temporary” basis with paint and planters, the latest round will bring the total number of plazas in the works up to 50.

Then, former Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz offered some perspective on the current media backlash against the DOT and the Prospect Park West lawsuit. “It’s been hard for as long as I can remember,” he said, “and that’s a very long time.” He said that he too got sued, in his case by the parking garage industry over a 1980 plan to charge single-occupant vehicles for entering the Manhattan central business district. He claimed that business leaders were marching on City Hall and taking out full-page ads in the newspapers that read “Commissioner Schwartz, stop fouling up New York.” The word “foul,” added Schwartz, was a replacement on the part of copy editors.

Schwartz also dismissed the particular strain of opposition that has tried to paint improvements to transit and bike and pedestrian infrastructure as elitist. When he was in office, he said, “it was just the opposite argument. It was the poor people that would be coming into the wealthy neighborhoods. So I think this too shall pass.”


Streetfilms Shorties: The Manhattan Bridge Turns 100

The Manhattan Bridge officially opened on December 31, 1909. While its 100-year anniversary came and went with little fanfare a few months ago, city officials paid respects today.

At the ceremony, Clarence caught up with Gridlock Sam Schwartz, who heads the NYC Bridge Centennial Commission. In this clip Schwartz describes the nearly catastrophic deterioration of the bridge, which prompted a massive rehab that began in the 1980s and is just now concluding.

You'll definitely want to pause and take a close look at the 1:01 mark for a reminder of just how easy motorists have it today compared to 100 years ago.


Streetfilms: The Queensboro Bridge Turns 100

New York celebrated the 100th birthday of the Queensboro Bridge yesterday, and Clarence Eckerson was on hand to document the occasion for Streetfilms. As pointed out in the vid by "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, back in 1909 drivers paid 10 cents to cross the Q'boro -- or $4.66 for a round trip in today's dollars. Motorists were accustomed to using the bridge for free by the 1980s, even as it was falling apart, and now pay less than the three pennies it once cost to ride across on horseback.

Even so, with today's bankruptcy filing by General Motors, the Queensboro has held up better than two of the Big Three.


If Gridlock Sam Was President…

gridlocksam.jpgA bit of pre-Election Day fun: Here's a mock state-of-the-union speech drafted for the next President by "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz. Combining some ideas from Barack Obama's platform with some that no candidate would utter during a presidential campaign, he lays out a plan for infrastructure investment and how to pay for it:

The National Infrastructure Bank will assemble a portfolio of projects for investment by the public and private sector. I will follow the formula developed by the renowned economist Felix Rohatyn so that any project seeking over $75 million in federal support would be required to submit a proposal to the bank. The submission would include the contribution to be made by the state and local governments, user fees and a plan for maintenance. The bank would then decide to fund the project outright, or through credit guarantees for state bonds or loans against future revenues from user fees and other sound financial strategies.

The federal government will favor cities that introduce congestion pricing. A recent study by the Brookings Institute found that more than $100 billion could be raised annually by road pricing in the 98 largest metropolitan areas. We will adopt the previous administration’s call for a dedicated Metro Mobility (MM) Program (pdf) for metropolitan areas with populations greater than 500,000. These are the battle grounds for congestion, fuel inefficiencies and production of greenhouse gases.

The gas tax is a dinosaur (pun intended). As long as it remains a flat tax at 18.4 cents per gallon and gas consumption decreases (a goal of my administration) it will be a dwindling source of revenue. I propose that the tax, like most other taxes, be indexed against the sale price. This way, when foreign influences raise the price of gas, some revenue will be returned to the taxpayers in public works projects. I propose a 5 cent/gallon increase over present levels, the first increase since 1993, to generate about $10 billion annually. But, if the price of gas goes down, and I hope it does, the tax will go down accordingly.


The Right Way to Double Park a Delivery Truck


This handy illustration, courtesy of DOT via "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, should be in the training curriculum for every delivery driver who does business in New York. Streetfilms' Clarence Eckerson, who came across this graphic last week, says his appeals to delivery drivers stationed in bike lanes are often met by the excuse that it is not illegal to double park. When a vehicle blocks a bike lane, the law says otherwise:

No vehicle is allowed to block a bicycle lane at any time. If there is no curbside spaces on either side of the street within 100 feet of a delivery/pickup location, commercial vehicles may stand, “double parked,” next to a bicycle lane. If there is no active loading or unloading taking place standing a vehicle in such a manner can result in a violation. Please note also that this does not apply to midtown Manhattan.


T.A. Offers Reward for Park Slope “Post-Automobile Street” Designs

9th St. and 4th Ave.: "A dangerous crossing that divides surrounding neighborhoods and inhibits street life."

Transportation Alternatives is seeking proposals to reinvent the intersection of 9th Street and 4th Avenue in Park Slope. "Designing the 21st Century Street," a competition open to the general public, will reward the three most promising submissions with up to $6,000 in prize money.

TA lays out some of the obstacles at hand on the competition web site:

Ninth Street is excessively wide and allows motorists to travel at speeds greater than the posted City speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Furthermore, Ninth Street was recently treated with a new bicycle lane that leads people to and from Prospect Park. Though the reasons for placing a bike lane on this street are clear ... the bike lanes have attracted some controversy because of the rampant double-parking that occurs in the neighborhood.

Fourth Avenue has a raised median to separate travel direction for the length of the avenue. At this intersection, the median has been shaved away to create dedicated turning lanes. This is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and is not a safe refuge for pedestrians, particularly the children and elderly, who can not make it across the street in the allotted time.

To be contenders, TA says, "Competitors must re-imagine this intersection as a healthy, safe and sustainable street that serves pedestrians and bicyclists first, while functioning as a transit hub and truck route."

Jury members include city planning and transportation staff, along with "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz and Danish planner Jan Gehl. Entrants must register by July 18 and submit proposals by August 18.

Care to get the ball rolling, Streetsbloggers? 

Photo: Transportation Alternatives


High Gas Prices Won’t Cure Gridlock

2589176850_1534965ef6.jpg It's the New Math: a dollar-a-trip rise in the cost of fuel for a car trip to Manhattan is cutting traffic almost as much as Mayor Bloomberg's eight-dollar toll plan would have done.

Too good to be true, right? But that's the slant of the front-page headline in today's Times, "Politics Failed, but Fuel Prices Cut Congestion":

Soaring gas prices and higher tolls seem to be doing for traffic in New York what Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's ambitious congestion pricing was supposed to do: reducing the number of cars clogging the city’s streets and pushing more people to use mass transit.

The article reports that traffic on MTA bridges and tunnels within the city and the Port Authority's Hudson River crossings was down this spring by 4-5 percent compared with a year ago -- within hailing distance of the 6.3 percent drop sought by the mayor's plan.

Good news, but how much of the decline is due to the price of gas and how much to the toll increases that took effect around the same time?


SE Prospect Park Re-Design Includes Some Restrictions on Cars

Rendering of the preliminary design for Lakeside Center in Prospect Park.

A new Prospect Park skating rink and recreational facility will come with a smaller parking lot and improved bike access, reports neighborhood blog Hawthorne Street. The plan to re-design the southeast area of Brooklyn's flagship park, unveiled at a public meeting this Monday, will also restrict car access at one entrance, but stops short of doing away with the current rink's parking lot altogether. It remains to be seen whether the re-design will address the hazardous entrance at Parkside and Ocean.

A full report on how streets may be altered, courtesy of Hawthorne Street's Carrie McLaren, comes after the jump.


God Said, “Let There Be Parking Placards.” And It Was So.


Only three days remain until 20 percent of government parking placards must be surrendered, but as Gridlock Sam wrote here last month, that should be just the beginning of placard reform. Case in point: Uncivil Servants featured a story last week of an Upper East Side synagogue that manufactures its own bogus placards while the 19th Precinct turns a blind eye and infamous Community Board 8 lends a hand. Uncivil Servants reports that employees of the Park East Synagogue on East 68th Street have been getting away with the printing of homemade placards since the attacks of September 11, 2001:

The original baloney excuse for their parking was terrorism following 911 but the truth is they have used the tragedy of 911 as an excuse to get a free parking perk at the expense of the community. The signage by the way is either NO STANDING or NO PARKING 7AM - 7 PM. The location of this abuse is East 68th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues on both the South and North side of the street where typically you will find 8 to 10 of Park East employees' personal vehicles parked all day using bogus xeroxed placards.

Post columnist David Seifman picked up the story on Sunday, writing that the synagogue has agreed to gradually reduce -- but not eliminate -- its use of false permits, in a scheme brokered by Community Board 8:

"After a very lengthy and detailed discussion, [Park East] agreed to the recommendation that they reduce the number of placards to eight by the end of June 2008, then decrease by four by June 2009, and two the following year, until the number of placards in use is reduced to two by June 2010," said the e-mail from Assistant District Manager Latha Thompson.

City Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) told The Post the community board was way out of bounds. "It's unacceptable for individuals to be generating their own parking placards," he said.

Seifman also reports that Park East director Joel Baum offered an alternative explanation for the placards. Baum says they are used by teachers at the synagogue who are following the example set by the city's public school teachers. More proof that once one group claims a special privilege, the circle of entitlement tends to widen.

Photo: Dick Tracy / Uncivil Servants