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Posts from the "“Gridlock” Sam Schwartz" Category

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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.

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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.

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The Right Way to Double Park a Delivery Truck

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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.

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

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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

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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?

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SE Prospect Park Re-Design Includes Some Restrictions on Cars

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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.

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

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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

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Gridlock Sam: Mayor’s Placard Reduction Plan is Step One of Ten

The following was contributed by Samuel I. Schwartz, AKA Gridlock Sam.

Mayor Bloomberg correctly recognizes that reining in city workers' parking privileges is a pre-requisite to congestion pricing. But his goal of 20 percent is too modest, and he should know it's easier to do than it looks. Believe me I know; I led the effort to reduce government parking under Mayor Koch in the 1980s, even under threat of arrest. Here's what Mayor Mike needs to do in 2008 under my ten-step plan:

  1. ucfp2.jpgSet up a triumvirate to review every permit application. Put DOT, NYPD and the Mayor's Office on the team, an NYC parking version of "checks and balances."
  2. Publish the names and civil service titles of every placard recipient. A small number belonging to undercover officers would not be revealed, but their number would be published to ensure no significant changes without explanation.
  3. Establish just two recognized machine scannable permit types: 'Law Enforcement' and 'Agency.' Include State and Federal Permits into the mix. Currently, I estimate around 75 different permits, some of which are phonies.
  4. Ticket first, ask questions later. If a car has a permit and is in violation, tag it. Let the recipient pay or argue his or her case before the triumvirate.

  5. Read more...
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NYC.gov Holiday Traffic Plan Makes Way for NASCAR

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Gridlock Sam warns of widespread "pedlock and "traffic wrath" today. Not helping matters was this morning's NASCAR Victory Lap around Times Square, conveniently timed to coincide with the morning rush.

Times Square will serve as one big pit stop for NASCAR's annual Victory Lap Wednesday, starting at 44thSt. between Broadway and Sixth Ave. and proceeding via the following route: 44th St., Broadway, 42nd St., Madison Ave, 53rd St. and Seventh Ave./Broadway, and ending between 43rd and 42nd Sts. outside the Hard Rock Cafe. Between 8:30a.m. and 9:30a.m., there will be rolling closures on the above streets, with 44th St. closed from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Traffic will be affected throughout the day.

Fear not, New York City, 2007 may very well be the last year of NASCAR's annual Midtown celebration of laundry detergent, motor oil and the lunacy of American car culture. Tom Bowles at Sports Illustrated writes

After 27 years in the Big Apple, strong rumors persist that this week-long celebration at the Waldorf will be NASCAR's last; the event appears ready and raring to shift to the bright lights of Vegas for 2008 and beyond.

On paper, it seems a smart move; with a race track already nearby and the shrewd promotion of octogenarian track owner Bruton Smith, the city will doubtless embrace NASCAR with open arms.

"I think we've worn out our welcome in New York," said Smith

Correct.

Photo: Photo Gallery / Flickr

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Gridlock Sam’s Compromise Plan

As if we didn't already know it, last week's Traffic Mitigation Commission hearings revealed that opposition to Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan among outer borough and suburban legislators may very well be intractable. Even in traffic-crushed districts where one would almost certainly find a majority in favor of some form of congestion pricing, we didn't see a single state legislator willing to stand up for the Mayor's plan. While support for congestion pricing was surprisingly strong among citizens and civic groups that showed up to testify, elected representatives' timidity was no surprise. As a Transport for London spokesman told me a while back, "If congestion pricing had to go through a legislative process it probably wouldn't have happened."

Enter Sam Schwartz to break the political gridlock. New York City traffic guru, consultant and former DOT Traffic Commissioner calls himself a "strong proponent" of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing efforts. Schwartz is quietly shopping around a variation on City Hall's traffic plan that he believes could generate "broad-based support" and serve as the basis for a "good potential compromise" between congestion pricing advocates and their outer borough and suburban opponents.

Schwartz's plan, which you can download here, is based on the premise that New York City's overall road pricing scheme is irrational, dysfunctional and makes very little sense from a traffic management perspective:

Adding to the dysfunction, Schwartz notes, is the fact that four separate agencies manage the city's traffic and control the region's transportation funds: The Port Authority, MTA Bridge & Tunnel, and the City and State Departments of Transportation.

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