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Posts from the "John Liu" Category

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Liu’s Office Outlines Benefits of Investigating All Serious NYC Traffic Crashes

John Liu’s office recently published a brief analysis of the newly-expanded NYPD Collision Investigation Squad. Liu has already proposed increasing the number of NYPD crash investigators, and now Doug Giuliano, senior policy analyst for the comptroller’s office, has put up some more numbers that illustrate how woefully inadequate CIS staffing is.

With 19 investigators, in 2011 the AIS investigated 304 of the 3,192 fatal or serious collisions, for a rate of 16 cases per investigator. At this rate, the AIS would have been only able to review an average of eight percent of the average 3,629 cases per year. With the addition of 10 investigators, the CIS can now review about 13 percent of serious and fatal incidents — an improvement, but still not enough.

To investigate an average of 3,629 serious and fatal accidents each year, the NYPD would need 227 investigators.

Giuliano estimates that it would cost about $12 million to hire 198 additional crash investigators, enough to “review every fatal or serious injury crash.” That figure does not include overtime and other costs associated with an increase in staffing levels, nor does it take into account the potential benefits of investigating all serious crashes. The city could save millions in civil payouts if more evidence were gathered from crash sites, Giuliano says, and more crash site data could be used to improve safety.

“Finally, and most important, more than 13 percent of victims and their families deserve to know the circumstances of fatal and serious crashes,” writes Giuliano. “Expanding the CIS would not only bring peace of mind, but also the evidence necessary to secure justice.”

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At Forum, Mayoral Candidates Back Bus Lanes, Shy Away From Funding

Democratic (top) and Republican and independent (bottom) candidates for mayor talked transportation this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

At a mayoral forum on transportation this morning, the first since a February event hosted by Transport Workers Union Local 100, eight candidates offered ideas on how they would improve the city’s road and transit network. For the most part, the candidates were eager to support buses, quick to get agitated about bike lanes, and short on realistic ideas for how to fund their plans.

The forum, organized by the University Transportation Research Center, packed a room with over 200 students and transportation professionals at Baruch College, with questions posed to the candidates by a lineup of experts. There were two panels: the Republican and independent candidates — Adolfo Carrión, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, and George McDonald – followed Democratic candidates Sal Albanese, John Liu, Bill Thompson, and Anthony Weiner. Bill de Blasio and Christine Quinn did not show, leaving empty seats behind their name tags.

Many of the candidates wanted more mayoral control over the city’s transit network, if not an outright transfer of responsibility from the state. While city control of subways and buses is unlikely, Lhota said, “that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bring it up.” Even without full control, he said, the mayor can exert influence through MTA board appointments, providing operating subsidies, and adding bus lanes.

The candidates all cited the need to expand the bus network, particularly Select Bus Service and express buses; many of them also spoke highly of ferries, which require substantial subsidies.

Albanese, Carrión, and McDonald all endorsed “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz’s “fair toll” plan, which would increase or add bridge tolls where there are transit options while cutting tolls where transit is scarcer. Albanese said he would split revenue from the toll plan: Three-quarters of it would go to transit operations, with the goal of reducing the pressure for fare hikes, and a quarter would go to capital investment. McDonald, citing the MTA’s growing operating budget, driven by labor and debt costs, said he would dedicate all of the program’s revenue to capital investments.

Catsimatidis said that he opposes any proposal that would add or increase tolls, while Thompson repeated his long-standing call for assessing vehicle registration fees by weight and reinstating the commuter tax, which would be dedicated exclusively to transit. Liu, while calling a return of the commuter tax unrealistic, said Congress should allocate more funds to transit.

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Don’t Like John Liu’s No-Toll Proposal? He’s Asking for Budget Suggestions

Last month, mayoral candidate and Comptroller John Liu released a series of proposals to show what his office believes should be included in the city’s final Fiscal Year 2014 budget. It included some bad ideas, such as exempting city residents from East River bridge tolls, and a few good ones, like dramatically increasing the size of NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad.

Now, Liu is asking for ideas as part of his “People’s Budget” initiative. The top three winners will get mentioned by Liu in his budget testimony before the City Council on June 5.

“Streetsblog is a pretty thoughtful community,” comptroller policy analyst Doug Giuliano said. While the focus is on big issues that are often ignored during budget season as the mayor and the council tussle over service cuts, Giuliano said the goal is to give citizens more access to the budget process generally. ”We’re happy to get everyone’s input and ideas,” he said.

The public is encouraged to solicit and vote up or down ideas at the comptroller’s website, which launched last Tuesday and already has more than 100 suggestions. The comptroller’s office has seeded the initiative with suggestions of its own, some of which come straight from last month’s report:

Ideas suggested by the public include eliminating subway and bus fares for city residents and creating safe streets for walking and bicycling.

Liu’s initiative takes a page from the participatory budgeting playbook, but unlike the process undertaken by a handful of council members, it will not directly result in implementation. Liu’s proposal includes a proposal to expand participatory budgeting, which included a few livable streets proposals this year.

Voting closes on June 2. Liu’s office does not have any specific plans for the budget suggestions other than a mention in the comptroller’s testimony.

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Liu: Increase NYPD Crash Investigation Staff Six-Fold

Buried in Comptroller John Liu’s ”People’s Budget” proposal released last week (way below the part about bridge tolls that New Yorkers don’t have to pay) is an interesting proposal about NYPD’s crash investigation staffing.

With additional revenue, largely from income taxes and the bridge tolls for non-residents, Liu proposes increasing the staff level of the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad to 177, part of a broader plan to hire 5,000 more officers by 2017. From the proposal:

The lack of personnel to investigate traffic crashes is limiting the City’s ability to identify the causes of crashes and mitigate unsafe conditions, as well as defend itself from lawsuits. In FY 2011 there were 243 killed and 3,138 seriously injured in traffic crashes, but only 304 crashes were investigated by the NYPD. Traffic related claims against the City resulted in $105 million in liability payments and judgments by the City.

Last year, what was then known as the Accident Investigation Squad had a staff of 19. Commissioner Ray Kelly has increased the size of the squad by 50 percent, but the staffing is still far out of proportion to the number of serious crashes that occur each year.

While the comptroller has absolutely no power over NYPD staffing levels, Liu’s proposal puts the idea out there that the department can increase crash investigation resources to the point that all serious traffic injuries will be looked into by trained personnel.

“The fact that this Comptroller proposed increased funding for street safety — particularly in the area of crash investigations — should make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that more needs to be done to protect New Yorkers from dangerous drivers,” said Transportation Alternatives in a statement.

Through a spokesperson, Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr., chair of the public safety committee, also expressed strong support for Liu’s proposal to increase the size of NYPD’s collision investigation staff.

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John Liu: Cyclists Need Helmets, But Not Bike Lanes

What does John Liu think of bikes in NYC? That’s hard to say, and it’s not clear that Liu knows either.

On the day when thousands signed up for the city’s bike-share program, exceeding expectations and setting the stage for a major shift in the way many New Yorkers get around, Liu chose to engage in scaremongering. From a statement issued by Liu, which was excerpted by AMNY:

“It’s not too late to fix the City’s Bike Share program to make sure it’s safe — by requiring helmets for all riders, increasing traffic enforcement at dangerous intersections, and doing more to educate cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians alike on the rules of the road. Helmets in particular are key — according to the Department of Transportation, in 97 percent of fatal bicycle accidents in New York City the rider was not wearing a helmet.”

Liu’s helmet use claim is misleading. The stat comes from a city report on cyclist deaths and injuries from 1996 to 2005, and here is what the report says: “Among the fatalities with documented helmet use, 97% of the bicyclists were not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.” Of the 207 cyclist fatalities during the study period, helmet use or non-use was documented in 122 crashes. Of those, four cyclists were reported to have been wearing a helmet. No helmet use data was recorded for the remaining 85 fatal crashes. It could be that most of those 85 cyclists weren’t wearing helmets, but Liu misrepresents the report’s findings.

Here’s another data point from that report: 92 percent of cyclists killed were struck by drivers in motor vehicles. Liu’s statement is akin to saying 97 percent of gunshot victims weren’t wearing bullet-proof vests.

Liu is also drumming up fear without any evidence that bike-share is dangerous. Crash data from Paris to London to DC suggest that injury rates for bike-share users are lower than for cyclists on their own bikes.

As for infrastructure that makes cyclists safer: Liu’s helmet stat is cited in his bike-share safety plan, which, misguided as it may be, projects a generally positive attitude toward cycling. By contrast, at a recent candidate forum in Brooklyn, Liu said he is skeptical of the city’s bike lane program. From Ditmas Park Corner, emphasis theirs:

Question from the audience: A frustrated driver asked what he would do about the increase of bike lanes in the city.

This did not go over well with a clearly divided crowd, who began arguing with each other right away. Liu managed to get an answer in, siding with drivers. He said that they make sense in Manhattan, but in Brooklyn and Queens, he said he’s stood watching for a long time without seeing any cyclists ride past. He also said that there is “little to no community input” when the Department of Transportation looks at installing bike lanes (though, we’ve so far seen that the DOT is trying, in our area, to reach out via the Community Board).

First off, to say that DOT installs bike lanes without input is a total fabrication. Not only does DOT consult community boards on the vast majority of bike lane and other street safety projects, it routinely adjusts these projects based on feedback, for better or worse.

Also: Got that, everyone in Brooklyn and Queens? Your boroughs ranked first and second in cyclist deaths in 2012, with seven and six killed, respectively. Yet John Liu doesn’t want to make your streets safer for biking. Let’s see how that plays in the primary.

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John Liu Releases a Bridge Toll Plan That Panders to Motorists

So John Liu has managed to take an excellent idea — tolling the East River bridges — and turn it into a policy disaster.

The key component of Liu’s plan, which he says would raise $410 million annually, isn’t the tolls — it’s the exemption for city residents. Here’s what Liu said at an Association for Better New York event today:

To get that money, we would toll the East River Bridges for non-city residents. It’s something that’s been talked about before, and I think certainly makes sense, and is more realistic than a restoration of the commuter tax — that I would love to see, but I’m not sure how open Albany would be.

Of course, Albany is just going to fall in love with a toll plan where Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester pay, while New York City doesn’t.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release that accompanied the release of the ”People’s Budget” — an overall fiscal plan that Liu released in his capacity as comptroller:

Tolling the East River Bridges would mean that membership — or in this case, residency, New York City residency — has its privileges. Non-residents commuting by car can and should contribute to the upkeep of our city’s infrastructure.

By exempting motorists who live in the five boroughs, Liu’s plan would not solve the city’s transit funding problems — the next MTA capital program will still have a gaping hole. (Compare Liu’s $410 million to the $2.8 $1.5 billion projected net revenue from the Sam Schwartz plan.) While Liu suggested devoting revenue to “infrastructure,” he also mentioned that it could be used for “offsetting increased city contributions to the MTA,” which might just lead to tolls that pad other areas of the city budget.

It’s somewhat baffling why Liu would propose a non-starter like this. Exempting millions of motorists negates the value of tolls as a tool to meaningfully reduce congestion, and it undermines the notion that motorists should pay for using roads. Let’s hope this idea doesn’t infect the other campaigns.

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How Many Are Hurt and Killed in NYPD-Involved Crashes? Don’t Ask NYPD.

Gothamist has been following the case of Ryo Oyamada, the Japanese student who was struck and killed by an NYPD officer near his Queensbridge home in the early hours of February 21. The department claims the cruiser was moving at 35 to 39 mph on 40th Avenue, with lights on, as officers responded to a call, and that Oyamada stepped in front of the cruiser mid-block. But multiple witnesses say there were no lights or sirens, and that the officer was driving at 70 mph when Oyamada, 24, was hit near 10th Street.

Ryo Oyamada was struck and killed by an NYPD cruiser in February. Police blamed Oyamada for the crash, but refuse to release a video the department says supports its version of events. Photo via Gothamist

Contrary to the official NYPD version of events, Oyamada’s father says police initially told the family that, to avoid alerting their suspect, officers did not have lights or sirens activated. Video taken after the crash shows locals confronting NYPD about police speeding through the neighborhood.

Like the family of Mathieu Lefevre, the Oyamadas say they have been treated poorly by police. NYPD has refused to allow the family access to information about the crash, including video that, according to an officer who met with community members, shows the cruiser’s lights were on.

Oyamada is at least the second pedestrian killed by an NYPD cruiser strike in the last year. In April 2012, officers reportedly ran down Tamon Robinson, who they suspected was stealing paving stones, in Canarsie.

In its monthly crash data reports, NYPD lists the number of collisions involving ambulances, fire trucks, buses, taxis, and non-municipal vehicles, categorized by type. Conspicuous by its absence is a line item for NYPD vehicle crashes.

NYPD-involved crashes resulting in property damage, or civilian injuries and deaths, are not uncommon, whether it’s a cyclist knocked to the ground or pedestrians hospitalized or killed when a police vehicle jumps the curb. Then there are police chases, acknowledged and alleged, during which suspects have crashed vehicles into bystanders.

A spate of such crashes in 2009 and 2010 left three pedestrians, a cyclist, and two vehicle occupants dead. Mary Celine Graham was killed when a robbery suspect attempting to evade police collided with another vehicle and slammed into a group of pedestrians in Harlem. Karen Schmeer was fatally struck by men suspected of taking over-the-counter allergy medicine from a CVS pharmacy on the Upper West Side. Restaurant worker and father of three Pablo Pasarán was run over in Long Island City by a suspect after an alleged drug buy. According to witnesses, a suspected car thief was fleeing police when he hit and killed 38-year-old Greenpoint mother Violetta Kryzak. A video camera captured an apparent Staten Island chase that led to the death of a couple with young sons.

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At Transit Forum, Albanese, Allon, and Carrión Support Rational Tolls

Mayoral candidates Bill Thompson, Christine Quinn, John Liu, Bill de Blasio, Adolfo Carrión, Tom Allon, and Sal Albanese gathered to talk transit at a Friday evening forum. Photo: Stephen Miller

Friday’s transit forum hosted by Transit Workers Union Local 100 and a coalition of rider advocacy groups offered an opportunity for a more more detailed discussion of transit policy than this year’s mayoral race has seen so far. While the candidates offered few specifics about how they would improve transit for the millions of New Yorkers who depend on trains and buses, clear differences emerged, especially on the question of how to increase funding for the debt-ridden MTA.

Five Democrats — former City Council City member Sal Albanese, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and former comptroller Bill Thompson — were on hand, as were former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrión, running on the Independence Party line, and Manhattan Media publisher Tom Allon, running as a Republican. Conspicuously absent was Republican Joe Lhota, whose resume includes a recent one-year stint as MTA chair.

The transit issue that the mayor can control most directly is the allocation of street space. How much real estate should be dedicated exclusively to transit, so riders don’t get bogged down in traffic? More than anyone else, the mayor has the power to decide.

Albanese had the most specific proposal, calling for 20 new Select Bus Service routes by 2018. De Blasio said he wants more Bus Rapid Transit outside of Manhattan, citing a JFK-to-Flushing route as an example. When Streetsblog asked after the forum if the Bloomberg administration has been implementing the SBS program quickly enough, de Blasio said he didn’t know enough to say if implementation was going slowly, but that the implicit answer is “yes” because his vision calls more more BRT in the outer boroughs.

Carrión, who called for a new goal of providing 30-minute commutes from the city limits to the CBD, cited the Select Bus Service route on Fordham Road as a successful transit enhancement, noting that it has won over merchants who were initially skeptical. Quinn and Thompson, meanwhile, spoke about improving bus service, but not specifically about SBS or BRT. And Liu said that Bus Rapid Transit should be part of the city’s transit mix, but didn’t get more specific than that.

On the issue of funding the MTA, the mayor has far less direct control than the governor and the state legislature but still commands a powerful bully pulpit that can set the agenda.

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London Mayor: Get Bigshots Out of Cars, Onto Transit “Like Everybody Else”

When was the last time Chris Quinn or Bill de Blasio rode transit to work? Left photo: NYT/Redux. Right photo: NYT.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, whose entertaining quotes about Mike Bloomberg have been ricocheting around New York’s political circles today, could teach a thing or two to the candidates running for mayor here in NYC. Yesterday, “Boris from Islington” called in to a radio talk show with a recorded question for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg about Parliament’s profligate spending on cars for political leaders. It’s a question New Yorkers can appreciate.

“Get all those government ministers out of their posh limos and on to public transport like everybody else,” Johnson said. “How can we possibly expect government to vote for increases in infrastructure spending, which we need in this city in upgrading the Tube, which we all need, when they sit in their chauffer-driven limousines payed for by the taxpayers?”

Imagine, for a second, if any of New York’s crop of mayoral contenders stood up for transit riders like this. Instead, the NYC hopefuls are driving around the city, trying to convince New Yorkers, most of whom depend on transit to get around, that they feel their pain.

Although residents outside Manhattan struggle with long commutes on pokey buses, the candidates vying for votes in Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island have yet to mention Bus Rapid Transit on the campaign trail. At the same time, streets where you can walk or bike without fear of getting run over by a speeding driver have apparently become something to campaign against.

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Liu’s and Pucher’s Bike-Share Math Is Wrong, and Not By a Little

Hey, remedial math teachers: the City Comptroller’s office is hiring. At least, let’s hope so. Judging from Comptroller John Liu’s innumerate broadside against the City’s Bike Share program, they badly need help in basic arithmetic, not to mention fact-checking.

Let’s begin with Liu’s own words, insinuating that bike-share might cause one or more children to die:

[T]he rush to place ten thousand bicycles on our streets … risks significantly exacerbating the number of injuries and fatalities of both bikers and pedestrians, especially those most vulnerable like young children and seniors.

This is positively bizarre. Since you must be 16 or over to be eligible to ride a Bike Share bike, Liu must be positing collisions in which a Citi Bike rider strikes and kills a child. Yet that seems extraordinarily unlikely. No New York City child has died from being struck by a bicycle in memory, or at least since 1980, when I began tracking traffic crashes here. Moreover, by design the Citi Bikes will be ridden slower than bikes now on the road, making them even less likely to be involved in serious cyclist-on-pedestrian collisions. What, then, could Liu possibly be referring to?

But the numerical piece de resistance in Liu’s press release is this quote from Rutgers Prof. John Pucher:

Safety concerns about Citi Bike stem from frequently blocked bike lanes, poor street conditions, inexperienced bicyclists, lax enforcement of traffic regulations, and the inevitability that some users will ride on sidewalks. On the basis of these traffic dangers, I would expect at least a doubling and possibly even a tripling in injuries and fatalities among cyclists and pedestrians during the first year of the Bike Share program in New York. (emphasis added)

A doubling in injuries due to bike-share? At present, on an average day approximately 650,000 bicycle trips are taken in New York City — around three each by the roughly 180,000 New Yorkers who pedal on any given day, more by bike couriers and food-delivery riders. We can expect bike-share in its first year to increase this figure by 42,000 trips. That’s based on 7,000 Citi Bikes this year, and six trips per bike per day. (London and Washington, D.C. report 4-5 rides per shared bike per day, with 6-7 in Mexico City.) Since the increase in bicycle trips from bike-share is 1 part in 15, for the program to double the daily rate of collisions, whether with cars or pedestrians, or icebergs for that matter, each Citi Bike rider would have to be 15 times more likely than a cyclist on a regular bike to crash into something or someone.

That’s a tall order. In fact, the scenario it depicts is patently absurd, even allowing for bike-share’s concentration in the heavily pedestrianized and congested Manhattan Central Business District. Why, then, is Prof. Pucher, a leading U.S. scholar on global progress in urban cycling, promoting it?

I think there are two reasons. One is that like many people who aren’t grounded in day-to-day cycling here, Prof. Pucher doesn’t grasp the true extent of NYC cycling at present. Indeed, in much of his academic work Prof. Pucher has slavishly adhered to U.S. Census “commute mode” data that ignore the multi-dimensional nature of cycling here — for errands, meetings, socializing, appointments, shopping, exercise, and just plain fun — and thus end up lowballing bicycling’s “modal share” by a factor of around four. This leads him to ascribe to bike-share an outsized increase in cycling and, hence, an outsized increase in cycle crashing.

The other factor is more speculative, and here I draw on my association with Prof. Pucher since 1998, when I co-authored one of his early journal articles, contrasting the then-glacial pace of cycling improvements in U.S. cities with cycling’s high civic status in Europe. I would guess that Prof. Pucher is so appalled at the NYPD’s failure to safeguard cyclists’ legal right of way and offended by many cyclists’ defense mechanism of bending or even ignoring traffic rules altogether that he is unable to view a big new boost in cycling here in full context. And of course when he speaks to the press and electeds, the first part of his message, about protecting cyclists, is roundly ignored, while the second, warning of disaster, gets played to the hilt.

Hopefully, Prof. Pucher’s fantastically dire predictions won’t derail the bike-share rollout. And perhaps in time he’ll learn how to hone his message to the world outside academe. It’s Comptroller Liu’s office that should know better than to broadcast such patent nonsense. After all, bike-share isn’t a toxic debt instrument or a contagious disease. It’s a bold but proven program to give city dwellers another transportation option, one that is affordable, city-positive and healthful — not to mention good for the city’s bottom line.