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Posts from the "Polly Trottenberg" Category

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Panel: NYC Electeds Need to Get Serious About Funding Infrastructure

From right, Jonathan Bowles of Center for an Urban Future, Chris Hamel of RBC Capital Markets, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Chris Ward of Dragados, Denise Richardson of the General Contractors Association of New York and "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz at this morning's panel. Photo: Stephen Miller

From left, Jonathan Bowles of Center for an Urban Future, Chris Hamel of RBC Capital Markets, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Chris Ward of Dragados, Denise Richardson of the General Contractors Association of New York, and “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz at this morning’s panel. Photo: Stephen Miller

This morning, the Association for a Better New York, a business group, hosted a discussion on the city’s infrastructure. The focus was squarely on transportation, and the message wasn’t pretty. Panelists warned of dire consequences if elected officials don’t act on the precarious state of transportation funding.

Calling himself “the ghost of infrastructure past,” former traffic commissioner “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz reminded the audience of the sorry state of New York’s infrastructure in the 1980s, when major bridges had to be closed because they were in such poor condition. While things are in better shape today, without attention to maintenance, history could repeat itself. ”We can very well have those problems again tomorrow,” said Schwartz.

“Back when we rebuilt all those bridges, there was an enormous federal contribution,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Since the 1980s, federal transportation funds have flatlined as the gas tax has stagnated, she said, and “city and state coffers aren’t flowing either.”

“Forget about the federal government. Local areas have to fix their problems,” Schwartz said, citing Los Angeles as a region where voters have backed major transportation funding measures. “The biggest amount of transit spending in the country is happening in Los Angeles, not in New York.”

But Trottenberg cautioned against using Los Angeles as a model. “[Voters] usually tax themselves to build new things. They rarely tax themselves to keep up the old stuff,” she said. “At New York City DOT, almost our entire budget is keeping up the old.”

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McGuinness Boulevard Is NYC’s Third 25 MPH Arterial Slow Zone

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today's arterial slow zone announcement on McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Jon Orcutt/Twitter

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today’s arterial slow zone announcement on McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Jon Orcutt/Twitter

Ask a Greenpoint resident to name the neighborhood’s most dangerous street, and they’ll likely point to McGuinness Boulevard, an infamous speedway that splits the neighborhood in half. Today, it became the city’s third “arterial slow zone” to receive a 25 mph speed limit, retimed traffic signals to discourage speeding, and focused enforcement.

The arterial slow zone will be installed by the end of next month along 1.1 miles of McGuinness between Freeman and Bayard Streets. Seven pedestrians and one cyclist died on this stretch of road between 1995 and 2007, according to CrashStat. DOT says that from 2008 to 2013, four other people were killed on McGuinness — three pedestrians and one cyclist, but no motorists — including Neil ChamberlainNicole Detweiler and Solange Raulston. Arterial streets like McGuinness comprise only 15 percent of New York’s roadways but account for 60 percent of its pedestrian fatalities, according to DOT.

A survey two years ago by Transportation Alternatives, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, Community Board 1, and area residents found that two-thirds of McGuinness drivers were speeding above 30 mph, with 36 percent traveling above 35 mph. Truck drivers were clocked going as fast as 47 mph.

The 94th Precinct, which covers McGuinness, has issued nearly double the number of speeding tickets in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year. The precinct, which ticketed people for jaywalking on McGuinness last month in the wake of a pedestrian death, has issued slightly more than two speeding tickets daily so far this year. McGuinness is not among the locations where speed cams are known to have been used under the limited automated speed enforcement program allowed by Albany. In January, Council Member Steve Levin asked DOT to install cameras on McGuinness near PS 34.

Neighborhood residents and elected officials have been working for years to slow down drivers and save lives on McGuinness, yielding incremental changes.

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Grand Concourse Will Be the Next Arterial With 25 MPH Limit

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj unveil the city's second "arterial slow zone" this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj unveil the city’s second “arterial slow zone” this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Local elected officials and advocates joined NYC DOT and NYPD this morning to unveil the city’s second “arterial slow zone” on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, where speed limits will be dropped to 25 mph and traffic signals will be retimed to discourage speeding.

The lower speed limit will apply to 5.2 miles of the Grand Concourse from East 140th Street in Mott Haven to Moshulu Parkway in Bedford Park. Along this stretch of the Grand Concourse, there were 12 fatalities between 2008 and 2012, including seven pedestrians, according to DOT. Speeding is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in New York City.

“This is not the Daytona 500,” said Assembly Member José Rivera at this morning’s event. “We should consider placing speed cameras all along the Grand Concourse.”

That’s unlikely to happen immediately. State law limits speed cameras to streets with school entrances within a quarter-mile, prevents them from operating overnight and on weekends, and caps the number at 20 cameras. (DOT has five cameras running and hopes to bring the remainder online this spring.)

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Trottenberg: “So Many Locations” Where Albany Prohibits NYC Speed Cams

Five cameras across NYC, restricted by Albany to streets near schools during the school day, are catching tens of speeders each hour. How many dangerous drivers get off without a ticket? Source data via NYC Open Data

Since being turned on in mid-January, New York City’s limited speed camera program — five cameras near schools, turned on only during weekday school hours — have caught 14,500 drivers hitting at least 40 mph as of Tuesday, according to DOT. After 15 more cameras come online later this spring, the city will have reached its state-imposed cap on cameras. To bring speeding under control on most of the city’s 6,000 miles of streets, though, it’s up to Albany to let NYC run a much more substantial automated enforcement program.

So far, the city has five cameras up and running but is allowed to operate up to 20. At yesterday’s announcement of the city’s first 25 mph “arterial slow zone” on Atlantic Avenue, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg explained how the program is being rolled out:

Last year, when the state legislature granted the city the ability to deploy 20 speed cameras, understandably my predecessor was anxious to get going. The city procurement process takes about a year. But what she did was she tasked the folks at DOT. She said, look at our existing red light cameras and see which of them meet the requirements for the speed camera program… They looked at that list of red light cameras and found that there were five that met the requirements, and then we have one mobile camera.

DOT later turned off one of those five camera locations after complaints that it was not located on a street with a school entrance or exit within a quarter-mile, as required by the state. This left the city with four stationary cameras and one mobile unit. Through the end of February, public records show speed camera tickets were issued at 15 locations. Trottenberg said yesterday that the department’s single mobile camera was rotated to 10 of those locations.

Trottenberg hopes to complete the procurement process and get the remaining 15 cameras out on the street this spring. Like the cameras already operating, most of the new ones will be fixed at a single location, she said.

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Atlantic Ave First of 25 “Arterial Slow Zones” to Get 25 MPH Limit This Year

As drivers zoomed by on Atlantic Avenue this morning, local elected officials and advocates joined NYC DOT and NYPD to unveil the first of the city’s “arterial slow zones,” major streets where the speed limit will be dropped to 25 mph from the current citywide limit of 30 mph. Traffic signals will also be retimed to a 25 mph progression, to help keep motorists’ speeds in check.

25 mph white-and-blue speed limit signs will join retimed lights on Atlantic Avenue and 24 other major streets. Photo: DHFixAtlantic/Twitter

25 mph white-and-blue speed limit signs will join retimed lights on Atlantic Avenue and 24 other major streets. Photo: DHFixAtlantic/Twitter

The arterial slow zone program, mentioned briefly in the city’s Vision Zero action plan in February, will focus on some of the city’s most dangerous streets. Arterials like Atlantic make up only 15 percent of New York’s roadways but account for 60 percent of the city’s pedestrian fatalities, according to DOT.

“New Yorkers are asking what we can do to fix these streets, so today we’re taking immediate action,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

“When we look at the family members who have lost loved ones, the pain never dissipates, and it never stops hurting,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. ”We can have a smooth traffic flow of vehicles without having a reckless and senseless traffic flow of blood.”

Streets chosen for this new program will receive new 25 mph speed limit signs, design fixes from DOT, and focused enforcement by NYPD, though the extent of the design and enforcement changes remained unclear at today’s press conference.

First up: 7.6 miles of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and Queens, from Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights to 76th Street in Woodhaven. (The project does not include the easternmost section of Atlantic as it approaches Jamaica.) From 2008 to 2012, there were 25 traffic fatalities along this section of Atlantic, including 10 pedestrian deaths. DOT said the new speed limit would go into effect by the end of April. By the end of the year, 25 major arterial streets will have lower speed limits and retimed traffic lights, the agency said.

Trottenberg said that these 25 “arterial slow zones” will count toward the 50 “intersections and corridors” the Vision Zero action plan promised would receive “safety engineering improvements” from DOT each year. ”We’re starting with the slow zones but we’re also going to be doing some redesigning, too,” she said.

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Cumbo Calls for Safer Atlantic Ave, and Trottenberg Promises Action

Photo: Ben Fried

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo with advocates from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Make Brooklyn Safer, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, and Transportation Alternatives. Photo: Ben Fried

Minutes after Council Member Laurie Cumbo and street safety advocates called for immediate action to reduce traffic violence on Atlantic Avenue, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the audience at a Vision Zero forum in Crown Heights last night that DOT intends to make Atlantic one of its early priorities for safety fixes.

Atlantic Avenue is one of the biggest and most dangerous streets in the city, running east-west across the length of Brooklyn. It routinely ranks near the top of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s list of the borough’s deadliest streets for pedestrians. From 2002 to 2013, more than 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists were injured on Atlantic.

At a press conference preceding last night’s Vision Zero town hall at Medgar Evers College, Cumbo stressed the need to act soon. “We can’t wait for another child to be the face of why we need Vision Zero,” she said. “So many of these accidents could be avoided with the right measures.”

As it happens, the city intends to tackle Atlantic Avenue soon. During the forum, Trottenberg said Atlantic would be one of the 50 street safety projects DOT takes on this year. Noting that Atlantic Avenue is a big, wide, heavily trafficked street, Trottenberg said, “That’s the kind of street that DOT views as a challenge, and we want to step up.” The city’s Vision Zero action plan calls for “arterial slow zones” on streets like Atlantic that see a disproportionate share of injuries and deaths.

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At Manhattan Vision Zero Forum, NYPD Says Better Crash Data Coming Soon


The Vision Zero town hall roadshow returned to Manhattan last night with a well-attended forum at John Jay College. Elected officials, agency representatives and the public gathered to discuss the city’s plan to eliminate traffic fatalities and to offer suggestions for the initiative. Like last week’s forum in Astoria, some new details came out over the course of the evening about the city’s next steps for Vision Zero — including hints from NYPD about opening more data to the public. Another highlight: Livery drivers offered their own suggestions to stop the carnage on city streets.

Following up on comments DOT staff made last week, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan told Streetsblog last night that NYPD would be providing more traffic crash information to the public soon, but wouldn’t say what the department might release. “That’s being worked on right now,” he said. “Some of the information might not have been previously available to the public. You’ll see that on the [Vision Zero] website.”

Chan also said that the police would work with the DMV to improve its state-mandated crash report forms, so that NYPD can better analyze crash data. (Last October, while arguing against releasing data to the public, the department told the City Council that it was uninterested in having more precise geographic information on the forms.)

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said that earlier that day, she and Chan met with Dr. George Kelling, the originator of “broken windows” policing, to talk about how the concept can be applied to traffic safety.

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New Vision Zero Details Emerge at Astoria Town Hall

Last night, more than 100 people gathered in Astoria for the latest in a series of Vision Zero town halls bringing together residents,  city officials, elected representatives, and advocates to talk about street safety. New information regarding City Hall’s current thinking about the safety of trucks and large vehicle fleets came to light, and officials also hinted at opening more street safety data to the public.

NYPD and DOT will hand out this flyer at high-crash intersections.

NYPD and DOT will soon start handing out this flyer at high-crash intersections.

While the city continues to flesh out policies, Queens residents affected by traffic violence came to last night’s meeting seeking answers and highlighting areas where the NYPD still needs to improve.

“We haven’t heard from the police yet. It would be nice to find out as much information as possible,” said Satie Ragunath, whose father-in-law Kumar was killed in a hit-and-run while crossing Northern Boulevard earlier this month. “We’d like to know, what can you guys do about accidents that have already happened?”

Deputy Inspector Kevin Maloney, commanding officer of the 114th Precinct, told Streetsblog that the Collision Investigation Squad was unable to find surveillance video of the crash and was broadening its search area, using cameras on nearby blocks in an attempt to identify the hit-and-run driver. “I’ll talk with the detective in charge of that investigation and I’ll be sure he speaks to you,” Maloney told Ragunath.

Chris Vanterpool said he and his 3-year-old son were struck by a turning driver two weeks ago while they were in a crosswalk near their Astoria home. Vanterpool said it was difficult to get information from the precinct after the crash. “I had to make 10 phone calls to get the report number,” he said, and when he wanted to get a copy of the crash report, the precinct required a $10 money order. “It costs $15 at the bank to get a $10 money order,” Vanterpool said.

Maloney, who spoke with Vanterpool about the crash after the forum, told Streetsblog that the precinct tries to focus on speeding, cell phone use, and red light summonses. The five officers in its traffic enforcement division, as well as a handful of patrol officers, are trained to use the three LIDAR speed guns available at the precinct.

“When I was a cop, precinct cops didn’t even shoot radar,” Maloney said. “Since then, the department’s evolved, so it’s something that on the precinct level we take seriously.”

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Council Members Say DOT Needs Funds for Vision Zero, Bike-Share Expansion

City Council members today expressed strong support for Vision Zero, bike-share expansion, and other safe streets initiatives, but it’s not clear how they will be funded.

At a transportation committee budget hearing, council members heard from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the MTA, and DOT. Among other issues, reps from each agency were asked how they planned to help reduce traffic injuries and deaths.

“Vision Zero is already underway at DOT,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Among other projects, work on the Brooklyn Greenway and new public plazas in Bushwick and Washington Heights are on the agenda for FY 2015.

In response to questions about the Vision Zero time frame from chair Ydanis Rodriguez and committee member Jimmy Van Bramer, Trottenberg said DOT is planning a series of borough town hall meetings, followed by more localized forums, to gather citizen input. Still, she said, “Our goal is 50 projects per year,” in keeping with Mayor de Blasio’s pledge for citywide pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure improvements.

Van Bramer, of Queens, and Brooklyn rep Brad Lander asked Trottenberg about bike-share expansion. Lander said he would like to see a “full build-out” of the system, with city funds if needed. While DOT is “very keen” to develop a long-term expansion plan, Trottenberg said, “We’re not there yet.” On a couple of occasions Trottenberg referred to issues caused by the Bixi bankruptcy as one obstacle to overcome. “We’re going to get there as quickly as we can,” she said.

When Van Bramer asked if DOT could more quickly respond to requests for stop signs and speed bumps, which he said can take years to address, Trottenberg said the agency doesn’t have the funds to process all requests at once.

Council members Margaret Chin and Debi Rose complained about through traffic on Canal Street, with Rose citing the Sam Schwartz fair toll plan as a potential solution. Chin also asked if DOT could deploy “pedestrian managers” as an antidote to NYPD TEA agents, who tend to prioritize vehicle throughput over pedestrian safety.

In addition to supporting bike-share, Lander said the city should come up with funds for DOT to devote to Vision Zero initiatives in general. Steve Levin, of Brooklyn, asked if more money is needed for Slow Zones. More resources are always helpful, Trottenberg said.

While it was generally agreed that it will take additional funds to carry out Vision Zero, no specific figures were discussed.

We’ll have more on the hearing tomorrow.

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NYPD’s New Transportation Chief Talks Vision Zero at Council Hearing

Family members of those killed in NYC traffic told their stories to the City Council transportation and public safety committees today. Photo: Stephen Miller

People who’ve lost loved ones to traffic violence told their stories to the City Council today. Photo: Stephen Miller

A marathon City Council hearing elicited some new details about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda and brought out the raw emotion of New Yorkers mourning loved ones killed on city streets.

The top item on the agenda at the joint transportation and public safety committee hearing was police enforcement of traffic laws. Newly-minted NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said the department would focus on speeding and failure to yield, as well as improper turns, disobeying signage, and using a handheld device while driving.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said precincts need to devote more resources to traffic safety to achieve the goals of Vision Zero.

Chan trumpeted a recent increase in staffing at the Highway Division, soon increasing to 270 officers from the previous 170. But under questioning from Council Member Corey Johnson, Chan revealed some of the limitations of that unit. “They’re dedicated to patrol the highways: FDR Drive, Henry Hudson Parkway and roadways of that nature,” Chan said. “In terms of enforcement on the street, it’s going to be on the precinct level.”

With precinct-level attention traditionally focused on violent and property crime, many council members were skeptical that the department would devote sufficient resources to traffic safety. Chan said there are currently 56 speed guns distributed between 32 of the department’s 77 precincts, and the department has another 200 speed guns on order — most of them using laser technology, which is more effective on city streets than traditional radar. Additional officers at each precinct will receive the four-day training to operate speed guns, Chan said.

Council Member James Vacca said a reduction in manpower has made it more difficult for the department to do traffic enforcement. “Since 2001, the Highway Unit was cut by 50 percent,” he said. “Local precincts were also coping with a 7,000[-person] citywide reduction in manpower.”

For Vision Zero to be successful, Council Member Brad Lander said, it has to be about more than just providing additional manpower, which may or may not materialize. “This is a big change in NYPD culture and structure,” he said. “Recruits don’t sign up for the academy, in their minds, to write speeding tickets.”

“My goal is to change the mindset of the individual officers who are on daily patrol in the precincts. They are the ones who are going to make a difference on this,” Chan said. “I cannot rely on a speciality unit to do this to achieve this goal.”

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