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Plaza Upgrades Planned Beneath Train Viaduct on Queens Blvd in Sunnyside

Roberto Buscarsi plays during Make Music New York at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard. The parking in the background will remain, but space beneath the elevated 7 train in Sunnyside is set for some plaza improvements. Photo courtesy Sunnyside Shines BID

Roberto Buscarsi plays during Make Music New York at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard. The parking in the background will remain, but space beneath the elevated 7 train in Sunnyside is set for some plaza improvements. Photo courtesy Sunnyside Shines BID

The parking-flanked space in the middle of Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, beneath the vaulted elevated train viaduct at 40th and 46th Streets, today look more forgotten than fun. The Sunnyside Shines BID is hoping to change that, and their plan to upgrade the pedestrian space was recently accepted by NYC DOT’s pedestrian plaza program.

While these two spaces will not reclaim any space from motor vehicles, they will turn the area from a drab concrete zone into a more inviting place to sit. The spaces are already busy with pedestrians walking to the subway and across Queens Boulevard, which Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranks as the borough’s third most-dangerous street for pedestrians.

“They’re already plaza-like. They’re closed off to car traffic,” Sunnyside Shines BID executive director Rachel Thieme said of the spaces. “Through the plaza program, we are going to get things like planters and benches.” The location at 40th Street will be called Lowery Plaza and the space at 46th Street will be called Bliss Plaza, Thieme said, referencing historic street names in the neighborhood.

The BID has already hosted some events in the pedestrian zones, including concerts as part of Make Music New York. “No one’s ever utilized these spaces before in any kind of active way, that we’re aware of,” Thieme said. “People really responded well to that concept.”

Sunnyside Shines applied to the plaza program last year, gathering 13 letters of support from elected officials, business owners and community groups. The BID received word from DOT a couple weeks ago that both applications had been accepted.

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Park Slope Vision Zero Town Hall Meeting

This Vision Zero Town Hall meeting is co-sponsored by Councilmember Brad Lander and the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership.  Hear from the Department of Transportation, NYPD, TLC and other city agencies about the Mayor’s Vision Zero Action Plan, and contribute your feedback, air concerns, and help identify problem locations and potential solutions.  Location/time TBD.

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In Remembrance of Steve Faust

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On Saturday, longtime local bike advocate Steve Faust died at the age of 67. A New Yorker born and bred, Steve played a key role in many early fights for safer streets and bike access on city bridges, and continued to work for a bike path on the Verrazano Bridge in recent years through the Harbor Ring committee. We’re going to miss him and the illuminating history lessons about NYC cycling that he was known to unspool in the Streetsblog comments.

A memorial for Steve Faust was held yesterday on the Upper West Side. In tribute to Steve’s contributions to bicycling in New York City, we’re publishing an excerpt from the prepared remarks his friend Steve Bauman delivered at the service.

Steve collaborated with many different people. I shall concentrate on only what involved me personally. It would take many volumes to document Steve’s biking advocacy. My association with Steve coincides with the beginning of the urban-based bicycle movement.

The Beame administration’s attitude is illustrated by two examples. Their DOT representative declared that the stenciled word “bikes” on an asphalt path adjacent to the Belt Parkway a rogue operation. That path was really an access road for DOT maintenance vehicles. They also tried to prohibit all bicycle parking on sidewalks.

Koch’s election was a turning point because his administration was willing to meet and listen to the bicycling community. The bicycling community responded to this challenge by participating in something called the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. Steve was a founding member. This was unpaid and did not rate a mention in the Green Book. A lot of good results emerged at first, until a powerful backlash set in.

Koch approved a request to turn the year old Five Boro Bike Tour into a mass event. Steve was away at school during the planning for the first one. He came back in time to help lead the ride.

He was back in town for the intensive planning needed to transform a 250 person ride into one for 2,500. The time from approval to the tour’s premature departure from City Hall was 90 days. Steve was involved in most of the nitty-gritty work including naming the ride. He was instrumental in securing medical support for the ride. The ride’s success was due in large part to Steve’s tireless work.

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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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The Fuzzy Math in the Road Lobby’s Memo to Congress

ARTBA would prefer that you not look too closely at this graph. Thank you for your cooperation. Image: Doug Short/##http://www.investing.com/analysis/vehicle-miles-driven:-another-population-adjusted-low-206969##Investing##

ARTBA would prefer that you not look too closely at this graph. Thank you for your cooperation. Graph: Doug Short/Investing

Don’t know what to make of the news that U.S. driving rates have dropped for the ninth year in a row? Looking for guidance about whether your state or city should be wantonly expanding roads or investing in transit, biking, and walking? The road lobby thinks you should turn to them for independent, unbiased analysis of these trends. Never fear, the road lobby says: Americans are driving more than ever. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. More lanes for everybody!

That’s the word from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, which issued a memo Friday [PDF] to Congressional aides clarifying some “false claims” about transportation trends.

In virtually every recent congressional hearing and many media reports about federal transportation policy, the false claim that “Americans are driving less” emerges in some capacity. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data show U.S. vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased 0.3 percent in 2012 and 0.6 percent in 2013. The upward trend is anticipated to continue well into the future as the nation’s economy and population continues to grow. This factual disconnect confuses discussions about the relative viability of various means to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund and support future federal highway and public transportation investments. The reality is that American driving trends are driven largely by macro-economic forces, not agenda-seizing assertions about shifts in societal behavior.

Take that, agenda seizers! See, VMT is increasing — albeit slower than the population, and slower than transit ridership. Drivers have already made up a third of the miles “lost” since the recession (and surely they’ll make up the rest any day now). The last 70 months of stagnant driving is nothing but a blip. Right?

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Eyes on the Street: Real-Time Bus Arrival Display on Nostrand Ave [Updated]

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New York finally has real-time bus arrival information and excellent route maps posted at bus stops. Or rather, at least one bus stop has this info, and it looks like the kind of thing that should spread to a lot more bus stops.

NYC DOT policy director Jon Orcutt posted this photo on Twitter over the weekend, when Bus Time went live in Brooklyn and Queens, bringing real-time arrival information to every borough. This display is at the Church Avenue stop for southbound Nostrand Avenue B44 Select Bus Service.

The bus arrival screen is integrated into one of NYC DOT’s WalkNYC wayfinding boards, which has also been customized with B44 route maps. The display shows how many stops away the next four arrivals are — both local and SBS buses. After years of looking jealously at other cities’ real-time bus stop displays, NYC seems to be on the verge of catching up.

It’s unclear how rapidly the displays will be rolled out. The WalkNYC maps are currently in four neighborhoods. We have a request in with DOT about whether the Bus Time-enabled displays will be coming to more bus stops.

Update: DOT says this is a prototype installed last fall for the launch of B44 SBS, with the arrival info switched on when Bus Time went live this weekend. The prototype is still being tested so there’s no timetable yet for a full rollout, but the plan is to eventually bring these displays to all SBS routes, starting with the B44, M34, and M60.

I went over to Church and Nostrand this afternoon and got a few more up-close shots of the display. (Sidenote: The parking situation on this stretch of Nostrand and Rogers is literally a free-for-all. No meters, double-parking everywhere, drivers bypassing the stopped vehicles by violating the bus lane. To make SBS work as well as it should here, there needs to be a price on the curb.)

Take a look:

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NYPD’s Superb New Double-Parking Flyer

Here’s a message we’re not used to seeing from NYPD: Double-parking is dangerous.

Reader Brendan Gray reports spotting this flyer in the window of a Dunkin’ Donuts on Eighth Avenue in Midtown a few days ago. NYPD tweeted it out yesterday afternoon.

It’s just a flyer, and yeah, you could probably spot a few double-parked squad cars on your lunch break today. But this is also a huge step up from, say, the “safety tips for pedestrian” flyer that 1 Police Plaza was distributing a few months ago. Things are changing at NYPD.

We’ll know NYPD has really turned the corner when police take on the scourge of double-parking by going to community boards and making the case for Park Smart metering.

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NY State Senate Transportation Committee

The committee will consider a number of bills, including one to require alcohol testing after crashes causing death or serious injury where the driver is suspected of being drunk, and to make leaving the scene of a crash a class A misdemeanor.

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Monday: Reimagine the Mess That Is Jay Street

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It’s filled with double-parked cars. On just about every block, drivers stand illegally in bus stops, block the bike lane, and make illegal U-turns. If you’ve ever walked to jury duty in Brooklyn or biked over the Manhattan Bridge, you know Jay Street is chaos incarnate.

What can be done? Well, here’s a chance to make some change happen. Transportation Alternatives, Council Member Stephen Levin, and Brooklyn Community Board 2 are putting on a workshop to build some momentum to overhaul Jay Street. Bring your ideas over to 1 Metrotech on Monday at 6:30. RSVP here.

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Wednesday: Join Us for a Winter Warmer at Building on Bond

The winter of #sneckdown isn’t done with us yet. After the weekend thaw, freezing temps and snow are coming later this week. So after you wrap up at the office on Wednesday, head over to Building on Bond in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, to warm up with Streetsblog and Streetfilms.

We’re looking forward to catching up with our readers and talking about everything that’s in store for livable streets in 2014. We’ll eat, drink, and rub our hands together in anticipation of the spring. Thanks to our hosts at Building on Bond, 10 percent of the proceeds from the bar will be donated to Streetsblog and Streetfilms. If you’re planning to come, please RSVP here.

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