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Trottenberg on WNYC: “We’re Going to Focus on the Major Arterials”

NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning to talk about Vision Zero, improving surface transit, and expanding Citi Bike. And filling potholes.

It was Trottenberg’s first major solo media appearance, I believe, and she’s still in the broad strokes phase of talking about the DOT’s agenda. Here’s a look at what she said about a few key issues:

Automated enforcement: “We hear the case that this is just a way to raise revenue. The goal is not to raise revenue. It does raise revenue because that affects behavior. In my opinion, if people are not speeding and running red lights, and we were collecting no revenue, that would be a victory.”

Safety redesigns: Trottenberg said it’s too early to identify specific locations that will be redesigned, since DOT will be collecting feedback to guide its decisions. But she said the department will focus on the city’s widest streets. “One are I think that’s going to be a big focus for us that we hear a lot about is dealing with some of the major arterial streets in the city, that in a lot of cases were designed to speed the movement of cars and trucks. Not a lot of thought was given to how pedestrians would navigate them, and we’re really going to focus on reducing speeds and making those major arterials safer.”

BRT and Select Bus Service: Lehrer asked about the neighborhood politics of removing curbside parking to make way for bus lanes. “We want to do it in a way that the community feels like they’re a part of the process,” Trottenberg said. “You mentioned my predecessor Janette. She was able to come in an introduce a lot of new things into the city’s transportation. It took some time for people to absorb them and how they work, but I think we’re seeing a lot of support for them. And there are certainly a lot of neighborhoods around the city that are ready to embrace BRT or Select Bus Service.”

On 125th Street SBS, which has been through a ton of fits and starts already during the planning process, Trottenberg hinted that the project may be strengthened. “We’re taking a look at that,” she said. “More news to come on that.”

Citi Bike expansion: ”We’re sitting down with the Citi Bike folks and looking at what might be phase two so to speak. The mayor has said that he’s very interested in expanding the program in the boroughs. And I’ve been talking to members of the City Council, and there’s certainly a lot of enthusiasm for doing that.

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Vision Zero: Where Do We Go From Here?

John Petro is a policy analyst for New York City affairs and the co-author of “Vision Zero: How Safer Streets in New York City Can Save More Than 100 Lives a Year.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio released his administration’s Vision Zero Action Plan earlier this week, following up on a high-profile campaign promise just six weeks after taking office. The Action Plan [PDF] offers dozens of initiatives and strategies that the new administration will employ to cut the high number of traffic deaths that plague the city.

Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

The mayor pledged to use “the full weight of city government” to dramatically reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.” In the Action Plan’s introduction, the mayor wrote, “The fundamental message of Vision Zero is that death and injury on city streets is not acceptable, and we will no longer regard serious crashes as inevitable.”

But as the afterglow of the announcement fades, where exactly does the Action Plan leave us? It includes both new initiatives and a continuation of strategies initiated under the Bloomberg administration. What exactly has changed, and how can we be assured that the Action Plan will result in a dramatic reduction in fatalities?

The Action Plan represents a commitment from the mayor to keep street safety among his administration’s top priorities. By upholding Vision Zero, de Blasio has brought the issue of dangerous driving and its impact on life and death to the forefront of public discourse. The moral imperative ingrained in Vision Zero has begun to change the public’s attitudes toward street safety, which is the first step toward changing behavior on the street.

This isn’t to say that Mayor Bloomberg didn’t place great importance on reducing pedestrian fatalities. Bloomberg unflinchingly supported the DOT’s traffic calming initiatives even in the face of vitriolic tabloid screeds. But Bloomberg was unwilling to press his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, to prioritize the enforcement of dangerous driving behaviors like speeding, failure to yield, and distracted driving.

De Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan explicitly calls for increased enforcement of dangerous driving by the NYPD. The department will purchase more speed guns, expand the number of officers trained to use them, and increase the ranks of the Highway Unit (NYPD’s chief anti-speeding unit). The plan would also increase the penalties for certain infractions, such as driving without a license, and would amend the Hayley and Diego law in a way that would no longer require an officer to witness a crash in order to issue a summons (both changes would require state action).

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Special Offer for Streetsblog Readers: Free Tickets to “Bikeman”

bikemanThanks to a friend of the blog, we have 10 pairs of tickets to the next week of shows for “Bikeman: A 9/11 Play” to give away to Streetsblog readers on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Bikeman is the first-person account of Tom Flynn, a CBS News producer who followed his journalistic instincts on September 11, 2001, by venturing from his home in Greenwich village toward the Twin Towers on his bike. The production is an adaptation of Flynn’s epic poem about that morning, which he recently discussed over at bikenyc.org.

The show is currently in previews at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center, and there are eight shows between now and next Tuesday that our readers can get free tickets to.

If you’re interested, contact Becky Dole at bikemanhouseseats@gmail.com and say you’re a Streetsblog reader.

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De Blasio Appoints Carl Weisbrod to Head Up the Planning Department

Mayor Bill de Blasio has named Carl Weisbrod to lead the Department of City Planning. Weisbrod, who co-chaired de Blasio’s transition team and has deep experience in city government, now commands a post with tremendous power to shape the quality of New York City’s built environment. Of particular interest for the city’s transportation and housing future will be how vigorously Weisbrod pursues reform of NYC’s parking minimums, which Amanda Burden, the previous planning commissioner, barely touched.

Carl Weisbrod

In a statement, the mayor’s office said Weisbrod will be charged with “using all the tools at the city’s disposal to lift up working New Yorkers, keep neighborhoods affordable, and create stronger, more resilient communities.”

Weisbrod is an insider whose resume includes spearheading Times Square revitalization efforts under Ed Koch and starting up the NYC Economic Development Corporation under David Dinkins. More recently, as head of Trinity Church’s downtown real estate arm, he helped create the Hudson Square BID. Weisbrod is currently a partner with real estate consulting firm HR&A Advisors.

While EDC has developed a well-earned reputation for patronage and parking subsidies, especially in parts of town outside the Manhattan core, Weisbrod built his career mainly in places where the walking environment couldn’t be ignored. He seems to have a good feel, at least by association, for what makes city streets work. The Hudson Square BID, for instance, has been a major proponent of pedestrian safety and public space improvements the last few years.

Still, Weisbrod doesn’t bring quite the same clear-cut policy chops as some other contenders. One of the most important reforms the planning department can spearhead is the elimination of parking mandates that drive up the cost of housing and generate traffic. Anna Hayes Levin, a member of the City Planning Commission who early in the transition was rumored to be in the running for the position, fought against the 17,500 parking spaces called for in the city’s initial plan for Hudson Yards when she was a member of Community Board 4. (Advocates successfully sued the city and a cap of 6,100 spaces was implemented instead.) And Vicki Been, the director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy who was reportedly a finalist for the spot, authored the definitive report about how parking minimums making housing in New York less affordable.

Weisbrod’s insider perspective could be an asset if the administration decides to stop building suburban levels of parking as part of most city-subsidized redevelopment projects. Many of the projects that build parking-saturated development on city land are driven by masters of finance, and Weisbrod speaks their language.

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Cuomo Electioneering: Robbing From Transit to Pay Staten Island Motorists

Which governor is worse on transit issues, Chris Christie or Andrew Cuomo? Amazingly, New York’s chief executive could win this race to the bottom. The latest move from Cuomo would cut a guaranteed source of revenue for the MTA that Albany can never raid for its own purposes.

Ken Lovett at the Daily News had the scoop this morning that Cuomo will soon announce a gift to Staten Island car commuters: Verrazano Bridge tolls will drop to $5.50 from $6.00 or $6.36. (Current tolls vary depending on how often people use the bridge.) Tolls will also be cut for trucks that frequently use the bridge.

Any drop in toll revenue is going to weaken the MTA’s finances. So, while Verrazano car commuters get reduced tolls this election year, transit riders still have nothing but scheduled fare hikes to look forward to.

It remains to be seen exactly how much revenue the toll cut will divert from the MTA. Cuomo is expected to announce it this afternoon, and word is the governor will say that the state will shore up the agency’s budget with general funds.

Make no mistake, though, the governor is undermining the MTA. For one thing, revenue from tolls is the only raid-proof source of funds for the MTA. The money goes straight into the agency’s accounts instead of passing through the state first, so Albany can’t pocket it. Cuomo may commit to “making the MTA whole” at his press conference, but any general funds spent this year won’t necessarily be there in the future. Albany’s support for transit has a way of shriveling up over time.

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Streetsblog Capitol Hill Is Now Streetsblog USA

I’m pleased to announce that our national news site has a new name: Streetsblog USA. Say it with pride.

Why the change? Simply put, “Streetsblog USA” is a better reflection of the nationwide coverage that Tanya Snyder and Angie Schmitt are producing.

The new name was a long time coming. Streetsblog Capitol Hill launched five years ago, aiming to connect our readers to the important yet byzantine process of reauthorizing the federal transportation bill. At first there seemed to be a window of opportunity to pass a landmark piece of legislation. That changed when the Tea Party Congress came to power, and expectations for major policy reforms at the federal level deflated. There were still important fights to track on Capitol Hill, but they were all about playing defense. Transit and active transportation programs had to be protected from a hostile Congress.

Meanwhile, cities aren’t waiting around to build safer, more multi-modal streets. Mayors are tossing aside the cars-first approach to transportation policy, local governments are shedding 1960s-era regulations that prioritize space for automobiles above space for people, and grassroots advocates are winning battles to bring down highways. With or without support from Congress, great ideas for city streets are popping up everywhere, and we want to help them spread. We also want to show all the ways that national, state, and regional policies foil this progress, and we’ve had no shortage of stories about state DOTs using federal cash to go on highway binges or regions sacrificing their future to build more sprawl.

So we’ve been doing all that for a few years now, and “Streetsblog USA” has been brewing for a while. The new name is really an acknowledgment that our publishing title needs to catch up with our published content. Streetsblog USA will continue to provide the mix of Beltway coverage and livable streets updates from around the country that our readers have come to rely on. We’ll keep on looking for better ways to bring you Streetsblog content, like the new Talking Headways podcast, but the basic purpose, style, and scope of that content isn’t going to change.

A few notes about the details. The location of the site is now usa.streetsblog.org. You may have to refresh your browser cache to see the new header graphic. We’re wrapping up the new navigation graphics today — pardon the temporary inconsistencies. As we complete the transition, all pages using the previous domain will redirect seamlessly to the new one. The @StreetsblogDC Twitter account will morph into @StreetsblogUSA later today. For everyone who subscribes to the RSS feed, the new URL you want is feed://usa.streetsblog.org/feed. If you subscribe to the daily email feed, you don’t need to change a thing.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned. There are more changes coming to Streetsblog that we’re really excited to share with you later on in 2014.

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De Blasio Traffic Safety Announcement Coming Up in Queens Today

This afternoon, Mayor de Blasio is expected to be joined by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at a press conference about traffic safety. The event is at PS 152, near the site where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed tractor-trailer driver last month.

 

We’ll see what the details are, but it’s encouraging to see the multi-agency participation in this announcement. You could count on one hand the number of times Ray Kelly showed up at a public event about traffic safety.

Streetsblog’s Stephen Miller and Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson will be filing reports from the event, as will most of the City Hall press corps.

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We’re Hiring: Streetsblog Is Searching for a Managing Editor

Streetsblog is looking for a talented journalist to shape and oversee coverage throughout our growing family of news sites.

The Managing Editor will work with the Editor-in-Chief and our roster of editors and reporters to hone Streetsblog’s coverage of transportation and planning issues, grow our audience, and bring our brand of advocacy journalism to more cities.

We welcome applications from journalists with extensive experience in new media and a keen sense of transportation policy and politics, who share our vision of Streetsblog as a respected, influential source of information and commentary.

Job description

Streetsblog currently publishes four city-based sites, a national policy and livable streets news site, and highlights from bloggers around the country who belong to the Streetsblog Network. Reporting to the Editor-in-Chief, the Managing Editor will work directly with our team of reporters and editors to assign and select stories, edit drafts for content and style, write headlines, present graphics, and share content on social media.

Streetsblog content runs the gamut from video- or photo-based posts with scant text to 2,000-word enterprise pieces with detailed reporting. On any given day, stories might deal with bikeway design, infrastructure financing, traffic-related case law, parking policy, or a range of other topics that affect the quality of city streets. Most posts must be situated within a specific political context and/or advocacy campaign. The Managing Editor will shape and fine-tune every type of post, from headline to kicker, to achieve the desired impact.

In addition to possessing excellent writing and editing skills, applicants should be enthusiastic about the notion that journalism can be conducted with integrity and fidelity to the truth while espousing a clear point of view. The ideal candidate will have the background knowledge and analytical skills to accurately process information and make sense of it for a mass audience in a timely manner. A passion for livable streets is essential.

The managing editor will:

  • Work remotely with other editors and reporters to structure, refine, fact-check, and copy edit their work, creating a daily stream of original news and content for audiences in multiple cities.
  • Think strategically about how to cover ongoing stories, such as pieces of legislation or specific street redesigns, and apply those strategies to the development of content.
  • Manage the appearance of Streetsblog landing pages by writing heds and deks and selecting graphics.
  • Report and write original news and commentary, as time permits.
  • Assist the Editor in Chief and Development Director with business development and fundraising as needed.
  • Oversee the launch of Streetsblog expansion sites together with the Editor in Chief.

Qualifications

  • Excellent writing and reporting skills, as evidenced by clips.
  • Deep knowledge of progressive urban planning, transportation, and land use topics.
  • Previous experience editing reporters, ideally covering transportation or planning issues.
  • Experience with WordPress or other blogging/content production platforms, familiarity with basic HTML and basic PhotoShop, experience using Twitter and Facebook as media platforms.

Salary commensurate with experience. While preference will be given to candidates based in NYC, the Managing Editor may be based anywhere in the United States.

To apply

Send a resume, cover letter, and relevant clips/links to ben@streetsblog.org.

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Give to Streetsblog NYC and Your Contribution Will Be Doubled. Doubled!

Your donation to Streetsblog will go twice as far if you contribute to our year-end pledge drive by December 31. Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, all contributions to Streetsblog NYC will be matched up to $10,000 – you’ll get more bang for your livable streets buck by giving today.

In just a few days there’s going to be a new mayor in City Hall — we can’t take progress on street safety and better surface transit for granted. Bill de Blasio ran on a very good streets and transportation platform, and Streetsblog won’t let his administration forget it.

To push for more livable streets in NYC, we need your help. If you value our coverage of street safety and transit issues, this is a great opportunity to stretch your philanthropic dollar.

We have a new giveaway this week — a TiGr titanium bike lock. Everyone who contributes before midnight Sunday will be entered to win this sleek instrument to secure your steed:

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One of these sleek bike locks is going to a reader who gives $50 or more by Sunday at midnight.

Also, don’t forget, everyone who gives $50 or more before the end of the year will also be eligible to take home a new Public C7 or V7 bicycle. We have bikes to give away to two lucky readers:

public_bikes

Thanks to everyone who’s contributed so far — every donation helps! (And special thanks to you, generous anonymous donor.)

–Ben

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Give to Streetsblog and Streetfilms and Enter to Win a New PUBLIC Bike

As recently as 2007, there were no protected bike lanes in New York City, plans to enhance major bus routes were sitting on a shelf, and city transportation officials were still trying to do things like convert neighborhood commercial streets into high-speed traffic sewers. Streetsblog and Streetfilms helped change that. We raised expectations for our streets and showed people what’s possible. When NYC DOT became a national leader in progressive transportation policy, we countered the reactionary opponents of street redesigns with fact and reasoned analysis.

With a new mayor in City Hall, the next year will determine whether NYC continues to make progress on safer streets and effective transit. Streetsblog and Streetfilms won’t let Mayor Bill de Blasio forget his campaign pledges to sharply reduce traffic deaths, expand rapid bus service throughout the city, and invest in safe bike infrastructure. To do it, we need your help. Please make a tax-deductible gift to Streetsblog and Streetfilms so we have the resources to hold the next administration accountable and keep NYC streets moving in the right direction.

Our audience has helped sustain our reporting, commentary, and videos for several years. Thank you to everyone who’s supported our work — and please keep it coming, because your contributions are essential to producing influential Streets Media.

For extra motivation, thanks to our friends at PUBLIC Bikes we are giving away one classy C7 and one beautiful V7 bicycle to two lucky readers who give $50 or more. We’ll hold the drawing after December 31, and the first name out of the hat gets first pick. Feast your eyes:

public_bikes

Thank you for giving and making Streetsblog and Streetfilms a valuable, high-impact, community-supported resource.

– Ben