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Daily News Inadvertently Reveals the Extent of NYC’s Speeding Epidemic

Don't be distracted by the clever rhyme: NYC speed cameras are working. Image: Daily News

In other words, speeding in NYC is rampant, but there’s finally some enforcement thanks to cameras. Image: Daily News

If you’re a Daily News reader, today is your lucky day. The paper that is not afraid to oppose safer streets for walking, biking, and driving has a major exclusive, and it is this: New York City has a small number of speed cameras, and they are catching more speeding drivers than NYPD.

It’s actually a good story, if you read through the tabloid-speak. In 2014, 57 cameras ticketed almost four times as many speeding drivers as the entire police department during the same time period, despite Albany-imposed restrictions that limit camera use to school zones during school hours.

This all points to the fact that cameras are doing an efficient job penalizing thousands of drivers who would otherwise get away with speeding, the leading cause of New York City traffic deaths.

“If the drivers of New York slow down and obey the speed limit and the city collected no revenue, I would consider the speed-camera program a victory,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the paper, again.

The Daily News could have cited data showing that crashes and incidents of speeding declined in areas where speed cameras are located. It could have called for DOT to immediately deploy its remaining 83 speed cameras, or shamed Albany lawmakers for arbitrary restrictions that keep the cameras turned off at night, when severe crashes tend to occur.

Instead, reporter Reuven Blau ran with an outrage quote from City Council Member Mark Treyger, whose big Vision Zero idea is ticketing cyclists for texting. And the paper played up revenue figures as “wallet-walloping.”

“Your pain is the city’s gain,” goes the scare-graphic. Which, in fairness to the Daily News, rhymes better than “cameras are preventing speeding drivers from inflicting actual pain.”

Streetsblog USA
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Donald Shoup, an Appreciation

Donald Shoup at the 2011 launch of SFpark, which put his ideas about curbside parking management into practices at a large scale. Photo: Bryan Goebel

On Tuesday, the news came that after 41 years of teaching at UCLA, Donald Shoup, distinguished professor of urban planning, will retire. For all of us who have had our paths in life profoundly influenced by his research, writing, and teaching on parking and transportation, it’s a good time to reflect. I never got to take a class from professor Shoup, but he has had more influence on my life and career than any of the professors whose classes I did attend.

Back in the spring of 1992, I was a student at Stanford in Washington, DC, studying international development. I was beginning to realize that before I tried to go to someone else’s country and tell them how to improve their lives, I needed to learn a real practical skill and see if I could accomplish something at home, in a culture I actually understood. That same spring, an article appeared in the Washington Post — “Subsidies Support a Drive-to-Work Habit” — about the ways in which the federal tax code subsidizes parking while withholding tax benefits if people walk or bike or take transit. It piqued my interest.

Siegman

Patrick Siegman, a principal at Nelson/Nygaard, is known as “the first Shoupista” for his work implementing Shoup’s ideas.

I knew that a large and remarkably ugly parking structure had recently been built outside my dad’s office on the Stanford campus, and I knew that I could get a permit to park in it for about $6 per month. I wondered how much it cost, and who really paid for it.

When I got back to Stanford in the fall, I went to see my future boss, Julia Fremon, the manager of Stanford’s Office of Transportation Programs.  I asked her how much it cost to build and operate a parking space on campus, and who paid for them. She said, “I’ve been wanting to know that too.” Then she gave me a list of people to interview, and offered me a spot on the University’s Committee on Parking and Transportation. Encouraged by this, I went to Green Library, descended into the stacks, and discovered the writing of professor Shoup.

All that year, I devoured articles and monographs authored or co-authored by Donald Shoup. I still have my original dog-eared copies of all those articles on my office bookshelf, and I still reference them today, when I’m out in the world trying to persuade city planners and council members to think differently about transportation. There were all those great articles, some newly published: “Employer-Paid Parking: the Problem and Proposed Solutions,” by Shoup and Willson; “Parking Subsidies and Travel Choices: Assessing the Evidence,” by Willson and Shoup; and most importantly, “Cashing Out Employer-Paid Parking,” the big Federal Transit Administration report by Shoup.

Professor Shoup managed to make the apparently dry topic of parking economics and regulation not only worth studying, but compelling, fascinating, and at times, hilarious. I vividly remember sitting down in the stacks, reading his research papers on parking and laughing aloud at the insanity of it all.

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Climate Idealism Can’t Hold a Candle to Collective Action

Cross-posted from the Carbon Tax Center.

Why do Copenhageners ride bicycles? The key reason, says Yale economist and bestselling author Robert J. Shiller, is that Danes are idealists who resolved, after the oil crisis of the 1970s, “to make a personal commitment to ride bicycles rather than drive, out of moral principle, even if that was inconvenient for them.”

“The sight of so many others riding bikes motivated the city’s inhabitants and appears to have improved the moral atmosphere enough,” Shiller wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, that the share of working inhabitants of Copenhagen who bike has reached 50 percent.

In much the same way, Shiller argues, “asking people to volunteer to save our climate by taking many small, individual actions” may be a more effective way to bring down carbon emissions than trying to enact overarching national or global policies such as carbon emission caps or taxes.

Goodness. Rarely do smart people so badly mangle both the historical record and basic economics. I say “people” because Shiller attributes his column’s main points to a new book, Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet, by Gernot Wagner of the Environmental Defense Fund and Martin L. Weitzman, a Harvard economist. And I say “smart” because the three stand at the top of their profession. Shiller won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2013, Weitzman is a leading light in the economics of climate change, and Wagner is highly regarded young economist.

But mangle they have (I haven’t seen the Wagner-Weitzman book but assume that Shiller represents it fairly).

Let’s start with the history, which is fairly well known to anyone versed in cycling advocacy, as I’ve been since the 1980s, when I spearheaded the revival of New York City’s bike advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. Copenhagen’s 40-year bicycle upsurge, and indeed much of the uptake of cycling across Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, came about not through mass idealism but from deliberate public policies to help cities avoid the damages of pervasive automobile use while reducing oil dependence.

If idealism played a part at the outset it was a social idealism that instructed government to undertake integrated policies ­– stiff gas taxes and car ownership fees, generously funded public transit, elimination of free curbside parking, provision of safe and abundant bicycle routes — that enabled Copenhageners to do what they evidently desired all along: to use bikes safely and naturally.

The telltale is in the graphic. Only one in nine Copenhageners who cycle have environment and climate in mind. The majority do it because it’s faster than other ways to travel, and around a third of cyclists say they ride because it’s healthy, inexpensive and convenient — belying Shiller’s meme of Danes idealistically choosing bikes despite their inconvenience vis-à-vis cars.

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Make No Mistake: Vancouver Gets a Lot for Its Transit Dollar

Vancouver's transit system is subsidized at a relatively small rate of 20 cents per ride. Graph: Canadian Urban Transport Association via Human Transport

Vancouver’s transit system is subsidized at a relatively small rate of 20 cents per ride. Graph: Canadian Urban Transport Association via Human Transport

Vancouverites go to the polls in May to decide whether to raise sales taxes to fund a slate of transit improvements. But polls show the measure is headed for defeat.

Other arguments aside, Jarrett Walker at Human Transit says one supposed “con” — that transit provider TransLink is incompetent and wasteful — ought to be nipped in the bud. To the contrary, Walker says, Vancouver transit is a great deal.

The numbers confirm that Metro Vancouver is getting excellent value for its transit dollar. Todd Litman of Victoria Transport Policy Institute recently put these numbers together.

First, subsidy per passenger-kilometer (one passenger moving one km on transit). What do regional taxpayers pay to move the massive numbers of people they move every day? Less than 20 cents per ride, which is right on the Canadian average and far better than what’s achieved in the US, Australia, or New Zealand.

One measure of this is passenger-kilometers per capita. How much personal transit does Vancouver provide?  How many people can travel, and how far, to access jobs and opportunities without contributing to traffic congestion?

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Today’s Headlines

  • Prendergast: Move NY Toll Reform Plan One of the “Funding Sources to Look At” (Newsday via AMNY)
  • Someone on the Daily News Masthead Must Have Gotten a Speeding Ticket Recently
  • NYC Tries to Survive a Day Without Citi Bike (NYT, DNA, Gothamist)
  • Who Will Run EDC Next? (Crain’s)
  • Cap’n Transit Fixes a Sensational Daily News Headline About NYCHA Selling “Parks” to Developers
  • Bensonhurst Developer Files Plan to Build 128 Apartments and No Parking — Scandalous! (Bklyn Paper)
  • For Some Cops, “Vision Zero” Just Another Excuse to Treat People Like Dirt (Post)
  • TSTC Suggests Better Ways for Port Authority to Spend $1.5 Billion Than PATH to Newark Airport
  • 2nd Ave Sagas: There’s Nothing That Special About Woodhaven SBS Design
  • Parents Frustrated By City Inaction at Dangerous Intersection of 77th at Columbus (DNA)
  • Kallos Wants to Mandate Recycled Concrete in Street Reconstruction (News)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Woodhaven Select Bus Service May Get Physical Separation in Some Areas

Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]

Cross Bay Boulevard could get a wide planted median, bus bulbs, and a road diet. Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]

After unveiling the preferred design for six miles of the Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service project earlier this week, DOT and MTA met yesterday with advocates, elected officials, and community board members to go into greater detail. The agencies are considering physical separation for bus lanes at key locations on Woodhaven, and they showed potential designs for the southern stretch of the project on Cross Bay Boulevard.

Sources who attended the meeting said DOT is looking into separating bus lanes with flexible posts, small “armadillo” bollards, or a mountable curb like the one installed on a block of the Sands Street bike lane.

Select Bus Service would run on the Q52 and Q53 lines. Click to enlarge. Map: DOT/MTA [PDF].

Select Bus Service would run on the Q52 and Q53 lines. Click to enlarge. Map: DOT/MTA [PDF].

Camera enforcement could also keep drivers out of the bus lane, but bus cams on Woodhaven will require state legislation. Either way, it appears DOT is interested in more than just cameras. “[DOT staff] seem to recognize that they can’t count on photo enforcement, even with legislation authorizing it,” said Glendale resident Toby Sheppard Bloch, who went to yesterday’s meeting. “They said that they don’t think paint is good enough.”

The agency confirmed that it is looking at some type of separation for bus lanes on Woodhaven, and its presentation yesterday [PDF] shows a variety of barriers and rumble strips as options.

The presentation also shows how DOT would redesign the Cross Bay Boulevard section of the project (Woodhaven turns into Cross Bay south of Liberty Avenue). The Cross Bay designs call for dedicated bus lanes between the parking lane and general traffic lanes, which is a typical configuration on other SBS routes. The designs would also expand the center median, currently six feet wide, and add trees.

“They put a pretty heavy emphasis on placemaking, on making the boulevard more attractive,” Bloch said of DOT’s presentation.

One option would maintain three car lanes in each direction, creating space for dedicated bus lanes and a slightly wider median by narrowing the general traffic lanes. The better option would add bus lanes while trimming the general traffic lanes to two in each direction. In this scenario, the median would be up to 22 feet wide at some crossings and 12 feet wide at crossings with left-turn pockets.

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DOT Hires Sustainable Transpo Maven Michael Replogle to Guide Policy

Big hiring news from DOT today: Michael Replogle, who founded the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and went on to tackle transportation issues at the Environmental Defense Fund, has been hired as deputy commissioner for policy at the agency.

DOT's incoming policy guru, Michael Replogle. Photo via Transforming Access

DOT’s incoming policy director, Michael Replogle. Photo via Transforming Access

“NYC DOT is very excited to have Michael Replogle return to New York to bring his three decades of expertise to New York’s streets in leading our Policy group,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “There are many challenges and ambitious goals ahead of us, and having Michael on the team will help shape our strategy and further define our mission moving forward.”

The position Replogle will fill has commanded broad influence over the direction of street design and the implementation of major agency programs. Previous DOT policy director Jon Orcutt held the job for seven years, during which he led the agency’s strategic planning process, the deployment of Citi Bike, and the development of Vision Zero initiatives, before departing the agency last June.

“This was simply too amazing an opportunity to miss, and I am honored to work with Commissioner Trottenberg to enact Mayor de Blasio’s vision for safe, equitable, and sustainable transportation,” Replogle said in an statement ITDP sent out this morning.

Advocates have high expectations for Replogle at DOT.

Before he became executive director of Transportation Alternatives, Paul Steely White’s first job out of graduate school was at ITDP. “Michael is just one of the giants in the field. There’s very few people in the world who have his experience, depth, and breadth on transportation and land use policy,” White said. “What he and Polly can do together, the sky’s the limit. It’s very good news for Vision Zero, for New York taking control of more of its destiny when it comes to transit.”

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Parking Madness 2015 Elite Eight: Tampa vs. Fort Worth

It’s almost a shame that these two titans are meeting in the second round of the Parking Madness tournament, because both Tampa and Fort Worth look like they have champion potential.

Yesterday, Syracuse knocked off Newport News, Virginia, to join Camden in the Final Four. Now it’s up to you to decide who gets the third slot.

Tampa

original-9

This crater advanced past Waterville, Maine in round one. Submitter Joshua Redman wrote:

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Bus Driver Hits Woman at Intersection Where CB 9 Opposes Safety Fixes

A DOT proposal opposed by Manhattan CB 9 would slow turns at Riverside Drive and W. 135th Street, where a bus driver hit a pedestrian Thursday. Image: DOT

A DOT proposal opposed by Manhattan CB 9 would slow turns at Riverside Drive and W. 135th Street, where a bus driver hit a pedestrian Thursday. Image: DOT

Yesterday, a bus driver hit a woman walking across W. 135th Street at Riverside Drive, an intersection in a crash-prone area where DOT has proposed a slate of safety improvements that are opposed by Manhattan Community Board 9.

The West Side Rag reports that the woman was in the crosswalk when the driver of a double-decker tourist bus hit her while turning right from Riverside onto W. 135th. The victim was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, according to West Side Rag, and NYPD said she was “‘not likely’ to die.”

A woman who came upon the scene after the crash told West Side Rag “the victim must have had the green light or the bus would not have been able to go.”

“This has always been a dangerous corner,” the witness said. “Vehicles driving northbound and making a right turn into 135th St. rarely slow down for pedestrians.”

In response to rampant speeding and a high number of serious injuries on Riverside, DOT has proposed a road diet between W. 116 and W. 135th streets, with additional pedestrian space at several intersections [PDF]. At 135th, DOT plans to extend the Riverside center median on the north side of the intersection and install a new pedestrian island on the south side, which should slow traffic there.

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Comparing 20 Years of Housing Growth in American Cities

Here’s an interesting way to visualize how different regions are growing (or not). Using a tool developed by the University of Virginia Demographics Research Group, Michael Andersen at Bike Portland shares these charts showing where housing growth has happened relative to city centers. The dark brown lines show the number of occupied housing units at one-mile intervals from the urban core in 2012, and the orange lines show the distribution in 1990. The gap between the lines tells you where housing growth has happened, and there is huge variation between regions.

In Denver, for instance, you can see that housing growth was concentrated between eight and 20 miles from the city center:

Image: Bike Portland

Denver: The orange line shows occupied housing units in 1990. The brown line shows 2012. Image: Bike Portland

In other places — especially large, in-demand coastal cities like LA — housing growth has barely changed (note that the y-axis is scaled differently in each chart):

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