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Using a Construction Project to Predict the Effect of a Road Diet

Portland's dangerous Barbur Boulevard got a temporary road diet during construction recently, and got safer. Photo: Bike Portland

Portland’s dangerous Barbur Boulevard got a temporary road diet during a recent paving project, and speeding dropped dramatically. Photo: Bike Portland

Barbur Boulevard in Portland is one of the city’s most deadly streets, and advocates there have pushed for a road diet that would slow traffic and provide comfortable space for biking and walking. But the state DOT has refused to change the road, in large part due to objections from the local chamber of commerce.

But in an interesting natural experiment, a recent construction project on Barbur Boulevard took a lane out of commission. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland reports that the data from the construction period in many ways confirms what street safety advocates have said all along:

Converting one northbound traffic lane on 1.9 miles of SW Barbur Boulevard to two protected bike lanes with sidewalks would apparently prevent unsafe weaving during off-peak hours without massive impacts to morning traffic.

That’s one conclusion from data released Friday that analyzed changes to people’s driving habits during construction work on Barbur this summer. A repaving project had temporarily closed one traffic lane in each direction.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Jersey City on Track to Approve Contract for 350-Bike Citi Bike Expansion Next Month (WSJ)
  • Kallos, Dromm to Introduce Bill That Caps Community Board Tenure at 12 Years (Gotham Gazette)
  • City & State Talks to Senate Leaders, Advocates About State’s Infrastructure Needs
  • More Coverage of Move NY Poll Results From Capital, WPIX, AMNY
  • New L Train Entrance at Avenue A Wouldn’t Be Possible Without Sandy Shutdown (2nd Avenue Sagas)
  • Traffic Complaints at Flushing Commons Sure to Worsen After Construction Wraps on New Parking (NY1)
  • MTA Releases TripPlanner+ App for iOS (WPIX)
  • Metro-North Hit With Largest-Ever $250,000 Penalty for Retaliating Against Injured Worker (News)
  • Uber Backlash: Legislator Rails Against Surge Pricing; Some Riders Return to Taxis (News 1, 2)
  • New York Water Taxi Expands Service Between Red Hook, Midtown, and DUMBO (NY1, DNA)
  • Even Paris Has Its Faux Populists Arguing for Unfettered Driving in Cities (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Public Support for NYC Toll Reform Highest in the Suburbs

Since March, Move New York has made the case that its traffic reduction and transit funding plan can succeed in Albany. Proposing to raise car tolls in the transit-rich but congested Manhattan core while lowering them in more distant, car-dependent parts of town, Move NY seeks to avoid the political pitfalls that have sunk road pricing in the state capitol before. So how do the voters feel about this plan?

According to poll results Move NY released today, the plan is backed by a plurality of the region’s voters, 45 to 34 percent, with support stronger in the suburbs. When the plan’s benefits are explained, supporters outnumber opponents by a two-to-one margin, the group says [PDF].

Toll reform is more popular than Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, according to new poll data from the plan's backers. Above, drivers exiting the Queensboro Bridge. Photo: Canadian Pacific/Flickr

Drivers exiting the (free) Queensboro Bridge at Second Avenue in Manhattan. Photo: Canadian Pacific/Flickr

The poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group over seven days in November, surveyed 1,003 registered voters in the 12-county MTA service area. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, with a greater margin of error in subsamples. Move NY did not share the poll’s exact phrasing or cross tabs, saying they “will have to remain proprietary.”

Move NY is proposing to add tolls on the East River bridges and across 60th Street while lowering charges on outlying MTA crossings. The plan would raise $1.44 billion annually, with three-quarters going to transit capital and operations and the remainder set aside for bridge and highway maintenance. The plan could play a critical role in filling the $15.2 billion gap in the MTA’s capital plan.

Other recent public opinion data on toll reform came from Quinnipiac in June. In that poll, 49 percent of New Yorkers were opposed and 41 percent in favor of a “toll swap” similar to the Move NY plan. (The Q poll mentioned adding East River tolls but did not mention a toll at 60th Street, a key component of the Move New York plan.)

It’s difficult to say how the Move NY proposal stacks up against the 2008 congestion pricing plan in terms of public opinion. When framed as a “charge” to drive in Manhattan below 60th Street, congestion pricing typically polled in the 30s in Quinnipiac polls from that time, but when people were asked what they thought of preventing fare hikes by implementing congestion pricing, support shot up over 60 percent.

But according to the Move NY poll, the fair toll plan now enjoys a distinct advantage: Just 22 percent of the region’s voters back the Bloomberg-era congestion pricing plan in the new poll. When told about the fair tolling concept, backers outnumbered opponents, 45-34, with support strongest among voters in Long Island (52 percent) and the northern suburbs (48 percent). After respondents received more detail about the exact toll changes to each crossing, support rose to 56 percent, with 36 percent opposed.

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Pima County Holds Better Sidewalks Hostage to Get a Road Expansion

Pima County is insisting on widening Broadway Avenue, whether Tucson wants it or not. Photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas via ##http://blog.preservationleadershipforum.org/2014/02/11/sunshine-mile/#.VIi7kWTF9Ns##Preservation Leadership Forum##

Pima County insists on widening Broadway Boulevard, whether Tucson wants it or not. Photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas via Preservation Leadership Forum

West of downtown Tucson, Arizona, the city runs up against the interstate first and then the mountains, cutting off development. But east of downtown, the city sprawls on for miles. The Sunshine Mile, a shopping and dining corridor centered on Broadway Boulevard, stretches two miles just east of downtown, between Euclid Avenue and Country Club Road.

Pima County and its Regional Transportation Authority are pushing the city to widen Broadway for the length of the Sunshine Mile. And they’re threatening to withhold money for bringing the sidewalks into compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act until Tucson complies.

The long and sordid story begins in the mid-1980s, when engineers predicted that traffic on Broadway would skyrocket from about 35,000 vehicles per day to 56,000 by 2005. To prepare for that veritable onslaught, planners concocted a scheme that involved widening Broadway from less than 100 feet to 150 feet.

The projections never came to pass. Traffic on Broadway has never exceeded 45,000 cars a day, according to Laura Tabili of the Broadway Coalition, which is fighting the road widening. In line with the rest of the country, traffic has actually been declining for the last 10 years. The most recent daily traffic counts on Broadway are now down below 35,000, less than in 1987, and in general the volume is only that high east of the target area.

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NYPD Still Doesn’t Investigate All Fatal Traffic Crashes

In 2013, Ray Kelly made the only significant traffic safety policy change in his exceptionally long tenure as police commissioner. Kelly promised to increase the staffing of NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad — where, at the time, only 19 detectives were assigned to investigate crashes in a city with about 300 traffic deaths and 3,000 serious injuries every year. To ensure that more crashes received serious attention from NYPD, Kelly also said the department would retire a rule that limited CIS investigations to cases in which the victim was deemed “likely to die.”

One year into Vision Zero, NYPD is still letting some fatal collisions slip through the cracks of its crash investigation protocol. Photo: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

Under the old rule, NYPD not only failed to investigate the vast majority of crashes resulting in serious injury, it also failed to investigate many fatal crashes. With police officers making spur-of-the-moment medical assessments about whether victims would die, the results were predictably inconsistent. In some cases, like the crashes that claimed the lives of Stefanos Tsigrimanis and Clara Heyworth, NYPD failed to promptly investigate because the victims were not initially deemed likely to die. Critical evidence could not be properly collected.

The new resources and the new rule were supposed to prevent fatal crashes from slipping through the cracks. Kelly issued a memo establishing a new standard, stating that officers would ”respond when there has been a critical injury or when a Police Department duty captain believes the extent of injuries and/or unique circumstances of a collision warrant such action.”

But even after Kelly set the new rule in place, even in the purported Vision Zero era under Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio, NYPD still doesn’t promptly investigate all fatal crashes.

WNYC’s Kate Hinds and Kat Aaron report that NYPD doesn’t announce about a quarter of traffic deaths — those missing fatalities end up in spreadsheet compilations but not in the press alerts the department sends out in the immediate aftermath of a fatal crash. One of the victims overlooked by NYPD’s public announcements was Douglas Matrullo, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver about three months ago and died at Bellevue eight hours after the collision. Hinds and Aaron report:

A spokesperson said that’s because the officers who responded to Matrullo’s crash didn’t think his injuries were serious enough to warrant calling in the Collision Investigation Squad, the specially-trained unit that gathers evidence at crash scenes.

A crash victim died and NYPD never investigated — this is exactly the scenario that retiring the “likely to die” rule was supposed to prevent.

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The Test of a Great Bikeway

What separates a great bikeway from one that makes you wonder why anyone even bothered?

Map: Transport Providence

Bike route fail: A bikeway proposed for Central Falls is indirect and wouldn’t take people to places they would want to go. Map: Transport Providence

James Kennedy at Transport Providence has put together a litmus test in response to a bike route planned for Central Falls, Rhode Island, which, he says, “sucks.”

Here’s the question set Kennedy put together and how he thinks the Central Falls route stacks up.

*Does it take you someplace useful?

I think there should be bike access everywhere, and there are some things that a person could go to here, so for some people this might serve a purpose. But for the vast majority, this is a useless route. The river cuts off access from the eastern part of Pawtucket, and the railroad cuts off access to the rest of Central Falls.

*Is the route easy to follow?

Looking at this on a map, it’s really clear that because of what I said above in point #1, in a sense it’s impossible to get lost on this route (it’s all technically on High Street, a prime example of a Rhode Island Street that goes a million directions getting one name, while some other streets that are completely contiguous and straight get six). There is nowhere useful to branch off to, so where could you get lost? At the same time, for a new person on this route, or even someone who’s taken a few times, the constant bends back and forth are disorienting. Imagine this from the perspective of a visitor: do you want to give this route your trust? The answer is no.

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Today’s Headlines

  • NYPD Doesn’t Inform Public of a Quarter of NYC Traffic Deaths (WNYC)
  • Subway Delays Up Over Last Year; One in Four Trains Runs Late (News)
  • 7 Train Extension Delayed Again, This Time to as Late as June 2015 (Post, WPIX)
  • Extell Buys Parking Garage as Part of Times Square Tower Site on 45th Street (News)
  • Vacca Works With MTA, DOT to Create More Parking Next to Subway Stop (Bronx Times)
  • NJ Shuts Down Red Light Cams Before It Can Get Solid Data on Effects (WNYC)
  • Nassau Legislators Shut Down Speed Cams Before Drivers Vote to Re-Elect Them (Newsday)
  • West Harlem Homeowners Say DOT Should Pick Up Tab for Sidewalk Repairs (WCBS)
  • QueensWay Gets $440,000 from Cuomo Administration to Design Park’s First Phase (DNA)
  • DCP Delays Release of Hutchinson River Parkway Study Over Mall Traffic Concerns (Bronx Times)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Stringer’s Citi Bike Report Is Woefully Behind the Times

Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office took so long to produce an audit of Citi Bike maintenance that major issues flagged in the report no longer appear to be affecting the system.

Citi Bike had a maintenance backlog a year ago, but not today. Photo: Velojoy

The report dropped Thursday night, and on Friday several media outlets came out with stories following the lead of Stringer’s “scathing” press release, which emphasized Citi Bike’s failure to meet bike maintenance targets last winter. At the time, financially struggling operator Alta Bicycle Share cut several mechanics as colder weather and lower levels of bike-share usage approached. The key metric Stringer’s report points to, the share of bikes inspected by maintenance crews, fell far short of the obligation spelled out in Alta’s contract with the city: checking 100 percent of the bike each month.

But beginning this spring, Citi Bike has gradually improved its maintenance record. In February, Citi Bike reported inspecting only 34 percent of its bike fleet. By June, the rate was up to 71 percent. And from July through October, between 98 and 100 percent of the fleet received mechanical checks each month. Customer service calls are dropping compared to the same time last year. The improvement began even before new management took over in October, injecting more financial resources.

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Eyes on the Street: The Fourth Avenue Protected Police Staging Area

Officers relax in the Fourth Avenue bike lane yesterday, which has become the department’s parking lot during nearly two weeks of protests. Photo: Stephen Miller

Nearly two weeks ago, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict an NYPD officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Since then, protestors have taken to the street on a near-daily basis. To prepare for protests near Union Square, a popular demonstration spot, the NYPD has, for the past two weeks, diagonally parked a large group of vehicles in the Fourth Avenue protected bike lane from 14th Street down as far as 9th Street.

2014-12-13 15.12.40

Thanks to DOT’s redesign of Fourth Avenue earlier this year, police mopeds and vans now have a convenient parking spot during the past two weeks’ protests. Photo: Stephen Miller

With traffic often slowed as Fourth Avenue approaches Union Square, particularly during protests, cyclists heading uptown are forced to mix it up with cars as they pass van after van with officers staying warm inside. It’s a regular problem around precinct houses, magnified to an even larger scale, and another small reminder from the NYPD: It’s their city. You just live in it.

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: The Dangers of 57th Street

With the holidays approaching, the calendar items are stacked toward the early part of the week. Looks like this is the final burst of community board action before 2015 — get it while you can.

Here are the highlights, with more goodies on the full calendar:

Keep an eye on the calendar for updated listings. Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.