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Today’s Headlines

  • Queens Council Members Back Woodhaven BRT: More Coverage From NY1AMNYTL
  • Manhattan CB 7 Members See Car-Free Central Park as a Way to Ease Bike/Ped Conflicts (DNA)
  • Meanwhile, the Only Solution in the New York Post Is to Demonize Cyclists (1, 2)
  • Hit-and-Run Driver Injures 93-Year-Old Man; Arrested for DWI and Suspended License (NY1)
  • Police Arrest Wrong-Way Dollar Van Driver After He Injures Officers (Bklyn Daily)
  • Cy Vance: Mechanical Problem to Blame for Times Square Tour Bus That Jumped Curb (NY1, WCBS)
  • Harlem Residents Worried About Dangerous Traffic, Lack of Enforcement on 125th Street (Uptowner)
  • More Coverage of DiNapoli’s Warning About MTA Capital Program Debt (News, Post, WNYC, CapNY)
  • AT&T Competition Yields Apps for Drowsy Drivers, “Distracted” Walkers (WPIX, WCBS)
  • Broken Windows: Traffic Stop Leads to Queens Village Drug Bust (NY1, Post)
  • A Trip Down Prince Street Shows DOT “Safety Managers” Useless for Actual Street Safety (Bklyn Spoke)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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DiNapoli: If Cuomo Borrows More for the MTA, Get Ready for Fat Fare Hikes

Without a commitment from the state to close the $15.2 billion gap in the MTA’s capital program, the cost of a MetroCard is likely to spike as the MTA adds to its cumbersome debt load, according to a new report from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli [PDF]. The warning comes as Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature begin the very early stages of negotiations over funding the capital plan, which maintains, upgrades, and expands the transit system.

Is he listening? Debt is at record levels. Without new revenue, it will go up even more. Photo: MTA/Flickr

MTA debt has skyrocketed and without new revenue, it will consume even more of the agency’s budget. Does Cuomo care? Photo: MTA/Flickr

By some measures, the MTA is doing well: Ridership is reaching new highs, the authority is making progress on cost savings, and an improving economy has buoyed its finances. But there’s trouble around the corner: Labor and health care expenses are already rising faster than the MTA can pay for them even as new labor deals pile on more costs, federal funding is questionable, debt is at record levels, and the next capital plan is only halfway funded. Without new sources of revenue, issuing more debt to pay for system upkeep and expansion will translate into more fare hikes.

The authority is already planning on issuing $6.2 billion in debt for the next capital plan. Even with that borrowing, there’s still a $15.2 billion gap. Without action in Albany to bring in new revenue, the MTA will likely do what it did last time: Cut the capital program while issuing even more debt. That means fare hikes.

Fares are already scheduled to increase faster than inflation, with back-to-back four percent hikes scheduled for 2015 and 2017. If the MTA has to issue more debt to pay for the capital program, DiNapoli calculates that riders should expect an additional 1 percent hike for every $1 billion borrowed.

Read more…

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NYC Bike-on-Sidewalk Tickets Most Common in Black and Latino Communities

Chart by Harry Levine and Loren Siegel. Full data, including summonses as a share of population, available on their website.

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Of all the possible ways to break the law on a bicycle, pedaling on the sidewalk ought to be one of the most sympathetic.

Yes, sidewalk biking is unpleasant and potentially dangerous to everyone involved. But people wouldn’t bike on sidewalks if they weren’t in search of something they want: physical protection from auto traffic.

A person biking on a sidewalk is just trying to use the protected bike lane that isn’t there. That’s why sidewalk biking falls dramatically the moment a protected lane is installed. When a bike rider fails to follow this law, it’s not good. But it’s usually because the street has already failed to help the rider.

All of which makes it especially disturbing that bans on sidewalk biking seem to be enforced disproportionately on black and Latino riders.

That’s the implication of a recent study from New York City. City University of New York sociologist Harry Levine and civil rights attorney Loren Siegel coded the neighborhoods with the most and fewest bike-on-sidewalk court summonses by whether or not most residents are black or Latino.

Of the 15 neighborhoods with the most such summonses, he found, 12 were mostly black or Latino. Of the 15 neighborhoods with the fewest summonses, 14 did not have a black or Latino majority.

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Council Members Line Up in Support of Woodhaven Bus Rapid Transit

Council Member Donovan Richards calls for center-running Bus Rapid Transit on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards at City Hall this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Council Member Donovan Richards calls for center-running Bus Rapid Transit on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards at City Hall this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Council Member Donovan Richards stood on the steps of City Hall this morning, asking DOT to move ahead with full-fledged Bus Rapid Transit on Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard. Six other Queens council members have joined Richards on a letter to DOT and the MTA asking for center-running bus lanes, station-like bus shelters, and pedestrian safety improvements.

In addition to Richards, council members Eric Ulrich, Elizabeth Crowley, Karen Koslowitz, Julissa Ferreras, Daniel Dromm, and Jimmy Van Bramer – whose districts all include the potential BRT route — want DOT and the MTA to “consider implementing full-featured Bus Rapid Transit” on Woodhaven [PDF]. There is now a united front of support for BRT from city elected officials in advance of the anticipated rollout of a bus improvement plan from DOT and MTA this fall.

The agencies have been hosting workshops in the area and have already outlined a first phase that includes minor bus upgrades. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has said the budget for future phases of the project will be significant, and Richards hopes the city uses those funds to create a robust BRT line. “We look forward to a full-fledged BRT service in Queens,” he said. “We’re closer than many of us anticipated to pulling this off now.”

That’s due in no small part to the work of the Riders Alliance, which has spent months organizing bus riders. Stephanie Veras, a Woodhaven resident who volunteers with Riders Alliance, relies on buses to get to Queens Center Mall and to access the subway. Too often the bus is slow and unreliable, she said. Veras presented 5,000 petition signatures she and other volunteers had gathered in favor of center-running BRT. “It’s about time that Queens get better buses,” she said. ”Queens bus riders deserve better.”

Richards said he endured long bus rides on Woodhaven when commuting to Vaughn College of Aeronautics in Elmhurst as a student. Better buses can create better economic opportunities, Richards said, especially for residents in his transit-starved district. ”We stand with those families who have had a hard time just connecting to the other side of Queens,” he said. “This is an economic justice issue. This is an environmental justice issue.”

Read more…

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It’s Happening: Washington State Revises Traffic Forecasts to Reflect Reality

Washington State has revised traffic projections downward, to reflect changing patterns. Image: Washington State via Sightline

The Washington State Office of Fiscal Management has revised its traffic projections downward to reflect changing patterns. Graph Washington OFM via Sightline

The amount that the average American drives each year has been declining for nearly a decade, yet most transportation agencies are still making decisions based on the notion that a new era of ceaseless traffic growth is right around the corner.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, for example, has overestimated traffic on its roads by an average of 73 percent, according to a recent study. And Dallas-area planners recently produced traffic projections that predicted a much larger increase in driving than the state DOT was even predicting.

That’s why a new traffic forecast from the Washington State Office of Fiscal Management is so interesting: It actually acknowledges how travel habits are changing. Seattle-based environmental think tank Sightline spotted the above traffic projection in a new government report. In its most recent financial forecast, the agency has abandoned the assumption of never-ending traffic growth that it employed as recently as last year. Instead, the agency has responded to recent trends, even projecting that total traffic will start to decline within the next ten years.

Sightline’s Clark Williams-Derry says that’s huge:

By undermining both the rationale for new roads and the belief that we’ll be able to pay for them, a forecast of flat traffic should help inject a needed dose of reality into the state’s transportation debates.

Of course, there’s no telling whether this forecast will be right. As Yogi Berra allegedly said, predictions are hard, especially about the future. But if it turns out that this forecast underestimates traffic growth, budgeters won’t find it such an unpleasant surprise, since more traffic will bring more revenue from drivers.

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Eyes on the Street: NYPD Does Its Part to Fuel Brooklyn Bridge Tensions

nypd-blocks-ped-lane-on-bb

Embarrassed by two German artists who reached the top of the Brooklyn Bridge’s west tower this summer (or was it the All-Powerful Bike Lobby?), NYPD has adopted an ingenious solution: Put a motor vehicle on it!

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous sends these observations about the new NYPD security theater at NYC’s most crowded pinch point for pedestrians and cyclists:

There were three (count ‘em) NYPD vehicles (Interceptors) parked on the promenade all day [Sunday]. In each one was a cop, sitting quietly. I was wondering why they weren’t outside of their vehicle helping manage the chaos of tourists and bikes trying to squeeze past them, and then it occured to me – the three vehicles, midspan and one on each approach, were in position to watch the cables leading up to the towers in case someone else tries that “white American Flag” art stunt.

According to someone I met on the bridge who is a frequent visitor there, those posts were there when the crazed Russian tourist climbed to the top, a couple of weeks after the art stunt, but apparently the cops didn’t notice him until he was up there for a while.

I can understand how the cops might have missed something like that, as all three that I passed were busy looking down at their smartphones.

Of course the NYPD found a way to make their positions as obnoxious as possible, bringing up their enclosed motor vehicles and parking them on the promenade, causing tourists to swell around them and create yet another crowding hazard for bicyclists.

On surface streets, the Interceptors are a step up from squad cars in terms of spatial efficiency. But on a narrow, crowded pathway for walking and biking, there’s really no place for them.

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The Surprisingly Rare Sanctuary From Urban Freeway Noise

There are precious few places in the Minneapolis region where you can escape the whirr of speeding cars. Map: Adam Froehlig at Streets.mn

There are precious few places in the Minneapolis region where you can escape the whir of speeding cars. Map: Adam Froehlig at Streets.mn

Bill Lindeke at Network blog Twin City Sidewalks says he grew up in a rather bucolic setting. Even so, he wasn’t able to escape the constant whir of speeding cars. The old farmhouse on a half-acre lot where he grew up is just three-quarters of a mile from Interstate 35E. And in that way, he was like almost everyone else in the Twin Cities, he points out:

It made me realize that freeways are surprisingly close to most houses. It’s increasingly difficult to find anywhere within the 494-694 ring of the Twin Cities where you can’t hear the high pitched whir of tires all hours of the day and night… Cars are a backdrop to every outdoor conversation, every rustle of leaves, and every birdsong day in and day out forever.

The other day at streets.mn, Adam Froehlig made a map that answered one of the questions that’s been nagging at my earlobe for years: Where are the respites from the whir? Is there anywhere in Minneapolis or Saint Paul where you can escape the sound of tires, if even for a brief moment in the middle of the night?

While it’s not perfect, Alex’s map [above] does point to a few small places where freeways might be at least a mile off.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala Pleads “Not Guilty” After Getting Speeding Ticket (TU)
  • More Coverage of Woman Killed at Atlantic and Flatbush (DNA, WCBS, Bklyn Paper, Gothamist)
  • Nearby: Ratner’s Got an Arena in Brooklyn to Sell You (WSJ)
  • NIMBYs: Rail and Parks Are for Other People, Leave Our Section of QueensWay Alone (NY City Lens)
  • Christie’s New DOT Chief Calls for New Revenue, New Hudson River Tunnel (NJ Spotlight)
  • New Development on Queens Boulevard: Another Reason for a Safer Street Design (YIMBY)
  • City Officially Kicks Off Review Process for Rezoning, Transit Upgrades Near Grand Central (CapNY)
  • More TLC-Licensed Drivers Than Ever, But Apps and Boro Taxis Put Squeeze on Yellow Cabs (WABC)
  • Biden Heaps Praise on Cuomo’s Transpo Policies, Compares Him to Abraham Lincoln (NYTCapNY)
  • Stumble Over Your Words? It’s Okay, Joe Biden – We’ve All Done It (Post)
  • A Look Back at the Traffic Violence “Death-O-Meter” in Grand Army Plaza (AMNY)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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De Blasio Signs Transit Benefit Bill, Says 25 MPH Limit Will Save Lives

This afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation requiring companies with 20 or more full-time employees in New York City to offer the federal transit tax benefit to their workers. The measure, which takes effect in 2016, is expected to save employers and workers millions of dollars each year. He also held a hearing on New York City’s new default speed limit of 25 mph, which goes into effect November 7. The mayor will hold a formal bill signing before that date.

Mayor de Blasio speaks at today's bill signing. Photo: NYC Mayor's Office/YouTube

Mayor de Blasio speaks at today’s bill signing. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office/YouTube

“Reducing speed is a key part of Vision Zero,” de Blasio said, thanking advocates and families of traffic violence victims for their efforts to get the speed limit bill through Albany. He noted that traffic fatalities are down more than 8 percent since last year, and pedestrian deaths have fallen 23 percent. “That’s before we put the default speed limit into place. The 25 mph speed limit will make our streets even safer,” he said. “Speeding is fundamentally dangerous and can, in fact, be deadly.”

Council Member David Greenfield proposed lower speed limit legislation in the City Council in 2013. “I don’t like to call them accidents, because when someone speeds and gets into what people call an ‘accident,’ it wasn’t an accident,” Greenfield said at today’s hearing. “You shouldn’t have been speeding.”

At the hearing, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White urged de Blasio to ensure that the 200,000 drivers under city purview, either as municipal employees or licensed livery drivers, set the tone on the city’s streets by obeying the new 25 mph speed limit. He also made the case for capital funding for reconstruction of major arterial streets, where half of all traffic fatalities occur in New York.

The mayor will sign the speed limit bill before it takes effect November 7, a tactic City Hall has used before to generate more media coverage for Vision Zero bills.

The transit benefit bill requires companies with 20 or more full-time staff in New York City to allow employees to pay for transit commuting costs using pre-tax income. Someone making an average NYC wage who purchases a monthly unlimited MetroCard could save $443 annually, according to Riders Alliance, while the average employer would save $103 per employee per year [PDF].

By saving commuters money, tax-free transit helps boost ridership. A 2004 survey of NYC employers by Transit Center, which administered transit benefits on behalf of employers, found a 16 percent increase in transit ridership among employees after companies started offering transit benefits [PDF].

Read more…

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Woman Struck by Truck Driver on Flatbush at Atlantic “Likely to Die”

Photos: Ian Dutton

Photos: Ian Dutton

Update: The victim in this crash was identified as Winnifred Matthias, 77. She died from her injuries.

A truck driver seriously injured a pedestrian at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues this afternoon, near the location where a truck driver killed a senior last year. NYPD says the victim is not likely to survive.

The crash occurred around 12:36 p.m. and the victim was declared “likely to die,” according to NYPD and FDNY. DNAinfo reports that the victim was “an elderly woman”:

The woman was walking southbound down the double yellow lines on Flatbush Avenue when she was struck at the busy intersection of Atlantic Avenue near the Barclays Center just after 12:20 p.m., fire officials said.

The victim was rushed to Brooklyn Hospital in cardiac arrest. Authorities said her condition is dire.

Crosswalks at this intersection are extremely long and indirect. Sheer self-preservation might lead someone to walk outside the crosswalk in order to cross the street faster.

Photos of the scene taken by Streetsblog reader Ian Dutton show a dump truck sitting on Flatbush in front of Atlantic Terminal, a few feet past the crosswalk on the north side of the Atlantic intersection. The truck was cordoned by police tape and NYPD investigators were on the scene.

In April 2013, a semi truck driver fatally struck 83-year-old Irvin Gitlitz on Flatbush at Fourth Avenue, a few yards from the site of today’s crash.

This crash occurred in the 78th Precinct. We’ll post more information as it becomes available.

Read more…