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Take a Stand Against Affordable Housing By Saving This Parking Garage

A developer wants to build affordable housing on the sites of three parking garages between Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenue on West 108th Street. Photo: Google Maps

An affordable housing developer wants to expand the Valley Lodge transitional homeless shelter and build new apartments on the sites of three parking garages between Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenue on West 108th Street. Photo: Google Maps

In NYC’s current affordable housing shortage, every square foot counts. With that in mind, the city announced plans earlier this year to relinquish three parking garages it owns on West 108th Street to make way for 280 units of new housing, all of which would be reserved for people earning less than the average income in the area. Naturally, hysteria ensued.

Since the plans were announced, a group of residents organized under the banner “Save Manhattan Valley” to fight the development. “This Street Parking Space Will Disappear Soon If You Don’t Act,” its fliers read. “In addition to the toxic noise and air caused by construction, you can expect added pollution from idling cars, double parking, honking, stress and accidents.”

Gasp! Photo: @lpolgreen

Gasp! Photo: @lpolgreen

This is the Upper West Side, served by no fewer than three subway lines (more if you count expresses), several bus routes, Citi Bike, and car-sharing services like Zipcar and Car2Go. All those transit options make owning a car an avoidable expense for Upper West Side households, so nearly 80 percent of them choose not to.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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Restrictive Housing Policies in a Few Cities Hurt the Whole U.S. Economy

The San Francisco Bay Area is not building nearly enough housing to keep pace with job growth. The result is an affordability crisis. Graphic: Plan Bay Area 2040 via Kim-Mai Cutler

The San Francisco Bay Area is not building nearly enough housing to keep pace with job growth. The result is an affordability crisis. Graphic: Plan Bay Area 2040 via Kim-Mai Cutler [PDF]

It’s no secret that major coastal cities are dealing with a housing shortage that’s causing runaway rents. What’s less well understood, however, is how low-density zoning not only limits the supply of housing but affects the U.S. economy more broadly.

Pete Rodrigue at Greater Greater Washington points to a study estimating the economic impact of policies like single-family zoning and height limits, which restrict access to places where economic opportunity is greatest. Even looking at just three regions, the effect is huge:

Economists Enrico Moretti and Chang-Tai Hsieh find that if we lowered restrictions that keep people from building new housing in just three cities (New York, San Jose, and San Francisco) to the level of the median American city, US GDP would have been 9.7% higher in 2009—about $1.4 trillion, or $6,300 for every American worker…

Just changing zoning practices in those three cities would lead to some massive shifts, according to the authors. One-third of workers would change cities (although they wouldn’t necessarily move to those three metros). Even under a less drastic scenario, in which 20% of US workers were able to move, GDP would be 6.5% higher. Fewer people would live in places like Detroit, Phoenix, or Atlanta, but those who remained would earn higher wages. And, of course, the likely reduction in sprawl would help address local air pollution, global warming, and habitat loss.

Rodrigue suggests how the implications of this work should be applied in the DC region:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • NYPD: No Charges for Driver Who Backed Into Crosswalk and Killed Lee Strong, 83 (Gothamist, DNA)
  • George Mamales, 85, Succumbs to Injuries Inflicted by Truck Driver on West End Ave (WSR)
  • Hit-and-Run Truck Driver Severely Injures Cyclist in Midtown; Victim Could Lose Leg (Gothamist)
  • Preet Nets Cuomo Insider Joe Percoco (NYTPolitico); Politico Compares Cuomo, Christie Scandals
  • Port Authority Has Five PABT Designs It Probably Won’t Use (Crain’s, AMNY, PoliticoPost)
  • Sandy Repairs Could Affect PATH Service for Eight Years (PIX)
  • Port Authority Plan for LaGuardia Gridlock Is Another Gridlocked Lane (Post)
  • DNA Reporter Leslie Albrecht’s Story on Park Slope Bike Corral Is Shameless Bikelash Clickbait
  • De Blasio Considering Canarsie Ferry Stop (Bklyn Daily)
  • TA and Gothamist Launch 14th Street Redesign Contest — Here’s What Not to Do
  • Hit-and-Run Driver Strikes Midtown TEA; ABCMetro: NYPD Unsure If Accident Was an Accident
  • Damn Citi Bike (GothamistAdvance)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Let’s Get Real: Cars Are Not the Answer to the L Shutdown

Today the Daily News published an op-ed from autonomous car consultants Levi Tillemann and Colin McCormick, who proposed that NYC rush to establish an elaborate — and subsidized — driverless taxi system to help move people when the L train tube under the East River shuts down for Sandy-related repairs.

Seriously! Here it is:

Vehicles would pick up and drop off riders in designated neighborhoods in Brooklyn and take them to and from mass transit hubs in Manhattan. Autonomous taxis would also be used for transportation within the borough.

This is so bizarre it’s hard to take seriously. “The whole thing is incoherent,” tweeted Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute. “We have a problem now, so we should use a nonexistent technology to fix it.”

Today’s op-ed comes a few weeks after Uber floated a proposal to suspend taxi regulations so anyone with an empty seat in his or her car could play cab driver. “With enough participation, we could significantly reduce the 11,000 vehicles traveling over Williamsburg bridge and carve out space for BRT,” said Uber manager Josh Mohrer.

The priorities are all wrong there — the key is to carve out space for buses no matter what. “Uber may be a lobbying whiz,” responded analyst Charles Komanoff in Newsweek, “but its proposal marks it as a transportation amateur.”

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Will US DOT’s Self-Driving Car Rules Make Streets Safe for Walking and Biking?

This week, U.S. DOT released guidelines for self-driving cars, a significant step as regulators prepare for companies to bring this new technology to market. Autonomous vehicles raise all sorts of questions about urban transportation systems. It’s up to advocates to ensure that the technology helps accomplish broader goals like safer streets and more efficient use of urban space, instead of letting private companies dictate the terms.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The rules that the feds put out will be revised over time, and the public can weigh in during that process. With that in mind, I’ve been reviewing the guidelines and talking to experts about the implications for city streets — and especially for pedestrian and cyclist safety. Here are a few key things to consider as regulations for self-driving cars get fleshed out.

Fully autonomous cars can’t break traffic laws.

The feds say self-driving cars should adhere to all traffic laws. In practice, this means they’ll have to do things like obey the speed limit and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Following the rules may be a pretty low bar to clear, but it’s more than most human drivers can say for themselves.

Transit advocate Ben Ross points out, however, that this standard will only apply to “highly automated vehicles” (HAVs). Cars that are lower down on the autonomy spectrum — where a person is deemed the driver, not a machine — wouldn’t need to have features that override human error.

Read more…

StreetFilms
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NYC Buses: Time for a Turnaround

New Yorkers take 2.5 million rides on the city’s buses every day. While NYC’s buses provide essential transit, especially in areas beyond the reach of the subway, they are among the nation’s slowest and least reliable.

Now a coalition of transit advocates are promoting practical strategies to improve the performance of NYC buses systemwide.

Transit advocates knew something was wrong when they observed declining bus ridership despite increasing population, a growing economy, and record-high subway ridership. To figure out what could be done about it, they spoke to industry experts and researched successful efforts in peer cities to identify common sense solutions to NYC’s bus problems. This research is summarized in their report “Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses”.

The bus system faces big challenges, but these challenges have clear, proven solutions. By transforming how riders get on and off the bus, designing streets to prioritize buses, adopting better methods to keep buses on schedule, and redesigning the bus network and routes, policy makers in city government and the MTA can turn around the decline of the city’s buses and attract riders back to the system.

We’ll get to see how serious public officials are about tackling these problems on October 6, when the City Council transportation committee holds an oversight hearing on how to improve the quality of NYC bus service.

This Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, the second in a series of four films examining transit in American cities. If you enjoyed this one, check out the first film, “High Frequency: Why Houston is Back on the Bus.”

Streetsblog.net
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The Threat of Racial Profiling in Traffic Enforcement

This map shows the streets where 50 percent of fatal traffic crashes occur in San Jose. But in yellow, we see there's a strong overlap with "disadvantaged" areas, where immigrants, low-income people and people of color are concentrated. Map via Cyclelicious

The blue lines are streets where fatal traffic crashes occur in San Jose. There’s a lot of overlap with the areas in yellow, areas with large numbers of immigrants, low-income residents, and people of color. Map via Cyclelicious

Can urban police forces with histories of racial profiling and brutality be entrusted to carry out traffic enforcement as part of Vision Zero initiatives? In a Twitter chat yesterday, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership asked how to ensure that “law enforcement doesn’t profile or discriminate” when asked to uphold traffic laws.

Responding on Cyclelicious, Richard Masoner offers some data that illustrates the tension in San Jose:

As part of their Vision Zero effort, the city of San Jose, CA Police Traffic Enforcement Unit has adopted a data driven approach to enforcing traffic infractions. 50% of traffic fatalities in San Jose occur on just 3% of city streets. These “Safety Priority Streets” are portions of Almaden Expressway, Alum Rock Avenue, Blossom Hill Road, Branham Lane, Capitol Expressway, Jackson Avenue, King Road, McKee Road, McLaughlin Avenue, Monterey Road, Senter Road, Story Road, Tully Road, and White Road. Both cyclist fatalities in 2014 occurred on one of these streets, and the majority of cycling deaths in San Jose continue to occur on those roads.

JPD love this data, and it was very easy to convince them to use their very limited resources to target enforcement where they can do the most good.

But see what happens when we overlay the map of what our regional planning agency identifies as “Communities of Concern,” which are neighborhoods with a high proportion of minorities, recent immigrants, and low-income households.

Read more…

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Good Riddance to the Prospect Park West Bike Lane Lawsuit

Here to stay. Photo: NYC DOT

The people suing to remove the Prospect Park West bike lane have given up, more than five years after initiating a lawsuit that nearly sank New York City’s bike program.

In a statement, Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety (“organizations” that, to the best of my knowledge, now stand in for two people — former Brooklyn College dean Louise Hainline and former deputy mayor Norman Steisel) say they are dropping the lawsuit because it “is unlikely to result in any significant change.”

The irony, though, is that the lawsuit was the centerpiece of a campaign that did lasting harm to the whole city.

Steisel and Hainline filed suit in March 2011 after months of saber-rattling by Jim Walden, a corporate lawyer at Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher whose services they acquired pro bono thanks to former NYC DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall.

The purpose of the lawsuit wasn’t so much to win in court as to inflict maximum political damage on NYC DOT until the city cried Uncle. It was news because it was a lawsuit about bike lanes, not because it had any legal merit. And it was the perfect vehicle to lob unsubstantiated attacks at the city’s bike program.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes” Drops Suit to Rip Out PPW Bikeway (DNA, GothamistPost)
  • Brooklyn Paper Responds With Another Bikelash Double Feature (1, 2)
  • Voice Has the Play-by-Play on What’s Happening With the Port Authority Bus Terminal
  • The W Train Returns in November (NY1)
  • After Allegedly Drunk Off-Duty Cop Killed Andrew Esquivel, DMV Kept Him on the Road (News, Post)
  • NYPD Misconduct Cost Every New Yorker $27 in FY 16 (Gothamist)
  • Woodside Church on Roosevelt Avenue Wants to Add 100 Parking Spots (QNS)
  • DOT Refuses Tony Avella’s Request for Changes to Two Bayside Intersections (QNS)
  • Off-Duty DSNY Worker Arrested for Drunk Driving Near Union Square (DNA)
  • Crashing Your Car Through a Storefront No Big Whoop in the Vision Zero Era (Advance)
  • Daily News Op-Ed Writers Think a Subsidized Autonomous Car Experiment Would Help L Train Commuters
  • The Ferries Are Coming (AMNY)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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CM Richards: Far Rockaway Needs Good Transit+Biking, Not More Parking

In some parts of Far Rockaway, the majority of residents commute to work by public transit. Image: DOT

On the eastern side of the Rockaways, lots of residents already rely on transit. Image: DOT

How can downtown Far Rockaway’s transportation system handle the growth in housing and commercial development that City Hall is planning for the beachside community? To hear some local bigwigs tell it, the answer is parking, parking, and more parking. But Council Member Donovan Richards has different ideas.

The de Blasio administration has committed $91 million to street infrastructure, commercial development, and public services for downtown Far Rockaway in tandem with a rezoning in its affordable housing plan. At a hearing on the proposed rezoning last night, most people could only talk about one thing: parking.

“The success of downtown Far Rockaway is going to be the ability to attract people from surrounding communities, including Nassau County, and they’re not going to be able to do it on [public] transportation,” said Marty Ingram, co-chair of Queens Community Board 14’s transportation committee.

While the rezoning plan is not final, the draft environmental impact assessment anticipates lower parking requirements that “more closely reflect automobile ownership rates within the area,” which are low compared to the rest of the peninsula. Excessive parking minimums drive up the cost of housing.

That was a sticking point for many other attendees, some of whom pointed to existing traffic problems as justification for more parking.

“People who are going to move here are going to have cars, they need to park, and if this is going to be the beautiful shopping area that we want it and we believe it’s going to be, people are going to drive here,” CB 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said. “The city’s dream that people are going to ride their bikes to Rockaway and shop… is just not going to happen.”

Council Member Richards, who has spearheaded the rezoning process, had a different take. He said the neighborhood has a “legitimate parking issue” but that improving transit and bike infrastructure — not building more parking — is the most promising way to address those problems.

Read more…