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De Blasio Team Gradually Beefing Up Its Parking Reform Proposals

New York is one step closer to overhauling a discredited policy that drives up the cost of housing and makes traffic congestion worse, but the scope of the reforms the de Blasio administration is pursuing remains limited.

The city is proposing to eliminate parking requirements in a new transit zone -- but only for subsidized units. Map: DCP

The city is proposing to eliminate parking requirements in a new transit zone — but only for subsidized units. Map: DCP

Last week, the Department of City Planning came out with the broad strokes of a major update to the city’s zoning code, including the elimination of parking mandates for affordable housing near transit. It’s the first time City Hall has proposed completely doing away with mandatory parking minimums for any type of housing in such a large area outside the Manhattan core. However, market-rate projects, which the administration expects to account for most new housing in the next 10 years, would still be required to include a predetermined amount of off-street parking.

The new proposal is a step up from the housing plan that City Hall released last May, which sought to reduce but not eliminate parking minimums for affordable housing close to transit. To cut the costs of housing construction, DCP is now seeking to get rid of parking mandates for affordable housing within a newly-designated “transit zone.”

Similar parking reforms for affordable housing are already in effect in Downtown Brooklyn and the Manhattan core. What’s encouraging is that the transit zone is much larger than those areas. Most new construction in the city will probably fall within its boundaries.

The transit zone overlaps in large part with areas less than half a mile from a subway station where multi-unit housing is allowed. Some neighborhoods with low car ownership rates just beyond the reach of the subway are included, while others with subway access, like Bay Ridge and Howard Beach, are not. It covers just about every part of the city where large-scale housing construction is likely.

Within this new zone, parking requirements would be eliminated for new affordable housing, including senior housing and “inclusionary” housing attached to market-rate projects. Existing senior units in the transit zone would be able to get rid of parking without requiring special approvals, while other affordable buildings in the zone must be reviewed by the City Planning Commission before eliminating unused parking.

Outside the transit zone, parking requirements for all types of affordable units would be simplified and reduced. Mandates for senior housing in high-density areas outside the transit zone would be eliminated entirely, while areas that allow single-family houses would retain existing parking rules.

Parking policy experts lauded the city’s move, but noted that it falls far short of what other cities are doing. “Overall, this is a really positive step,” said Columbia University city planning professor David King. ”Recognizing that parking requirements are a burden for supplying housing, and affordable housing, is a big deal.”

While the city acknowledges that mandatory off-street parking contributes to high construction costs, it proposes solutions to this problem only for subsidized units. Market-rate units, it seems, will have to continue under the current parking mandates.

“If it’s good for affordable housing, why isn’t it good for all housing?” asked King.

Read more…

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In Major Shift, Central Cities Edging Out Sprawl in Competition for Jobs

Jobs are moving back downtown. Graph: City Observatory

Dramatic reversal: Jobs are moving back downtown. Graph: City Observatory

Job sprawl — picture suburban office parks with lots of parking — might be past its peak. The last few years have been good ones for central cities, as far as job growth is concerned, and not so hot for mid-height, reflective glass office campuses.

That’s according to an analysis by researcher Joe Cortright at City Observatory. Cortright reviewed the data across American metro areas and found that central cities gained a key edge over suburban competitors in the last few years:

Our analysis of census data shows that downtown employment centers of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas are recording faster job growth than areas located further from the city center. When we compared the aggregate economic performance of urban cores to the surrounding metro periphery over the four years from 2007 to 2011, we found that city centers — which we define as the area within 3 miles of the center of each region’s central business district — grew jobs at a 0.5 percent annual rate. Over the same period, employment in the surrounding peripheral portion of metropolitan areas declined 0.1 percent per year. When it comes to job growth, city centers are out-performing the surrounding areas in 21 of the 41 metropolitan areas we examined. This “center-led” growth represents the reversal of a historic trend of job de-centralization that has persisted for the past half century.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Officer Who Killed Ryo Oyamada Says Cruiser Didn’t Have Emergency Lights Running (DNA)
  • Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Daniel Cabrera, 38, Crossing Street in Marble Hill (News, WCBS, WNBC)
  • Police Seek Driver Who Seriously Injured Pedestrian, 63, in Richmond Hill Hit-and-Run (WNBC, WPIX)
  • Bronx DA Retrieves Black Box Showing Killer Driver Reached 107 MPH Before Crash (News)
  • Citi Bike Workers Call for Higher Wages in First TWU Union Contract (News, Post, Capital, Gothamist)
  • MTA Board Members Spar Over Right of Way Law, de Blasio Stands Firm (News)
  • Bergen Beach Seniors Want Barnes Dance Restored to Coney Island Avenue (Bklyn Daily)
  • As Uber Grows, Taxi Trips Drop — And the MTA Is Missing Out on Revenue, Too (News 1, 2)
  • Is Your Subway More Crowded? You’re Not Alone (Post)
  • Ferries, Ferries Everywhere (Post, TL)
  • The Citi Bike App Is Much More Accurate Than It Used to Be (bikeshareNYC)
  • Crime May Be Down, But Bike Theft Persists in New York (News)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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How the Daily News Gets the Right of Way Law Completely Wrong

Bianca Petillo McCloud, 18, was walking across 132nd Avenue in Rochdale, Queens, when she was struck by a turning truck driver and killed. Police did not issue so much as a citation, even though the circumstances of the crash suggested that McCloud had the right of way.

Shirley Shea died 10 months after she was struck by a school bus driver who violated her right of way in a crosswalk. Police barely investigated the crash and did not cite the driver, a situation the Right of Way Law seeks to remedy.

Nor did police issue any charges to the truck driver who turned across the path of 24-year-old Emma Blumstein as she biked straight ahead on Bedford Avenue with the green light. Blumstein was pronounced dead at the scene.

And there were no charges for the school bus driver who struck Shirley Shea, 78, as she crossed 67th Street at Columbus Avenue with the walk signal. Shea died 10 months later as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.

I bring up this awful loss of life because the Daily News opinion page ran two pieces condemning the city’s new Right of Way Law over the weekend — one by the editorial board and the other by City Council Member I. Daneek Miller – with only one mention of someone hurt or killed by a driver who failed to obey the law.

The piece from the editorial board had the laziest mistakes, so let’s start with that. According to the Daily News:

The criminalizing of failure-to-yield accidents grew out of the notion, espoused by some transportation advocates, that there is virtually no such thing as a traffic accident. In almost every case, someone did something wrong, so that’s a crime.

Those advocates may often be right in the most technical, literal sense, but not in the real world and certainly not in a criminal justice system that demands proof beyond a reasonable doubt after the handcuffs have been released.

This is completely wrong, coming and going.

The Right of Way Law was designed to fix a very specific, “real world” problem – police and prosecutors were not holding drivers accountable for hurting people even when they clearly broke the law. The Right of Way Law does not criminalize drivers “in almost every case” that they injure someone — it applies strictly to crashes in which people are walking or biking and following all the rules, only to get hit by a driver who violated their right of way.

Read more…

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NYPD: No Charges for Driver Who Killed Man in Brooklyn Crosswalk

NYPD filed no charges against the driver who killed Martin Hernandez Tufino as he crossed the street in a crosswalk. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to information released by NYPD. Image: Google Maps

NYPD filed no charges against the driver who killed Martin Hernandez Tufino as he crossed the street in a crosswalk. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to information released by NYPD. Image: Google Maps

NYPD said charges probably won’t be filed against the driver of a private bus who ran over and killed a man in a Brooklyn crosswalk, though it appears the victim was crossing with the right of way.

Police said Martin Hernandez Tufino, 64, was crossing Avenue M north to south at around 2:11 p.m. Friday when the driver struck him with a Freightliner bus while turning right from Coney Island Avenue, according to Gothamist.

From the Daily News:

The man was in the crosswalk and was caught under the bus’s front wheels. He suffered a massive head injury, horrified witnesses told police.

He died at the scene.

Though Tufino was in a marked crosswalk and would presumably have had the right of way, anonymous police sources told the Daily News “no charges were expected.”

It would not be unusual for the driver in this case to avoid penalty. Since the Right of Way Law took effect last August, motorists have injured and killed thousands of New York City pedestrians, yet as of this month NYPD had applied the law just 17 times.

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: City Council Hearing on Port Authority Bus Stations

On the calendar this week: City Council members will discuss the state of Port Authority bus stations in NYC, and community board transportation committees will meet in Queens and Brooklyn. Details below. As always, see the calendar for the full slate of livable streets events.

  • Today: New York State Assembly Member Jim Brennan and New Jersey electeds will participate in a panel discussion tonight on Port Authority reform, called “How Should We Fix the Port Authority?” It’s hosted by St. Peter’s University in Jersey City. Full details and registration info here. 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday: The Brooklyn CB 8 transportation committee will “discuss transportation and NYC Transit Authority concerns.” 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday: A full agenda for the Queens CB 5 transportation committee, which will take up bus route changes, proposals to reactivate the Montauk Line for passenger rail service, recommendations for the proposed Cross Harbor Rail Tunnel, and street safety issues and requests. 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday: The City Council transportation committee convenes for an oversight hearing on the Port Authority’s NYC bus stations. 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday: Transportation Alternatives’ new Upper Manhattan Activist Committee meets in Harlem. 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday: A webinar will instruct participants on how to map bike routes by stress level. It’s a free event, but registration is required. 12 to 1 p.m.

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

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You Can Make a More Effective Bus System for Cheap, But It’s Not Easy

This bus system redesign forced some tough decisions, but should make it more user friendly for more people. Image: Human Transit

Houston’s bus system redesign forced some tough decisions. Click to enlarge. Map: Human Transit

Bus service in Houston is about to get a lot more useful — without costing any more to operate.

The city’s new bus network, which transit consultant Jarrett Walker of Network blog Human Transit helped design, will bring frequent service to much more of the city. The plan was unveiled last year and has been getting a fresh round of coverage after Houston transit officials approved it earlier this month.

Walker says that a system overhaul forces communities to make hard decisions between ridership and coverage. Low ridership routes (or “coverage” routes) provide an important lifeline to some people, but they also divert resources from routes where more people would ride the bus. To create a more effective bus network without spending more money, the Houston plan cut low-ridership service by about 50 percent, at the city’s behest.

In a new post, Walker writes that the process of overhauling the system is much more difficult than the headlines let on:

Much of the press about the project is picking up the idea, from my previous post on the subject, that we redesigned Houston’s network to create vastly more mobility without increasing operating cost — “without spending a dime,” as Matt Yglesias’s Vox piece today says. An unfortunate subtext of this headline could be: “Sheesh, if it’s that easy, why didn’t they do it years ago, and why isn’t everyone doing it?”

Some cities, like Portland and Vancouver, “did it” long ago. But for those cities that haven’t, the other answer is this:

Money isn’t the only currency. Pain is another.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • De Blasio Housing Plan Eliminates Some Parking Minimums (Capital, WSJ)
  • The Daily News Has No Idea Why NYC Enacted the Right of Way Law; Brooklyn Spoke Responds
  • Times Calls on Cuomo to Secure the Future of NYC’s Transit System
  • Will DMV Reveal the Truth About NYPD’s Vehicular Killing of Ryo Oyamada? (Gothamist)
  • Private Bus Driver Kills Man on Coney Island Avenue in Midwood (News)
  • Box Truck Driver Kills Woman at 76th Street and Woodside Avenue in Elmhurst (PostNews)
  • Bus Bulbs Coming to Intersection of Allerton Avenue and White Plains Road (BxTimes)
  • Julio Acevedo, Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Couple in 2013, Found Guilty of Manslaughter (Bklyn Paper)
  • Van Driver Charged With Careless Driving for Injuring 80-Year-Old Woman in Flushing Crosswalk (DNA)
  • Van Driver Crashes Into Little Italy Restaurant; No Charges (PostNews)
  • Why It’s Hard to Hold Someone Accountable for Killing With a Car (Salon)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Bushwick Residents to DOT: More Bike Lanes, Please

Bushwick residents at a forum last night told DOT where they would like to see bike lanes in their neighborhood. Photo: NYC DOT

Bushwick residents told DOT where they would like to see bike lanes in their neighborhood. Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr

Dozens of Bushwick residents came out in the cold last night to suggest where to add bike lanes to their neighborhood. Currently Bushwick only has a pair of painted bike lanes on Central Avenue and Evergreen Avenue, plus some sharrows linking to bike lanes in Bed-Stuy.

“There was a good turnout from long-time residents, from newcomers. It was pretty diverse,” said Celeste Leon, constituent services manager for Council Member Rafael Espinal, who sponsored the workshop along with Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Brooklyn Community Board 4, the Department of City Planning, and DOT. The public input process will continue through June, and DOT hopes to begin putting paint on the ground next year.

Since July 2012, 222 cyclists have been injured and one was killed in the 11237 and the 11221 zip codes, according to city crash data cited by Transportation Alternatives.

Last night, participants broke into groups and marked up maps to show where they ride, which areas present problems, and which streets would be good for bike lanes. The process is similar to neighborhood bike lane workshops DOT has held for Brownsville, Ridgewood, and Long Island City.

Read more…

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Pedestrian Deaths Have Fallen in Every Borough Except Staten Island

Pedestrian fatalities in New York City have been cut in half over the past three decades -- except for Staten Island. Chart: DOT

Pedestrian deaths in New York City have dropped by half over three decades — except for Staten Island. Chart: DOT

DOT released the final installment of its pedestrian safety plans yesterday with a report for Staten Island [PDF], where the nature of pedestrian crashes is different than in the other boroughs.

Map: DOT

DOT’s priority areas cover locations where nearly three-quarters of Staten Island’s pedestrian deaths or serious injuries occurred. Click to enlarge. Map: DOT

Over the past three decades, the city as a whole grew approximately 19 percent while the number of pedestrian fatalities was cut in half. On Staten Island, while the population has increased at a more rapid clip of 30 percent, pedestrian fatalities have not declined at all.

On average, about 40 pedestrians are severely injured and seven are killed on Staten Island streets each year. The borough’s rate of 1.4 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents is lower than the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Queens.

But that doesn’t mean, as Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the Advance, that ”Staten Island is by far the safest borough.” Because people don’t walk as much in Staten Island as they do in other boroughs,  it’s difficult to compare to other parts of the city — but the risk of getting around on foot is still substantial.

DOT’s report notes that most of Staten Island is auto-dependent, with 82 percent of households owning at least one car, almost double the citywide average. Two-thirds of Staten Islanders drive to work, more than double the citywide rate.

The North Shore is less car-dependent than the rest of Staten Island, and that’s where pedestrian deaths are concentrated. The area east of the Bayonne Bridge and north of the Staten Island Expressway accounts for about 45 percent of the borough’s pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries, but only 18 percent of its land area. (Outside of the North Shore, Hylan Boulevard is another danger zone.)

Read more…