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Where Car Commuting Is Shrinking — And Where It’s Not

Where are Americans making the shift away from driving to work?

Crunching newly-released Census data, Yonah Freemark looked at how commute travel is changing in different cities and regions. In general, car commuting in major metro areas declined between 2005 and 2015, but the shift was greater than a couple of percentage points in only a few cities.

Keep in mind that commuting accounts for less than 20 percent of all trips, so these numbers may not reflect trends in other kinds of trips. Annual Census estimates also have fairly high margins of error, so any shifts that aren’t very significant in size should be taken with a grain of salt.

Here are the tables that Freemark compiled.

The share of people driving to work dropped in most major metro areas

Graph: Yonah Freemark via American Community Survey

Table: Yonah Freemark

The standouts here are greater Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle. Meanwhile, the share of car commuters increased in greater Houston, L.A., and Charlotte. It’s worth nothing that both Houston and L.A. made significant investments in rail infrastructure over the last decade. But apparently that wasn’t enough on its own to shift commuting patterns.

Read more…

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People on Bikes Take Over Fifth Ave to Demand Safe Streets From de Blasio

NIGRORideForSaferStreets9152016_CAM7148

Photo: Michael Nigro. (You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter: @nigrotime.)

New Yorkers on bikes took over Fifth Avenue yesterday evening to demand stronger action from Mayor de Blasio to implement life-saving street redesigns essential to achieving his goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024. Organizers estimate that more than a thousand people participated.

As they rode from Grand Army Plaza at 59th Street to Washington Square Park, demonstrators from across the five boroughs chanted “Safe streets now!” and “We are traffic!” The full procession stretched for blocks, clocking in at over four minutes from the vanguard to the tail.

Before the ride, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White called on the mayor to “fund and fast-track” safety improvements for walking and biking at the hundreds of dangerous streets and intersections identified by DOT in its Vision Zero action plans.

The reduction of traffic deaths in NYC has stalled this year, and more people on bikes were killed in traffic in the first eight months of 2016 than all of 2015. “We are here to say that Vision Zero, to be real, must be funded,” White said. “[People] are dying because of bad design that the mayor’s not fixing.”

Read more…

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Seattle’s Decade-Long Shift Away From Solo Car Commuting

Seattle's smart transportation policies are moving people toward sustainable transportation. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog

Even with gas prices dropping the past two years, the trend in Seattle is away from solo car commuting. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog

New Census data is out on how Americans commute, and the standout success story is Seattle, where the rate of people who drive alone to work dropped 8.8 percent over the last decade.

Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog lists some of the highlights — walking is up, the share of women biking to work is rising. All the trends in Seattle point in a positive direction:

The number of Seattleites driving alone to work hit a new modern low, making up just 48.5 percent of all commutes. This is particularly impressive since the decline in mode share happened despite a drop in gas prices that started in late 2014. Seattle is a leader in this trend among big U.S. cities, Yonah Freemark reported on Twitter

On the other hand, walking continued its strong trend upwards, hitting a new high at 10.7 percent. This is likely in large part due to increased housing near jobs.

The share of workers biking held steady at 4 percent and transit held steady at 21 percent. This means each mode grew in accordance with job growth.

While job growth in the city means the total number of Seattleites driving alone to work increased 9 percent since 2010, that’s well below the worker growth rate of 20 percent. If trends continue, the city will start adding jobs without adding cars. And if the city takes smart, bold action, this turning point could come sooner than later.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Bratton Retires Today (DNA, AP, Post, Politico); Valedictory NYT Column Doesn’t Mention Street Safety
  • Polly Trottenberg Stores Her Car on the Street Just Like Everyone Else (Politico, Post, DNA)
  • Hundreds Join TA to Demand de Blasio Do More to Prevent Traffic Deaths (PIX, AMNY)
  • Paul White Calls on James O’Neill to Take Vision Zero Seriously (News)
  • The Daily News Did a Decent Story on Bike Safety; Tony Avella, Bike Lane Truther (News)
  • Wall Street Journal Examines Citi Bike’s Rebalancing Problem
  • Komanoff Takes Down Uber’s Wacky L Closure Proposal (Newsweek)
  • Man Trying to Remove Boot From Car Attacks Cops, Is Shot in Midtown (NYT, Post)
  • Crank Who Bullied Brooklyn CB 6 Over Bike-Share Also Upset by Absence of Flag (DNA, Gothamist)
  • NYPD: Recidivist Reckless Driver “Had the Light” When He Ran Over Child (Bklyn Paper, @bikesnobnyc)
  • Motorist Drives Through Front Window of Bank in Flatlands; No Charges (NewsPost)
  • The New Jersey Transit Board Has Stopped Holding Meetings (MTR)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Tonight: Tell Mayor de Blasio to Step Up for Vision Zero

With New York City losing ground in the effort to eliminate traffic deaths, officials will join street safety advocates and victims of traffic violence tonight for Transportation Alternatives’ mass bike ride on Fifth Avenue.

The event is intended to prod Mayor de Blasio to “fund and fast-track” priority pedestrian improvements and protected bike lanes, and to urge to the mayor to direct NYPD to improve traffic enforcement and stop blaming victims of traffic crashes.

Elected officials expected to attend include Broooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Helen Rosenthal.

Participants will gather at 6 p.m. at Fifth and E. 59th Street, and will ride to Washington Square Park. If you don’t ride, you can still represent at the beginning or end of the route. Wear something yellow if you can.

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Driver Kills Army Vet Barney Pinkney, 63, in Harlem — NYPD Blames Victim

Morningside Avenue at 124th Street, where a driver fatally struck Barney Pinkney. Image: Google Maps

Morningside Avenue at 124th Street, where a driver fatally struck Barney Pinkney, has an unmarked crosswalk. Image: Google Maps

A motorist struck and killed 63-year-old Barney Pinkney as he crossed the street in Harlem Tuesday. NYPD blamed the victim in the press.

According to the NYPD public information office, the victim was crossing Morningside Avenue at 124th Street, west to east, when the driver, northbound on Morningside, hit him with a Saturn SUV. Pinkney suffered head trauma and died at St. Luke’s Hospital, police said.

NYPD filed no charges and blamed Pinkney, pictured, in the press. Photo via Daily News

NYPD filed no charges and blamed Pinkney, pictured, in the press. Photo via Daily News

The NYPD account of the crash focused on the victim’s behavior, with few details on the driver’s actions, and leaves many questions unanswered.

A police spokesperson told Streetsblog Pinkney was “in the vicinity of the double yellow line” when he was struck. Unnamed police sources told DNAinfo and the Daily News Pinkney was “outside the crosswalk” and “mid-street.”

Morningside Avenue and 124th Street is a T-intersection with an unmarked crosswalk on Morningside. A DOT road diet implemented in 2014 added center pedestrian islands and extended sidewalks at some Morningside crossings, but improvements at 124th Street were not included.

The NYPD public information office could not say how fast the driver was going — a crucial factor in the severity of the victim’s injuries — or why the driver failed to stop for someone crossing the street.

Police did not charge or ticket the motorist who killed Pinkney, identified as a 75-year-old man from Queens. NYPD usually shields the names of drivers who aren’t penalized for killing people.

Speaking to the Daily News, Russel Lowery, the victim’s brother, said Pinkney was an Army veteran. “He was just crossing the street,” Lowery said.

The crash that killed Barney Pinkney occurred in the 26th Precinct and in the City Council district represented by Inez Dickens.

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FHWA’s New Goal: Eliminating Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths in America

Pedestrian and biking safety has been lagging. Can federal officials reverse the trend? Graph: FHWA

Pedestrian and cyclist deaths account for a growing share of traffic fatalities in America. Can federal officials reverse the trend? Graph: FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration wants to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist fatalities “in the next 20 to 30 years.” In a new strategic plan [PDF], the agency calls for reducing serious injuries and deaths 80 percent in the next 15 years, which would be an intermediate goal on the way to zero.

FHWA also calls for boosting the share of short trips Americans make by biking or walking. It defines short trips as five miles or less for bicyclists and one mile or less for pedestrians. The agency’s goal is to increase the share of these trips 50 percent by 2025 compared to 2009 levels.

Now for the bad news. As admirable as these goals may be, federal transportation officials have limited power to see them through. Decisions about transportation infrastructure and street design are mainly carried out by state and local governments.

Nevertheless, the feds do have some means to influence street safety by changing design standards and using the power of persuasion. FHWA can certainly help move local decisions in the right direction. To encourage safer transportation engineering, the agency says it will ramp up its professional training and recognize states for making progress on walking and biking.

Here’s a look at some of the more promising ideas in the agency’s plan.

Promote safer streets through better design standards

One obstacle to safe streets is the widespread application of highway-style engineering strategies to local streets where people walk and bike. Wider and straighter roads might be better for cars-only environments, but they are terrible for pedestrian and cyclist safety.

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DOT’s 5-Year Plan: Faster Buses, Smarter Parking, 5-Boro Citi Bike, Lots More

NYC DOT published a new strategic plan yesterday [PDF], marking the first time the agency has refreshed its guiding document under Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

stratplanIn addition to synthesizing a lot of work that DOT has previously announced (pedestrian safety plans, Select Bus Service routes, a wider Brooklyn Bridge promenade), the update includes several new projects and initiatives. The big headline-grabber is a center-running two-way protected bike lane on Delancey Street connecting the Williamsburg Bridge and Allen Street, slated for next year.

Advocates have been calling to complete that missing link in the bike network for ages. With the L train shutdown coming up in 2019, time is of the essence to get a safe, high-capacity bikeway on Delancey to handle the swarms of people on bikes who’ll come over the bridge. The Delancey project is one of four bridge access projects DOT aims to complete in the next two years. Though DOT doesn’t name the other bridges in the plan, it says the projects in its Harlem River bridges initiative will be a priority.

There’s a mountain of other stuff in the strategic plan. While some of the goals should be more ambitious (10 miles of protected bike lanes per year isn’t enough in the Vision Zero era) and the benchmarks for success could be more specific (most timetables call for hitting key milestones either by 2017 or by 2021, the last year of a hypothetical second term for de Blasio), the ideas are solid.

In a way the document underscores the urgency of securing more funds and political backing from City Hall for DOT’s initiatives — given sufficient resources, DOT is going to put them to good use.

Here’s my compilation of new ideas and goals from DOT that I think Streetsblog readers will find especially interesting.

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Complete Streets Won’t Work Without Complete Bridges

This is what the transition from the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to the East Capitol St. Bridge looks like. Photo: WABA

This is what the transition from the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to the East Capitol St. Bridge looks like. Photo: WABA

Networks of safe walking and biking infrastructure won’t work very well if they’re interrupted by bridges that are dangerous or stressful to cross. But when transportation agencies fix up bridges, their instinct is often to do the least for walking and biking that they can get away with.

Garrett Hennigan at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association reports that DC is attempting to sidestep complete streets policies at a couple of important bridges. He explains why it’s so critical to design these crossings for all users:

Over the next few years, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has plans for substantial rehabilitation work on the aging Whitney Young Memorial (East Capital St.) Bridge and Roosevelt (I-66/US-50) Bridge. Opened in 1955 and 1964, both bridges are structurally deficient and in need of serious rehabilitation. These bridges are important links in the city’s highway network, yet due to insufficient design, they fail to connect gaps in the region’s trail network and perpetuate barriers to safe walking and biking. Despite the opportunity, DDOT’s plans consider non-motorized accommodations as “outside the scope of work.” As DDOT plans the rehabilitation of these bridges, it has a duty to correct the mistakes of the past and improve both bridges for safe non-motorized access.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Ahead of Tonight’s TA Ride (DNA), Matthew von Ohlen Family Urges de Blasio to Fund Street Fixes (News)
  • Motorist Kills 63-Year-Old Man Walking in Harlem; NYPD, DNA Blame Victim
  • Borough Park Driver Hit Child Hard Enough to Shatter Bike Helmet; NYPD: “Accident” (Post, News)
  • Shocker: DOT Vision Zero Curriculum Prompts the Post to Blame Children for Traffic Crashes
  • Advocates, Lower East Siders Have Lobbied for Delancey Street Bikeway for Years (DNA, Gothamist)
  • DOT Calls for All-Door Boarding “Across the Bus System” (Crain’s)
  • Chaos Ensues When Unhinged Off-Duty Cop Assaults Subway Conductor, Stalling J Trains (NYT, News)
  • You Can’t Access the Internet From Sidewalk Wi-Fi Kiosks Anymore, Because Porn (NYT)
  • Cabs Were Harder to Come by During Eid al-Adha, and the Times Is On It
  • Obvious Solution to Citi Bikes Begriming Prospect Park Sculpture: Site Dock in Place of Parked Cars (NYT)
  • … Because You Can’t Appease Crazy (@psneighbors)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA