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Anthony Foxx to Local Officials: Transport Policy Should Tackle Segregation

Local transportation officials should actively work to reduce segregation and promote equal access to quality schools, three Cabinet members say in a “dear colleague” letter released last week [PDF].

Are good schools accessible by transit, or foot and bike safely? Federal officials say transportation officials have a role to play in improving equality. Image: Streetfilms

Are good schools accessible by walking, biking, and transit? Cabinet members say they should be. Image: Streetfilms

The message from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and Education Secretary John King urges transportation, housing, and education officials at all levels of government to work together to ensure that people aren’t excluded from economic and educational opportunities.

The call to action builds on HUD’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which requires local governments that receive federal housing funds to analyze segregation patterns and develop plans to reduce it.

“We recognize that a growing body of research supports the benefits of socioeconomic and racial diversity in schools and communities, and that such diversity can help establish access points for opportunity and mobility,” Foxx, Castro, and King wrote. “We also recognize that children raised in concentrated poverty or in communities segregated by socioeconomic status or race or ethnicity have significantly lower social and economic mobility than those growing up in integrated communities.”

In the transportation sphere, the letter recommends a few steps to take. To paraphrase:

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10 Years of Streetsblog and Streetfilms — Celebrate With Us November 14

Ten years ago today, Aaron Naparstek hit “publish” on the first official Streetsblog post.

“The $46 Million Parking Perk” was an exposé of the city’s parking placard system based on the work of analyst Bruce Schaller. I don’t have a screengrab of the story as it appeared that day, but here’s a look at the banner readers saw when they punched streetsblog.org into their browsers on June 16, 2006. (In those early days, Streetsblog and Streetfilms were the media arm of the New York City Streets Renaissance, a multi-pronged advocacy campaign to upend the cars-first status quo at, primarily, NYC DOT.)

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Aaron and Streetsblog publisher Mark Gorton started the site out of a sense of both frustration and optimism. Frustration at the inertia inside a city government that still viewed streets’ primary purpose as moving and storing motor vehicles. Optimism about the future of city streets and the capability of online media to change public policy for the better. Together with videomaker Clarence Eckerson and his fledgling Streetfilms operation, they set out to shake things up.

Mark, Aaron, and Clarence hatching plans in 2006.

Mark, Aaron, and Clarence hatching plans in 2006.

To honor Mark and Aaron and to celebrate all the progress we’ve made since they brought their brainchild into the world, Streetsblog and Streetfilms will be putting on a big 10-year anniversary benefit on November 14 at Current, right off the Hudson River Greenway at 18th Street. Save the date, mark your calendars, and watch this space — we’ll keep you posted on the event as we firm up the details.

If you have a minute, go back and read that first story about parking placards. Even that proto-post bore the hallmarks of the Streetsblog strategy. It turned transportation wonkery — the value of parking spaces and the effect of free parking on commute habits — into breezy prose that anyone could latch onto. With a whiff of corruption in the headline, it caught the attention of the tabloids, which picked up the story. And it got under the skin of people in government (in this case, the fellows over at NYPD Rant).

The steady drumbeat of placard coverage also prompted a response from City Hall, which cut back on the number of placards issued. Sure, in 2016, we’re still fighting the placard scourge. But take a moment to think back on how different New York City streets were 10 years ago.

There were no on-street protected bike lanes, no plazas in Corona or Jackson Heights or New Lots, no pedestrian safety plan, no speed enforcement cameras. Not a single bus route in the city allowed passengers to save time by paying before boarding. Hundreds of thousands of people walking through Times Square every day were shunted off to the margins of the street, hemmed in by a motoring armada. New Yorkers made about 200,000 fewer trips by bicycle each day. And about 90 more people lost their lives in traffic each year.

The most-watched Streetfilm of all time (more than half a million views!) tells the story well:

It took a small army of advocates, volunteers, and public servants to attain all the progress we’ve made since then. And it’s safe to say we wouldn’t have come this far without Streetsblog and Streetfilms.

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Labor and Advocacy Groups Call for Action on Unsafe Garbage Haulers

The overwhelming majority of violations were related to vehicle maintenance. Image: Transform Don't Trash NYC Coalition

The overwhelming majority of violations were related to vehicle maintenance. Image: Transform Don’t Trash NYC Coalition

A new report from Transform Don’t Trash NYC, a coalition of labor and advocacy groups including Teamsters Local 813 and Transportation Alternatives, is calling on the city to get unsafe sanitation trucks off NYC streets.

The job of collecting garbage in the city is shared by the Department of Sanitation, which handles waste from residential and governmental buildings, and more than 250 private companies, which collect commercial garbage through contracts with individual businesses. Because private haulers have contracts all over the city, they travel much wider distances than city sanitation trucks.

Union members and advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall this morning to urge the mayor to take concrete steps to improve private hauler safety. Among their recommendations: waste collection zones that would assign private haulers to more efficient, geographically-condensed routes; stricter vehicle design standards; and a crash response protocol to hold companies accountable for poorly maintained trucks.

Teamster Local 813 President Sean Campbell speaks out against unsafe sanitation trucks. Photo: David Meyer

Teamster Local 813 President Sean Campbell speaks out against unsafe sanitation trucks. Photo: David Meyer

The report, “Reckless Endangerment,” calls attention to a startling lack of vehicle upkeep by NYC’s 20 largest private sanitation companies. According to federal inspection data, 96 percent of safety violations in the last two years were related to vehicle maintenance. Forty-eight percent of all trucks operated by the city’s top 20 private hauling companies were taken out of service due to maintenance concerns — more than double the national average.

One company, Crown Container, took as many as 86 percent of its vehicles out of service due to violations. Last summer the driver of a Crown Container truck killed 46-year-old Alberta Bagu as she crossed the street in Bushwick. The driver fled the scene and no charges were filed.

The city does not track how many traffic fatalities and severe injuries are caused by drivers of private fleet vehicles, but other data point to their outsized role in fatal crashes. A 2014 U.S. DOT study found that while trucks make up for 3.6 percent of vehicles in NYC, they account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of cyclist deaths.

The most common violations are also the most dangerous, according to the report. Nineteen percent of the 20 companies’ violations were related to faulty brakes, which a 2007 report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said was a factor in 29 percent of crashes involving commercial trucks. Faulty tires, spilled cargo, and broken lights were also among the more common violations. Broken lights are a particular concern since the trucks are commonly on the streets after dark.

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Drivers Are Killing People, and the 19th Precinct Is Sending Cyclists to Court

The 19th Precinct likes to boast about local officers aggressively ticketing people for riding bikes on sidewalks. A data analysis by Transportation Alternatives shows the precinct also issues far more criminal court summonses for sidewalk riding than other Manhattan commands.

According to TA, in 2015 the Upper East Side 19th Precinct issued 116 criminal summonses for sidewalk riding, and 15 moving violations — a ratio of eight to one. TA says the typical ratio for precincts citywide is close to one criminal summons to one moving violation.

A moving violation can be resolved online or through the mail, while a criminal summons requires a court appearance. Failure to appear in court can result in a warrant that leads to jail time and barriers to employment.

NYPD greatly reduced the issuance of criminal court summonses for sidewalk riding in 2014, but the 19th Precinct is one of several that still sends hundreds of cyclists to court per year. Next month TA will release an in-depth report on bike enforcement, which will include criminal court summons data.

“In addition to disproportionately high bike enforcement in general — they issue 51 percent of all bike on sidewalk c-summonses in the Manhattan North patrol area — [the 19th Precinct is] choosing to take the extremely harsh option,” says TA Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro.

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StreetFilms
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Biking on Amsterdam Avenue in NYC — Now More Like Biking in Amsterdam

Getting a protected bike lane on NYC’s Amsterdam Avenue was an epic struggle. This year, safe streets finally won.

Amsterdam Avenue is a neighborhood street on the Upper West Side, but it was designed like a highway with several lanes of one-way motor vehicle traffic. Local residents campaigned for nearly ten years to repurpose one of those lanes to make way for a parking-protected bike lane and pedestrian islands. They kept butting up against a few stubborn opponents of the street redesign on Community Board 7 (for viewers outside NYC, community boards are appointed bodies that weigh in on street redesigns, among other neighborhood changes).

Fed up with the dangerous conditions on Amsterdam, residents ramped up the activism. They staged silent protests and neighborhood actions to publicly shame the community board members stalling the redesign. Their efforts were rewarded earlier this year when CB 7 voted in favor of DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street. Although not fully built yet — 14 more blocks above 96th Street are still to come — the project has changed the feel of the street dramatically.

It was a hard-earned victory, and yesterday people who fought for a safer Amsterdam celebrated with a ride down the new bike lane. Here’s a look at the ride — a sight we should see many times again as advocates organize for more space for safe biking and walking throughout NYC.

Streetsblog.net
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A Bike Bell That Maps Where Cyclists Feel Unsafe and Pings the Mayor

This map shows where cyclists felt unsafe biking in London. Map: Hövding

A user-generated map of where people felt unsafe biking in London, via Hövding

London cyclists who encounter stressful, dangerous conditions can crowdsource a map of weaknesses in the city’s bike network by simply tapping button on their handlebars. Brandon G. Donnelly at Architect This City has more:

Hövding — a Swedish company best known for its radical airbag cycling helmets (definitely check these out) — is currently crowdsourcing unsafe conditions and cyclist frustration in London.

Working with the London Cyclist Campaign, they distributed 500 yellow handlebar buttons. Cyclists were then instructed to tap these buttons whenever they felt unsafe or frustrated with current cycling conditions.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Inspector Stephen D’Ulisse Is NYPD’s New Highway Patrol CO (DNANews)
  • Still a Lot of Unanswered Questions About de Blasio’s Ferries (NYT, 2AS)
  • Slate: Cuomo’s LaGuardia Train “One of the Worst Transit Ideas in America”
  • AMNY Talked With Local Restaurant and Shop Employees About the 14th Street “PeopleWay”
  • DNA Story on DOT’s South Bronx Protected Bike Lane Plan Is Mostly About Parking
  • Driver Critically Injures Person Walking at Broadway and W. 61st Street (DNA)
  • Motorists Strike and Kill Man on Whitestone Expressway; One Flees Scene (News)
  • The Taxi and Limousine Commission Is Now Tracking Uber Crashes (News)
  • There’s No Telling Who a TLC-Licensed Driver Might Be Working For (Post)
  • DNA Presents the Port Authority’s GWB Bus Terminal Mess, in Timeline Form
  • Ideas for Handling Canarsie Tube Traffic Enter Professor Frink Territory (DNA)
  • People You Share the Streets With (Post, Post)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Metropolitan Bridge Bike Lane Will Connect Ridgewood and Williamsburg

Bike lanes could soon be coming to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, which connects East Williamsburg and Ridgewood. Image: DOT

Bike lanes could soon be coming to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, which connects East Williamsburg and Ridgewood. Image: DOT

After two years of back-and-forth with the local community board, a proposal to link the bike networks of Williamsburg and Ridgewood via the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge may finally be coming to fruition. DOT presented an updated version of the plan, which it first unveiled in June 2014, to Brooklyn Community Board 1 last night [PDF].

The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is a critical connection between Brooklyn and Queens over Newtown Creek. Currently there are only bike lanes to the west of the bridge, on Grand Street in East Williamsburg, not on the bridge itself, where cyclists have to contend with heavy truck traffic.

With two lanes in each direction, drivers on the bridge tend to go too fast. Two cyclists and one pedestrian were killed on or near the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT.

DOT plans to remove one westbound car lane to make room for bike lanes on both sides of the bridge. On the eastbound side of the bridge, the bike lane will have a painted buffer. On the westbound side, in an odd touch, there will be both sharrows and a curbside bike lane.

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Streetsblog USA
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Walkable Cities Are More Affordable Than You Think – We Need More of Them

People living in walkable cities may have high housing costs, but they also tend to have low transportation costs and better access to jobs, according to a new study from Smart Growth America [PDF].

The most walkable metro areas have better job access and lower transportation costs, helping cancel out the effects of high housing costs. Graph: Smart Growth America

The most walkable metro areas have better job access and lower transportation costs, lightening the burden of high housing costs. Table: Smart Growth America

SGA ranked the 30 largest American regions according to the share of rental housing, office space, and retail located in areas with high Walk Scores. Then, using data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, each region was also assigned a “social equity index” score based on housing and transportation costs for moderate-income households, as well as the number of jobs residents can access.

SGA found a significant link between walkability and its equity index, even though housing costs tend to be higher in walkable places.

In the areas with the highest walkable urbanism score, housing costs per square foot are indeed quite a bit higher than in car-oriented places — 93 percent higher, according to SGA. But moderate-income households in those six regions also have lower transportation costs — about 19 percent of their income, on average, compared to 28 percent in the least walkable places. Residents of compact places likely pay for less square footage than residents of spread-out places.

All told, SGA found that moderate-income households in the six most walkable regions spend about the same share of their income on housing and transportation combined as moderate-income households across all 30 metros — about 42 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

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Protected Bike Lanes Will Connect South Bronx to Randall’s Island

DOT is creating two new protected bike routes linking the Randall's Island Connector with the Mott Haven and Port Morris neighborhoods. Image: DOT

DOT is creating protected bike routes linking the Randall’s Island Connector to Mott Haven and Port Morris. Image: DOT

Last fall, the city opened a direct car-free connection between the South Bronx and Randall’s Island. The Randall’s Island Connector provides convenient access to acres of parks and ballfields and — via the 103rd Street footbridge — Manhattan. But the truck-heavy industrial streets that lead to it still leave a lot to be desired. A new NYC DOT project would create bicycle links between the Connector and 138th Street [PDF].

The DOT project calls for protected bike lanes linking the Connector to streets on each side of the Bruckner Expressway, which divides Mott Haven to the west from the more industrial Port Morris to the east. The plan draws heavily from ideas put forward last summer by The Haven Project [PDF], an initiative of the New York Restoration Project. Bronx Community Board 1’s municipal services committee voted unanimously for it on Monday.

Segments of two-way protected bike lanes on Willow Avenue, 133rd Street, St. Ann’s Avenue, as well as a very short piece of 138th Street, would converge at Willow and 133rd, where the bike route to the Connector entrance at 132nd Street would follow a short jog on the sidewalk. For the most part the bikeways will be nine or ten feet wide with three-foot buffers, but on one block of 133rd the bi-directional lane will only be eight feet wide, including the buffer.

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A two-way bikeway on Willow Avenue, above, will draw cyclists to a route with less industrial truck traffic than parallel Walnut Avenue, below.

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Image: Google Maps

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