It’s the inherent conflict of cities: we choose dense urban environments for the proximity to other people and places, yet being too close to too many people creates stress and anxiety. You don’t have to be a social scientist to know this is true – just ask anyone riding the 6 train or walking through Times Square.
A new startup, Placemeter, is working to address this conflict.
Placemeter uses live streams from video cameras to “read” a street. These streams run into a computer that’s trained to recognize what it is “seeing.” Footage of pedestrians and vehicles is then coupled with other data, such as weather information, maps and event calendars, providing the “world’s first real-time dynamic data layer.” Or, as COO and Co-Founder Florent Peyre puts it, Placemeter ultimately intends to cut down on the “super anxiety” of urban life, specifically by being able to let its users know how a destination will be before they arrive.
So what are Placemeter’s broader implications for transportation and urban policy?
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Our friends at Transportation Alternatives are hosting a community workshop next week geared toward making safety improvements on Brooklyn’s Jay Street, “a critical connector to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge [that] lacks the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure needed to protect New Yorkers from dangerous traffic.” Jay Street was an area of particular concern for cyclists who participated in the the BK Gateway Vision, a 2012 report released by Tri-State, then-Councilmember Letitia James, the Park Slope Civic Council, the Boerum Hill Association and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council that highlights the transportation and land use challenges facing Downtown Brooklyn.
The T.A. Brooklyn Activist Committee hopes to secure “protected bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, bike corrals and other traffic calming measures” to curb speeding and other dangerous behaviors. RSVP here if you’d like to help transform Jay Street into a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly corridor.
The Jay Street Safety Community Planning Forum will be held on March 10 at 6:30 p.m. at 1 MetroTech Center, Brooklyn (in the National Grid Lobby).
We need your help! We want to make sure that legislative leaders in Albany will protect funding for transit.
Will you add your plea to that of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and other advocates by sending the following e-action? Advocacy works when many people express their opinions to our elected officials—and we need your voice to be heard on this important transit, environmental and equity issue!
Dear Governor Cuomo, State Senate Majority Co-Leaders Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos, and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver,
We are subway and bus riders asking our political leaders to protect funding for mass transit in this year’s budget.
Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget would take $40 million out of dedicated transit funds and use the money to cover debt costs that the State is supposed to pay for. Those are funds the MTA could use to increase service, reduce proposed fare hikes and better maintain buses and train stations. Please stand up for transit riders and say NO to raiding transit funds in the New York State budget.
Contact Governor Cuomo
E-mail Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein
E-mail Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos
E-mail Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
New York Assemblymembers Nily Rozic, Dick Gottfried, Jim Brennan and Michael DenDekker rallied with transit advocates last Sunday. | Photo: Dan Rivoli/AM New York
A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.
New York Assemblymembers Jim Brennan, Michael DenDekker, Dick Gottfried and Nily Rozic — The quartet of Assemblymembers joined advocates on Sunday to call on Governor Cuomo to restore the $40 million that was diverted from the MTA to the general fund.
NYC Councilmen Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso, and New York Assemblymembers Maritza Davila and Joe Lentol — The North Brooklyn elected officials called on the City to enlist the MTA as a Vision Zero partner, and encouraged the implementation of safety infrastructure like leading pedestrian intervals at intersections and rear wheel guards on buses.
NJ Transit — NJ Transit’s new Executive Director Veronique Hakim, who took the helm of NJ Transit on March 1, brings 23 years of experience with the MTA and a somewhat unorthodox approach to her new role. Hakim said she doesn’t believe in “sacred cows,” and is “inviting rank-and-file employees to share their ideas for making the troubled organization work better.”
Meriden (CT) Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski — Burdelski is paving the way for transit-oriented development in downtown Meriden, which will be served by the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail corridor.
MTA Board of Directors — Despite the fact that it “defies common sense” and could be a violation of state law, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors voted unanimously (minus one abstention) to reduce tolls for Staten Island residents who use the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
People who use the Palisades Interstate Parkway — The 11.5-mile stretch of the Palisades Interstate Parkway in New Jersey is a “lumpy, bumpy… pothole-ridden mess” because the Palisades Interstate Park Commission doesn’t have the $14.5 million it would cost to repave it, and the New Jersey Department of Transportation won’t increase its annual $300,000 contribution.
The MTA will focus its safety efforts along the rails, but it must also address safety on the streets. At least nine pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by MTA bus drivers in New York City since January 2013. | Photo: Pearl Gabel/NY Daily News
Last month, in the wake of the tragic derailment of a Metro-North train at Spuyten Duyvil that killed four passengers in December 2013, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced the establishment of a new safety committee on the MTA board and the creation of a Chief Safety Officer position that will report directly to MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast.
The new position will be tasked with improving safety through “stepping up reporting responsibilities and management oversight and installing automatic speed protections” on the railroad. The move was applauded across the region as long overdue. While we hope these efforts will improve safety along the rails, oversight on safety issues for the MTA’s new senior management position should not stop there.
Since January 2013, at least nine pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by MTA bus drivers in New York City, and according to a Tri-State analysis, from 2010-2012, 10 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred within a quarter mile of Long Island Rail Road stations in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and Metro-North stations in Westchester County. These fatalities highlight the need for greater coordination between the MTA, the New York City Department of Transportation and state departments of transportation to address the safety of millions of pedestrians who access the railroad and the City’s subways and buses daily. A model example of this type of collaboration can be found in New Jersey, where NJ Transit partners with NJDOT on a Transit Village program which prioritizes making access to transit stations safer.
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The 91st Street Marine Transfer Station means more local truck traffic. It’s up to the City to ensure those trucks have greener engines and present as little a threat as possible to pedestrians and people on bikes. | Photo: Todd Maisel/NY Daily News
Despite four unsuccessful lawsuits in six years to stop the construction of the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station (MTS) in Manhattan, opponents are still making the case that it should not be built. Last month, opponents released a report, conducted by a private consulting firm, indicating that the vehemently-debated facility would not make much of a dent in reducing garbage filled trucks from some of New York City’s most overburdened communities. While the report takes a comprehensive look at the 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) and makes solid recommendations, the construction of the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station should not be the casualty of a reevaluation of solid waste management in New York City.
The 2006 SWMP was expected to reduce truck traffic through overburdened communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. So one of the report’s key claims, that truck traffic would not be reduced significantly in these communities, was bound to ignite the fire about the borough equity of the SWMP.
Overall, the report challenges the analyses and data underlying the 2006 plan and raises sound questions about the numbers while also addressing new issues that have come to light. Severe storms have exposed the vulnerability of the City’s waste disposal and treatment systems. Commercial trucks are still lacking greener technology. A recycling rate of 15 percent lags embarrassingly behind other progressive cities like Seattle (56 percent) and Los Angeles (45 percent). The polluting tug/barge industry is slow to implement green technologies. And the key point of the report: the 91st Street station will only divert 1.6 percent of commercial waste and 1.3 percent of the in-city truck miles associated with this waste. These points are the report’s strengths and contributions but they are not the reasons to abandon the 91st Street MTS. In fact, they are the reasons to make the MTS the premier environmental example in waste handling.
One way to do this is for the New York City Council to pass Local Law 2013/145 which would allow the City to refuse to issue a license or registration to any applicant that has failed to reduce (by 2020) “the emissions of pollutants from heavy duty trade waste hauling vehicles… with the best available retrofit technology.” This mandate will ensure that trucks entering the 91st Street MTS, which would be located in close proximity to recreational facilities like Asphalt Green, release as few pollutants as possible.
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Smart Growth America released its Best Complete Streets Policies of 2013 report last month. The report ranks each Complete Streets policy enacted in 2013 using a system that measures ten ideal elements of a Complete Streets policy and scores each policy based on those ideals.
While there weren’t any policies from the tri-state region in this year’s top 10 (Trenton was #8 in 2012), both New York and New Jersey have achievements worth mentioning. New Jersey saw the greatest addition of policies in 2013 with 17 new Complete Streets policies adopted (California was #2 with 14 new policies), and the Garden State is ranked #2 nationwide with 78 policies (behind only Michigan, which has 79). The New Jersey Department of Transportaion also had the highest-ranked state internal policy in the nation.
In addition, several Complete Streets policies in New Jersey and New York scored above the median score of 60 (out of 100):
- Lawrence (79.2)
- Trenton* (78.4)
- Linden* (74.4)
- Camden* (74.4)
- Metuchen (72.8)
- Chatham (70.4)
- Woodbridge (63.2)
- Cranford* (60)
- Netcong (60)
Part of the reason New Jersey is so well represented in the rankings is because of NJDOT’s promotion of Complete Streets adoption and implementation. NJDOT provides an incentive point on Municipal Aid grant applications to those municipalities that have passed Complete Streets policies. The department also offers a Complete Streets guide to policy development and an implementation guidebook.
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Join the New York State Transportation Equity Alliance (NYSTEA) for its third annual conference on March 19 at One Empire State Plaza in Albany. The conference unites policymakers, advocates, practitioners, transit riders and transit businesses from around the state to discuss and organize for equity in local and regional transportation.
A wide range of equity issues will be discussed, including the instability of transit finance, fairness in the design and allocation of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, transit manufacturing and economic development, and equitable transit oriented development, among other subjects.
To RSVP and see a list of participants (in formation), click here. The conference agenda will be posted shortly.
We sure are, Governor, and it looks like we’re going to continue to pay for the foreseeable future. | Image: @GovChristie/Twitter
According to New Jersey State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, “No money is being provided through the proposed 2015 budget to help the Transportation Trust Fund pay for road construction projects.” In other words, Governor Christie has once again failed to make good on a promise to fund transportation with more cash and less debt – the major selling point of his now three-year-old five-year Transportation Capital Program. While this is certainly not good news in terms of the state’s mounting debt, it also doesn’t come as a shock. Tri-State, among others, has long been skeptical about how Governor Christie and the State Legislature would meet the state’s transportation funding needs without increasing revenue. The entire five year (2012-2016), $8 billion transportation capital plan is financed using debt and the spoils from the cancelled ARC tunnel, which will run out in 2016.
Since announcing his transportation funding plan in 2011, Governor Christie has repeatedly used debt and gimmicks to fund transportation in New Jersey. In 2013, transportation funds were used to plug the General Fund deficit resulting in the State taking out an additional $261 million in debt to fill the hole in the transportation capital plan. In fiscal year 2014, the State planned to spend $375 million in Pay As You Go (PAYGO) funding, but ultimately this measure was replaced with a one-time shot of $250 million from some crafty capital project planning and higher than expected proceeds for previous years’ transportation bond sales.
And once again, this year’s planned funding allocation of $490 million will go to plug part of the general fund deficit. As a result, it is expected that Governor Christie will look for more bonding to pay for transportation projects but where that bonding authority will come from remains unknown, especially, according to the Transportation Trust Fund Authority, since it appears the TTF does not have enough bonding authority to take out more debt. Under current statutes, the TTFA “allows up to 30 percent of the Transportation Program Bonds that are permitted to be issued in a given year to be issued instead in a preceding fiscal year.” This means that TTFA would only be able to bond $1.023 billion in this fiscal year leaving over a $300 million gap in this year’s transportation program, while at the same time putting additional pressure on funding next year’s plan.
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