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 [...]
If the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll reduction is truly about fixing inequities, then Governor Cuomo should be an advocate for adding tolls in places where alternatives to driving exist, like the East River bridges. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The MTA board adopted a toll reduction for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the agency’s monthly board meeting yesterday, a move that was opposed by Tri-State and former Lieutenant Governor and MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch, and one that was criticized by several board members.
The toll relief program has been framed as a way to solve the “inequity” of high tolls that Staten Islanders pay. On top of the existing discount for Staten Island residents, the program lowers the toll to $5.50 (it currently ranges from $6 to $6.36) and also includes a 20 percent discount for commercial vehicles that use the bridge at least 10 times a month. The program will cost the MTA and New York State $7 million each — funds that could have otherwise been used to address the real inequity in Staten Island: that residents have limited transportation options beyond driving.
Despite its unanimous passage (minus one abstention), the proposal drew criticism from a number of board members in part due to politics. The toll reduction for Staten Islanders was pushed by Governor Cuomo, which led board member Mark Page, the only board member to abstain from the vote, to question whether the MTA would have ever considered the toll reduction if not for the Governor’s involvement.
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Letter from Suffolk County Legislator Thomas Barraga | Photo: Sandy Heins Cutrone/Facebook
Late last month, Suffolk County (NY) Legislator Thomas Barraga responded to a letter from a constituent whose mother, Sandy Heins Cutrone, suffered a broken shoulder and head and neck injuries after being struck by a car while bicycling in West Islip.
Barraga’s response, which essentially said “don’t ride a bike in Suffolk County,” has received a fair deal of media attention in the last 24 hours. His response is an unfortunate turn of events. Tri-State has met with Barraga in the past to discuss pedestrian safety in Suffolk County, and believe it or not, Barraga was named a “Winner” last October for writing a letter to the County’s Department of Public Works urging them to conduct a traffic safety study on County Road 13 after a pedestrian and cyclist were killed within one week of each other.
So instead of joining in on the pummeling, we’d like to offer a rebuttal to some of the Legislator’s statements, as well as ideas that he can pursue to make cycling and walking safer in his district of West Islip and Suffolk County as a whole.
Dear Mr. Cutrone,
Thank you for your recent letter concerning bicycle safety and bicycle lanes. Let me at the outset express the hope that your mother will have a complete recovery from her accident in September while riding a bicycle in West Islip.
I have lived in West Islip most of my life and my personal feeling is that no one who lives in our hamlet or for that matter in Suffolk County should ever ride a bicycle or a motorcycle. I cannot tell you how many constitituents over the years have told me that they are taking up bicycling for pleasure and exercise. I have hold them not to do so but they usually do not listen — 90 percent of those people eventually were hit by an automobile many like your mother with serious physical injuries.
If Barraga has had “many constituents over the years” telling him they want to bike more, then there’s clearly a demand for better bicycle infrastructure in Suffolk County. So instead of telling constituents that cycling will get them killed, he should be using the influence of his position to make cycling in Suffolk County safer and easier.
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South Park Street in downtown Montclair, NJ was reconstructed with new crosswalks and other complete streets elements in 2012. | Photo: Adam Anik/Montclair Times
Roads that put pedestrians’ lives at risk traverse the tri-state region, and although no two dangerous roads are exactly alike, they tend to share a design that expedites the movement of motorized vehicles with little consideration for the needs of vulnerable road users like pedestrians and bicyclists.
These roads, however, can be made safer for drivers and non-drivers with simple and relatively low-cost modifications like pedestrian countdown signals, well-marked crosswalks, crossing islands and other context-sensitive safety improvements.
Last week, Tri-State released an analysis on the region’s Most Dangerous Roads for Walking. This year, in addition to looking at total fatalities and targeting locations where pedestrian deaths are clustered, we’ve also highlighted areas where state agencies and local governments are redesigning roads with sorely-needed safety improvements. Here are a few that stand out:
Route 211, Wallkill, NY Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo announced $67 million in grants for municipalities to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects. The Town of Wallkill in Orange County, one of the grant recipients, will receive $1.13 million to extend sidewalks and add landscaping to a portion of Route 211 that is lacking both. While there were no pedestrian deaths along this arterial road in the three years from 2010 through 2012, according to the Wallkill Police Department, Route 211 has been the site of at least 22 pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes in the past 10 years.
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Eight pedestrians were killed on this 11.5-mile stretch of Route 25 (Middle Country Road) in Suffolk County on Long Island. | Image: Most Dangerous Roads for Walking Analysis (via Google Maps)
Earlier this week, Tri-State released an analysis on the region’s Most Dangerous Roads for Walking. This year, however, in addition to looking at total fatalities, we took a closer look at a few locations where pedestrian deaths were clustered.
Why do this? The intention of Tri-State’s Most Dangerous Roads analysis is to encourage state and local governments to make safety improvements to roads where multiple pedestrian fatalities occur. By targeting specific areas on those roads where fatalities are clustered, an even stronger case can be made for critical changes like better pedestrian crossings, traffic calming measures and enhanced speed enforcement strategies, while also advocating for infrastructure overhauls along entire corridors. Here are a few fatality clusters that stood out:
Broadway, Manhattan, NY Nine pedestrians died on Broadway in Manhattan between 2010 and 2012. Broadway is over 13 miles long, but seven of the nine fatalities occurred on the 4.7-mile stretch of upper Broadway between 99th Street and 192nd Street. During the Bloomberg administration, the New York City Department of Transportation put considerable focus into making southern Broadway safer for pedestrians. Fortunately, change is afoot farther uptown, too: NYC DOT recently announced a plan to redesign the intersection of Broadway and 96th Street, and last November, Community Board 12 endorsed a plan to shorten crossings at Broadway and Dyckman Street in Inwood.
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“There is no industry that could possibly be successful if you have expenses that grow with inflation and you have revenues that don’t… But that is the story of our Transportation Trust Fund.”
Governor Jack Markell of Delaware (left) proposed a gas tax increase this week to shore up the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. Governor Christie of New Jersey, however, has avoided a gas tax increase, despite major infrastructure needs and not enough revenue to keep up with repairs. Photo: Robert Sciarrino/Star-Ledger
No, those weren’t the words of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (although they really should have been). They were actually spoken by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who proposed a 10-cent gas tax earlier this week. The tax increase is expected to generate $50 million a year, and would be used to address projects that have been delayed because of “uncertainty in the funding for the Transportation Trust Fund.”
Governor Markell’s proposal comes less than a month after neighboring Pennsylvania enacted a gas tax increase. Pennsylvania’s gas tax, prior to the increase, was 32.3 cents per gallon, the 15th-highest gas tax in the nation. Delaware’s gas tax is currently 23 cents per gallon, the 31st-highest in the nation.
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Cashless, all-electronic toll plaza at the Henry Hudson Bridge (top) and an open-road AET gantry on the Garden State Parkway. | Photos: mta.info and NJ Monthly
Toll plazas throughout New York could soon be all-electronic, if a proposal in Governor Cuomo’s draft Executive Budget is approved. Tri-State has been advocating for all-electronic tolling (AET) since 1999, but to date, the only fully-cashless toll facility in New York is the MTA’s Henry Hudson Bridge. This conversion has been widely applauded and has approval ratings of 95 percent from users. Cashless tolling reduces congestion, improves safety by reducing the “weaving and lane-jockeying“ associated with toll plazas, and has air quality benefits too.
The New York State Thruway Authority has also been making plans to convert to cashless AET for some time, but implementation has been slow going. The slow roll-out on NYSTA facilities, and delayed expansion to other bridges in the MTA system, has been tied to a concern over the lack of enforcement capability against those who fail to pay the toll:
This bill would strengthen the ability of New York’s four authorities that operate toll facilities—the Thruway Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Bridge Authority, and the Port Authority—to effectively manage and enforce the collection of tolls throughout the State. Toll violators cost the tolling authorities tens of millions of dollars each year, and the current law is outdated and ineffective in enforcing against persistent violators. Some persistent violators owe in excess of $100,000 in tolls and fees.
This provision changes that: not only would the proposal double the fine for failure to pay a toll (to $100, currently $50), a vehicle owner who doesn’t pay will receive ”a nasty surprise when they try to register their cars at the Department of Motor Vehicles.”
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Image: NYC Department of Transportation
After sixteen-year-old Renee Thompson was killed by a turning vehicle last September while crossing Third Avenue at 60th Street in Manhattan, the New York City Department of Transportation came up with a plan to make the intersection safer by adding curb extensions and turn lanes. Third Avenue and 60th Street are both designated truck routes, and handle a great deal of traffic coming from the Queensboro Bridge. The Transportation Committee of Community Board 8 voted unanimously in favor of this plan, and earlier this week, it gained the approval of the full board.
Traffic calming plans and other street safety improvements are often implemented in response to incidents where people are injured or killed. The response of NYC DOT, as well as CB8′s endorsement of the plan, was certainly an appropriate, and Tri-State applauds the effort to prevent another tragedy from taking place at this location.
In an ideal world though, unsafe street conditions would be fixed before injuries and fatalities ever take place. And while it’s impossible to predict where crashes will take place, there’s no good reason not to be proactive.
Two Community Boards currently have an opportunity to take action before tragedy strikes. Manhattan Community Boards 9 and 10 are considering an NYC DOT plan to calm traffic on a 10-block section of Harlem’s Morningside Avenue, which acts as a north-south “speedway” between 116th and 126th Streets along the eastern edge of Morningside Park. The plan has won the approval of CB9, which covers the west side of Morningside Avenue, but CB10 – which “has a history of inaction and opposition when it comes to livable streets projects” – covers the east side of the road and is opposed to the plan, citing concerns about traffic congestion. But Morningside Avenue already has excess capacity, according to NYC DOT, making it an ideal candidate for a classic 4-to-3-lane road diet.
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The United States’ traffic fatality rate, according to a new report from the World Health Organization, is much higher than other wealthy, industrialized nations. [Click image for interactive map]
Sweden, home of the Vision Zero Initiative
, has one of the world’s lowest traffic fatality rates, according to the World Health Organization’s 2013 Global Burden of Disease
study, with just three traffic fatalities for every 100,000 people in a year.
In fact, many of the nations with the lowest traffic fatality rates are wealthier, industrialized nations:
- United Kingdom 3.7
- Netherlands 3.9
- Germany 4.7
- Denmark 4.7
- Singapore 5.1
- Japan 5.2
- Australia 6.1
- Canada 6.8
- Italy 7.2
But you may notice one wealthy, industrialized nation missing from that list: the United States, where the traffic fatality rate is 11.4 – on par with Bangladesh, Jamaica, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
There are many reasons the traffic fatality rate is comparatively higher in the United States. We’ve often discussed on MTR how the design of our roads prioritizes the movement of automobiles at the expense of other modes, but perhaps one additional reason is how we conduct our traffic safety education campaigns.
Take a look at these traffic safety PSAs from the UK, Ireland (traffic fatality rate of 4.7), the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand (traffic fatality rate of 9.1). Although some seem more real than others, all are intended to illustrate the true dangers of unsafe driving behavior: injury and death.
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Photo: Ed Betz/Newsday
Update: The PBS Weekend News Hour program has been moved from Sunday, January 12th to Saturday, January 11th, at 6pm.
Last year, after several months of advocacy by Tri-State and allies including the Welfare to Work Commission, LI Jobs with Justice, Vision Long Island and others, Suffolk County announced it [...]