Vision Zero Gaining Momentum on Deadly Queens Streets

Vision Zero is coming to Northern Blvd. Image: Streetsblog

Thanks to the efforts of elected officials, advocates and community groups, Queens arterials like WoodhavenNorthern and Queens Boulevards – regulars on TSTC’s annual Most Dangerous Roads for Walking analysis — may soon receive the safety improvements they so badly need.

Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Department of Transportation recently announced that Vision Zero will make its Queens debut on Northern Boulevard. New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer called for traffic safety improvements on Northern Boulevard earlier this year.

And at the state level, Senator Michael Gianaris has been pushing a bill in Albany that would make it a felony to drive with a suspended license when someone is killed or seriously injured in the process. There’s even momentum at the federal level: U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, is exploring solutions for pedestrian fatalities, and recently announced his Pedestrian Fatalities Reduction Act.

It’s not just elected officials who are looking to improve safety on Queens streets. Advocates seeking more immediate implementation of traffic safety measures have taken to installing their own DIY traffic-calming solutions near dangerous intersections throughout the borough.

A fence installed on Broadway near 74th Street to "deter unsafe crossings". Image: DNAinfo

A fence installed on Broadway near 74th Street to “deter unsafe crossings.” Image: DNAinfo

With the hope for safer streets on the horizon, the New York City Department of Transportation must ensure that the changes made are truly transformative. Although the agency has recently implemented street safety improvements in western Queens, there have also been some missteps. On Jackson Heights’ bustling Broadway/Roosevelt Avenue, a commercial corridor with high pedestrian activity and high crash volumes, NYC DOT installed a metal barrier near the site of a fatal crash in an attempt to “deter unsafe crossings.” As MTR has pointed out before, using physical barriers to prevent pedestrians from crossing sends a message that pedestrians don’t belong on the street — the antithesis to complete streets design.

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Real-Time Bus Technology Advances While Many Bus Stops Still Lack Basic Amenities

With the launch of BusTime to Brooklyn and Queens earlier this month, the MTA completed its roll-out of BusTime, a smartphone and web app that allows bus riders to access real time bus information. This is good news for anyone who’s had the frustrating experience of waiting for a late bus. Minutes can feel like hours when you don’t know how long you’ll be waiting for the next bus — especially in inclement weather.

Advocates continue to call for other improvements like bus countdown clocks (as seen on some subway platforms), which would benefit all riders, not just those who use smartphones. And although technological advances like BusTime are welcome new amenities, many bus stops — particularly those located in the outer boroughs — still lack even the most basic infrastructure. Shelters, benches, signage with maps, route destinations and schedules, and curb-to-sidewalk accessibility are factors that can affect the comfort, safety and convenience of bus riders. When these features are missing, it impacts all riders, but particularly those who rely on buses the most: seniors, disabled riders and commuters who live in areas where the closest subway stop may be a bus ride away.

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Fairfield County Pedestrian Injuries and Fatalities Highlight the Need for Safety Improvements

Stamford and Bridgeport had the highest per capita crash rates in Fairfield County (6.45 and 6.44, respectively), based on a yearly crash rate per 10,000 residents. Source: TSTC

Stamford and Bridgeport had the highest per capita crash rates in Fairfield County (6.45 and 6.44, respectively), based on a yearly crash rate per 10,000 residents. Source: TSTC

Thanks to data recently made available by the Connecticut Departments of Public Safety and Transportation via the University of Connecticut Crash Data Repository, TSTC was able to map and analyze both pedestrian deaths and injuries in Connecticut for the first time.

The Fairfield County Pedestrian Crash Analysis found that during the three-year period from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012, there were 1,022 vehicle crashes involving pedestrians in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Of those crashes, 951 resulted in injuries, and 28 were confirmed fatal. These crashes resulted in a total of 1,077 pedestrian injuries and 34 deaths.

In addition to mapping the locations of these crashes, the analysis also identifies the five most dangerous roads in the county: US Route 1 topped the list with 169 pedestrian crashes, followed by CT Route 130 (43), CT Route 137 (30), Main Street in Bridgeport (30), and CT Route 127 (29). Building off TSTC’s Most Dangerous Roads analysis released earlier this month, the Fairfield analysis found that the County’s most dangerous roads share common characteristics of dangerous arterial roads that were identified throughout the region—wide, multi-lane roads that enable high speeds and have little to no pedestrian infrastructure.

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Data Transparency Will Ensure Vision Zero’s Success

Open and accessible traffic data can ensure success for the new administration’s Vision Zero initiative, and even prevent tragic deaths before they happen. | Photo: metro.us

As the de Blasio administration rolls out new policies, advocacy groups have renewed their call to make City data more accessible and useful. The availability of quality data increases civic engagement and enables communities to identify problems like speeding and dangerous intersections. But data can do more than simply call out the need for improvements; it can even help to prevent crashes before they happen.

This week, detailed plans for the Vision Zero Initiative were unveiled, and among the 63 tactics Mayor de Blasio plans to use to eliminate traffic deaths, there were commitments to open up traffic data to ensure success:

  • Publish crash and safety data on a regular basis in user-friendly format(s)
  • Update technology for capturing crash data
  • Develop data-driven citywide enforcement strategy

Open data and transportation advocates are coming out of a bittersweet period of data availability. Last year, a bill that would have advanced a citywide crash map failed to pass, and former Mayor Bloomberg vetoed a bill that requires the NYPD to provide more information on hit-and-run crashes (fortunately the new transportation committee swiftly passed an override of that veto last month). While advocates were hopeful that the 2012 Open Data Law would sort out the City’s messy data, the release came with a myriad of hurdles: not all agencies are meeting information deadlines, the data available is not updated frequently, and most critically, the quality and usefulness of available data is lacking.

Current transportation data is also not available in accessible formats. For example, both the NYPD and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles present their data in static PDF files. To fill this gap, advocates have taken it upon themselves to present this data in a more useful fashion. One result was NYC Crashmapper, an interactive map created using scraped crash data from NYPD PDF files. Another is CrashStat, which was developed by Transportation Alternatives using FOIL’ed City and State crash data. There’s also Crash Stories, a crowd-sourced map recording incidents of bike and pedestrian crashes or “near-misses.”

It’s clear that transportation advocates will go above and beyond to get quality data, but where does the new administration stand? So far, it looks like a new era of transparency may be upon us.

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Latest Design Tool Gives Users the “Key to the Street”

key-to-the-streetHow often do you gripe to yourself about dodging aggressive drivers, inadequate lighting along a dark street, or that sidewalk that leads to nowhere? What if there were a tool that could help you visualize your concerns in a way that could bring about actual changes? This may soon be a reality with Key to the Street, an app that links community engagement to street design.

Created by Austin’s Jess Lowry, Key to the Street is an app that empowers pedestrians to identify problems and suggest improvements for unsafe walking conditions. It allows smart phone users to take pictures of a street and obtain city data to find out about upcoming development projects in the area. Users can sketch their ideas on how to make the street more walkable, using pre-loaded icons for adding things like bus shelters, street trees and lighting. Renderings can be shared with not only with other Key to the Street users, but enterprising individuals can advocate for changes by sharing designs with planners, traffic engineers, developers and elected officials.

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“Queensway” Study Underway While Rail Study Prospects Advance

No-way NIMBYs are of concern for pro-park Queensway advocates. Photo credit: Kathi Ko

NIMBYs are of concern for pro-park and pro-rail advocates. | Photo: Kathi Ko

Rail advocates make a splash at the Queensway public input meeting in Ozone Park. Photo Credit: Gregory Homatas.

Rail advocates make a splash at the Queensway public input meeting in Ozone Park. | Photo: Gregory Homatas

Shortly after this piece was published, we learned that New York Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, along with faculty, students, and staff from the Queens College Urban Studies Department, will launch a community impact study to help assess the best use for the Rockaway Beach Line’s abandoned tracks.

Since MTR last visited the proposal to transform the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Beach Line (RBL) into a 3.5 mile elevated park (known as the Queensway), a feasibility study for the project has been launched with the support of state funding and private donations. The official project team includes the Trust for Public LandFriends of the Queensway, and design consultants WXY Architecture and DLand Studio, and community outreach specialists the Hester Street Collaborative.

Over the course of the past two weeks, three public meetings have been held in the neighborhoods where the right-of-way runs (Woodhaven, Forest Hills and Ozone Park). These meetings provided no shortage of evidence that the project continues to live up to its title as the city’s “most controversial potential park,” with tensions rising between Queensway park advocates and “no-way Queensway” opponents who would prefer to leave the right-of-way as-is.

Meanwhile, a third group has been organizing rallies, forums and petition drives to garner support behind not converting the railway, but reactivating it. These railway reactivation advocates have been working to educate the public about how reintroducing rail service to the Rockaway Beach Line would benefit transit-starved communities in southern Queens and the Rockaways.

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How Can Sustainable Transportation Practices Mitigate Climate Change?

The Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it undeniably clear that climate change is real, and it’s our fault. Scientists are now 95 percent certain that human influence has been the dominant cause of global warming since the mid-20th century, up from 90 percent certainty in [...]

One of Suffolk County’s Most Dangerous Roads Claims Two More Lives

The intersection of Fifth Avenue and Marvin Street, where a pedestrian was hit and killed last week. Photo: Googlemaps

The intersection of Fifth Avenue and Marvin Street, where a pedestrian was hit and killed last week. | Image: Google Maps

In one week, two more lives were claimed along Fifth Avenue in North Bay Shore, which ranks as one of the most dangerous roads for walking in Suffolk County according to Tri-State’s annual report.

A 59-year old pedestrian was hit and killed last Monday morning while trying to cross Fifth Avenue at the intersection of Marvin Road, and just a few days later, a 63-year old bicyclist was killed riding along Fifth Avenue at the intersection of Jensen Road—each crash was within just two blocks of each other.  And according to Tri-State’s analysis, a pedestrian was hit and killed in 2011 at an intersection between these two crashes.

In response to these most recent tragedies, Suffolk County Legislator Thomas Barraga, who along with Legislator Ricardo Montano represents the area, sent a letter to Suffolk County’s Department of Public Works (DPW) requesting a study to determine what can be done to make the corridor safer for pedestrians, cyclists and all users of the roadway. In the letter, Legislator Barraga notes that the intersections where these fatalities occurred “have no traffic signals and lack sufficient sidewalks for pedestrians to walk safely along this busy road.” There is no word on whether Legislator Montano has taken similar action.

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Western Queens Transportation Study to Address Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety, Connections to Transit

New waterfront development in Long Island City, Astoria and Roosevelt Island. Image: Department of City Planning.

New waterfront development in Long Island City, Astoria and Roosevelt Island. Image: Department of City Planning.

The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP)’s Transportation Division and Queens Office recently held its kickoff meeting for the Western Queens Transportation Study, which sets out to link new and existing development by focusing on bike, pedestrian and transit improvements. Various city agencies, the MTA, local civic associations, members from Community Boards 1 and 2 and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign were invited to participate in the Technical Advisory Committee to help guide the federally-funded study.

This effort couldn’t have come sooner. The stage has been set for the neighborhoods in the study area—which include Roosevelt Island, Long Island City and Astoria—to host a massive influx of new waterfront development along the East River. Developments such as Halletts Point, Astoria Cove, Silvercup West, Queens West, and Hunters Point South are set to bring in up to 15,000 new residential units (along with retail and studio space), in addition to Cornell’s 11-acre Roosevelt Island campus, poised to be the island’s biggest development yet.

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Tri-State Releases Fact Sheets to Support Westchester County Complete Streets Push

From 2009 through May 2012 alone, Westchester County was home to 2,442 vehicle crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists, according to crash data obtained from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). And while New York State passed a state-wide Complete Streets law that requires design on roadways to consider the safe accommodation of [...]