Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. | Photo: bronxboropres.nyc.gov

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. | Photo: bronxboropres.nyc.gov

WINNERS

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. — During his State of the Borough speech, Diaz called on the state to stop dragging its feet and redevelop the Sheridan Expressway.

Hicksville commuters — Governor Cuomo has announced a $120 million improvement project for the Hicksville LIRR stationthe busiest station on Long Island.

Fair Haven, NJ Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli — The bike-friendly mayor is taking his campaign for streets safety to Washington to participate in the USDOT’s Mayors’ Challenge.

Ossining Village Board of Trustees  Ossining has adopted a Complete Streets policy which will take effect immediately.

New Rochelle, NY — The City Council has approved two development projects near the town’s Metro-North station, which will include affordable housing.

Metro-North riders — By mid-April, all Metro-North conductors will carry credit card machines.

Statewide transit riders — On Thursday, state and local electeds came together at separate events in Buffalo and in Yonkers for a unified call to action: the State must prioritize funding for statewide transit systems.

New York City road users — WNYC analysis of NYC’s speed camera program has found that the program is improving safety, as both tickets and crashes have decreased in areas with cameras.

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Can the Capital District’s Central Avenue Return to its Multimodal Glory Days?

The Central Avenue corridor connecting Albany and Schenectady has been in the news lately after four-year-old Ashiqur Rahman was killed by a turning garbage truck at the intersection with Quail Street in Albany. Pedestrian deaths and injuries are nothing new to Central Avenue, long known as one of the Capital District’s most dangerous roads for pedestrians. And although efforts are underway to make this urban arterial more friendly to users of all types, it seems that opportunities to transform it into a truly multimodal corridor are being ignored.

Central Avenue, originally known as the Albany Schenectady Turnpike, once had a streetcar line, making it a truly multimodal corridor. But when the streetcars were removed in 1946, the renamed Central Avenue was expanded to its current auto-centric format, with two travel lanes in each direction and a center turn lane for much of its length.

AlbanyMuskrat

The same scene today.

The same scene today.

Today, in Albany and Schenectady, Central Avenue runs through dense urban neighborhoods with significant pedestrian traffic, while in Colonie and Niskayuna, it runs through areas that were originally built out as streetcar suburbs. And in other locations, Central Avenue carries traffic generated by regional shopping destinations. And yet, the mobility solutions applied the New York State Department of Transportation and local jurisdictions have been essentially uniform and largely unchanged since the roadway’s auto-centric postwar conversion. Predictably, that single-minded focus on vehicular throughput has led to poor outcomes for other users.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

New York City Councilmember Mark Weprin | Photo: DecideNYC.com

New York City Councilmember Mark Weprin | Photo: DecideNYC.com

WINNERS

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy — Governor Malloy unveiled today a truly multi-modal long-term transportation plan which includes, among other things, an eastern extension of CTfastrak, upgrades to the Metro-North Waterbury Branch and a program to improve pedestrian and bicycle improvements in urban areas.

New York City Department of Transportation — The City DOT has begun the release of its borough-specific Vision Zero action plans, so far releasing plans for QueensManhattan and the Bronx. The plans detail specific “priority” corridors and intersections identified through research and public workshops over the last year.

New York City Councilmember Mark Weprin — After having opposed previous congestion pricing proposals, Weprin is now one of MoveNY’s biggest proponents and one of few elected officials publicly endorsing the plan.

Senators Chuck Schumer (NY) and Richard Blumenthal (CT) — The senators’ new legislation, the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015, would dramatically increase funding for the Federal Highway Administration’s rail safety programs.

Gene Aronowitz — The Brooklyn resident is working to educate fellow senior citizens about traffic safety.

The Village of Munsey Park, NY — Village officials stand by the effectiveness of traffic enforcement cameras, and are considering the possibility of installing them as part of a four-point traffic safety plan to curb the village’s speeding epidemic.

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Camden Passes New Jersey’s First Sustainability Ordinance

CAPTION: Developers in Camden will be required to submit documentation of the environmental impacts and benefits of proposed projects. | Source: Rutgers University

Now that a sustainability ordinance has been passed, developers in Camden will be required to submit documentation of the environmental impacts and benefits of proposed projects. | Source: Rutgers University

Camden, New Jersey has solidified its commitment to continued environmental and economic progress by adopting the Garden State’s first-ever sustainability ordinance. Passed by the Camden City Council on Tuesday, the ordinance had support from the many community groups that make up the Camden Green Team (of which Tri-State is an active member) along with support from prominent City leaders, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.

The Ordinance Adopting Sustainability Requirements for the City of Camden requires developers to submit an Environmental Impact and Benefit Assessment (EIBA) to be reviewed by the Camden City Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment before project approval. These agencies will then make a determination on the extent to which applicants can provide environmental and public health benefits as part of the proposed project.

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Walking Towards the Green in Camden, New Jersey

The assessment will seek to plan for infrastructure that expands upon existing projects with the power to improve community health in Camden, including the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) and Camden SMART Initiative’s ongoing transformation of former industrial property into parkland on the Delaware River waterfront. | Photo: Doug Burns, CCMUA

The assessment will seek to plan for infrastructure that expands upon existing projects with the power to improve community health in Camden, including the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) and Camden SMART Initiative’s ongoing transformation of former industrial property into parkland on the Delaware River waterfront. | Photo: Doug Burns, CCMUA

Can community gardens in Camden, New Jersey help to support local health needs and, if so, are the surrounding streets and intersections safe conduits for residents to access these spaces for healthy eating and recreation?

TSTC was recently awarded a grant that will seek to answer this question.

The grant will support a day-long health impact and livability assessment in Camden called “Walking Towards the Green.” The assessment will take place in the spring, and will include a walking audit to inventory and note community assets and needs such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, trails, green space, community gardens and access to community gardens. This work is funded through the Shaping New Jersey program, which “focuses on environmental and policy change to reduce obesity and chronic disease.”

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Two New York Communities Recognized as National Leaders on Complete Streets

Two New York communities brought home the highest rankings in the nation for their efforts to make streets safer and more accessible. Just three years after passage of a statewide law on Complete Streets, Ogdensburg and Troy are being recognized by the National Complete Streets Coalition as the nation’s best.

The National Complete Streets Coalition today released The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2014, which reviews every policy passed in the United States in 2014 and scores each according to the ten elements of an ideal Complete Streets policy.

Troy, New York, known for its architecture, is now starting to build a reputation for its streets. | Source

Troy, a city known for its architecture, is now starting to build a reputation for its streets. | Source

Ogdensburg, located on the northern border of the state and home to 11,000 people, had the highest-scoring policy with 92.8 points out of 100. Troy, located just across the Hudson from Albany and home to 50,000 people, had the second-highest score with 91.2 points.

Josh Wilson, executive director of New York Bicycling Coalition (and former Ogdensburg resident) is proud of his former home. “What makes this policy particularly effective is that it allows for the establishment of a resident task force which will review all new public and private construction projects with an aim at incorporating improvements to pedestrian and bicycle access. Giving concerned citizens a voice in the project planning process is absolutely crucial.”

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Another Look at Stamford’s Washington Boulevard

An elderly woman who was using a motorized wheelchair sustained serious injuries after she was struck by a driver late last week while crossing Washington Boulevard at Main Street in downtown Stamford.

Washington Boulevard is like many of Stamford’s downtown streets: a wide, multi-lane arterial that is out of place in a downtown area. There’s a well-marked crosswalk and a narrow landscaped median on this segment — a good start, but more should be done in a central business district such as this. Ideally that median would extend into the crosswalk and serve as a pedestrian safety island. Without one, you’ll need to get all the way across seven lanes in one phase of the pedestrian signal (which you might consider much of a challenge, but imagine doing it in a wheelchair).

We took some rough measurements of Washington Boulevard using Google Maps. It appears to be 80 feet wide curb-to-curb, with lane widths of about 11 feet. We uploaded these characteristics into Streetmix and came up with an alternative design that considers more than simply level of service for cars and trucks.

Here’s what Washington Boulevard looks like today:

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 12.04.36 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 1.03.29 PM

And here’s what it could look like:

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Technology Can Help, but Transit and Walkability Are Keys to Reducing Automobile Dependence

A new report from USPIRG, The Innovative Transportation Index: Cities Where New Technologies and Tools Can Reduce Your Need to Own a Car, examines “technology-enabled transportation services” which, its authors suggest, “make it easier to conveniently get around without owning a car.” The report’s Executive Summary begins

“Rapid technological advances have enabled the creation of new transportation tools that make it possible for more Americans to live full and engaged lives without owning a car.”

There’s no doubt that car ownership isn’t required for living a “full and engaged” life. In fact, in some cities car ownership can be more of a hassle than a convenience. But are these tools, like Uber, Zipcar, bike share, and apps like NextBus really what makes a car-free lifestyle possible, or are there other factors at work?

To get a better understanding, we looked up the numbers on zero-car households for the top 20 (of 70) cities included in the Innovative Transportation Index (percentage of households that don’t own cars in parentheses):

pirg-tech-report

  1. Austin  (6.5)
  2. San Francisco  (31.4)
  3. Washington  (37.9)
  4. Boston  (36.9)
  5. Los Angeles  (13.6)
  6. New York  (56.5)
  7. Portland  (15.3)
  8. Denver  (11.7)
  9. Minneapolis  (19.7)
  10. San Diego  (7.4)
  11. Seattle  (16.6)
  12. Dallas  (10.1)
  13. Columbus  (10)
  14. Chicago  (27.9)
  15. Houston  (10.1)
  16. Miami  (26.7)
  17. Milwaukee  (19.9)
  18. Tampa (6.6*)
  19. Nashville  (8.5)
  20. Orlando  (4.9**)

The result is a mixed bag. While cities like New York, Washington and Boston, where more than a third of households are car-free, appear in the Innovative Transportation Index’s top 20, so do cities like Austin, Nashville and San Diego, where fewer than 10 percent of households do not own cars. It’s not clear that new transportation technology is having much of an impact in reducing car ownership.

Given that many of these new technologies are only a few years old, we thought we’d also look to see what direction these cities are headed in. Austin, Columbus and Dallas, for example, may not be leading the pack of cities with the most zero-car households , but could they be headed in that direction?

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland? Only if Sidewalk Snow Clearance Ordinances are Obeyed — and Enforced

Pedestrians and transit riders in Bridgeport -- which has a sidewalk snow clearance ordinance -- were forced to walk and wait for buses in the street. | Photo: Ned Gerard/CT Post

Pedestrians and transit riders in Bridgeport — where property owners are responsible for clearing sidewalks of snow and ice — are forced to walk and wait for buses in the street. | Photo: Ned Gerard/CT Post

What happens when walkable communities — those places with complete streets, comprehensive sidewalk networks, and safe crossings — become covered in snow?

While it’s expected that municipalities will clear snow from roadways, it’s quite rare for them to clear snow from sidewalks. In Connecticut, there’s no state law which requires property owners to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks abutting their lots. There is, however, a state law which grants municipalities the ability to require property owners to keep sidewalks (and curb ramps) safe for pedestrians. Several Connecticut cities and towns — New Haven, EnfieldStamford, Fairfield, West Hartford and Milford, to name a few — have enacted such ordinances.

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Stamford Becomes the Third Connecticut City to Formally Embrace Complete Streets

Stamford's new Complete Streets ordinance should guide the City toward building more crossing islands like the one on the left, and fewer like the one on the right. | Photos: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Stamford’s new Complete Streets ordinance should guide the City toward installing crossing islands more like the one at Washington Boulevard and North State Street (left), and less like the one on at Washington Boulevard and Tresser Boulevard (right). | Photos: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Earlier this month, Stamford, Connecticut’s Board of Representatives unanimously approved a city-wide Complete Streets ordinance. The ordinance, which was sponsored by Land Use Committee co-chair David Kooris and drafted with support from Tri-State Transportation Campaign, “mandates that the Office of Operations review transportation projects and explore opportunities to make them more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.”

Kooris introduced the bill in September, but support for a Complete Streets law had been growing in Stamford after three pedestrian deaths took place in a four-month period in 2014. The new ordinance rounds out Mayor David Martin’s Street Smart initiative, which took initial steps toward addressing safety issues on Stamford’s streets.

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