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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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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For the second year in a row, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli weighed in on a 2014-2015 state budget maneuver proposed by Governor Cuomo that puts MTA dedicated funds at risk.
In the Comptroller’s review of the Executive Budget, DiNapoli highlighted Governor Cuomo’s proposal to divert “$40 million from the Metropolitan Mass Transit Operating Assistance (MMTOA) account to the General Debt Service Fund to pay debt service typically paid from the State’s General Fund.” DiNapoli was explicit in calling the move “additional General Fund relief.” The Comptroller also noted that the $40 million are “resources that could otherwise gone to the MTA,” presumably to bolster service on existing transit routes in the region or even go towards helping Mayor Bill de Blasio achieve his goal of 20 additional bus rapid transit routes in the five boroughs. The proposal first drew ire last year.
One area the Comptroller did not address in his budget review was the Governor’s proposal to repeat this diversion beyond this fiscal year. According to the Governor’s Financial Plan, each year beginning in FY2016, the budget will divert $20 million of dedicated transit funding to provide for General Fund Relief. Advocacy groups have signaled the alarm and petitions are circulating.
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