Alex Goldmark appears in the following:
Saturday, April 06, 2013
When we think of the future of transportation now, it's cars that talk to each other, bullet trains and BRT. But 80 years ago, it was blimps. The centerpiece of New York City, the Empire State Building, even explored the idea of docking dirigibles atop it's soaring spire.
But then came the crashes. WABE in Atlanta took the 80th anniversary of the worst airship disaster in history to recall the fiery tragedy that helped end the dreams of blimps as mass transport. And as Jim Buress points out:
"The Hindenburg is easily the most recognized airship disaster. But it’s far from the worst. The USS Akron, seen here, crashed on April 4, 2013 off the coast of New Jersey. It's considered the world's worst airship disaster. That unfortunate distinction goes to the USS Akron, a navy airship... Seventy-three of the 76 crew members died."
WABE’s Jim Burress interviewed airship historian Dan Grossman of Airships.net.
Give a listen. The conversation starts with Grossman explaining what caused the crash off the coast of New Jersey.
Thursday, April 04, 2013
If you're looking for a secure career in the digital age, it may be time to get your plumber's license or learn to code.
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
NYU Langone Medical Center surveyed more than 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists who were admitted to Bellevue Hospital between 2008 and 2011 and gleaned some insight into pedestrian crashes.
So rather than using police reports, the team at NYU surveyed the people who were injured and passed through this hospital to find out more circumstantial details of the crashes. (But it also means people who were hit but didn't go to the hospital, or people who were killed, aren't in the study.)
Here are some other findings:
- Young, walking adults are the group most frequently injured by motor vehicles in this study
- Latino bicycle delivery men are especially vulnerable even though they are more likely to wear a helmet
- 44% of pedestrians were hit while crossing the street in the crosswalk
- 6% of people who were hit by cars were on the sidewalk
- 15% of pedestrians had consumed alcohol earlier
- 40% of cyclists and 25% percent of pedestrians hit were struck by taxis
- 43% of the cyclists injured were working, mostly delivery men.
- 21% of cyclist hit were in a bike lane at the time
- 15% of cyclists injured were doored
- Less than a third of cyclists in the study were wearing helmets
- Being obese reduced the likelihood of injury
So what are pedestrians to do? The study recommends separating traffic from bodies -- as in more bike lanes and more pedestrian plazas.
The study is behind a paywall, but you can read the abstract here.
Friday, March 29, 2013
These photos are beautiful. They're also sad, and hopeful, and quaint.
In the 1970s the EPA commissioned photographers to roam the country and document daily life in places like coal mines, riverbanks, cities, and even an early clean tech conference in a motel parking lot. The images were meant to be a baseline to measure change in the years to come, but there was no funding to go back to the original places.
The Documerica project photos are up on Flickr now (hat tip to FastCoExist for posting some of these gems). It's an overwhelming album of nostalgia for everyday life, but also, devastatingly depressing to see how dirty and toxic so many inhabited places could be in the 1970s ... and how little has changed in some places today.
What makes the project so powerful though, is how beautiful the photography is, even of the mundane moments, or tragic scenarios like kids playing in a river next to a power plant.
Strum through the albums yourself and share your favorites with us on our Facebook page and we'll add more pics to this post later on.
In the albums, there are also early editions of clean technology, like Frank Lodge's photos from the first First Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems held at what seems to be a motel parking lot.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Top Stories on TN
Fung Wah Investigation Leads to 2nd, More Shocking Shut Down Order, Terrifying Quotes (link)
Poll: Fewer Than Half of Californians Support High-Speed Rail (link)
Dozens in Congress Press for Nat’l Bike and Pedestrian Safety Goals, Measurement (link)
With Plans Drawn, Maryland’s Purple Line Scares Some Business Owners (link)
Linking new gas drilling and energy revenues to transportation funding could solve funding problems, or scuttle chances for a bipartisan transpo deal. (Politico)
A company wants to build a giant vertical moisture fueled wind turbine of sorts that would be America's talled structure and generate wind energy. (Marketplace)
Photos from the NY MTA of the newly restored, old South Ferry subway station called back into service after Sandy damaged the new station. (MTA)
A recent legal paper makes the case that existing laws don't prohibit automated vehicles. (Atlantic Cities)
But maybe not if you wear Google Glass. W. Va could ban drivers in West Virginia from using the new face computers. (Wired)
There's a kerfuffle over foreign drivers in Florida (Sentinel)
To see if State DOTs are living out pedestrian-friendly values, Tri-State Transportation Campaign looked at the headquarters facilities from space of three state DOTs and evaluated them for walking. (link)
It one solution to pollution buildings that eat smog like this pretty one in Mexico City? (link)
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Thursday, March 28, 2013
The U.S. Department of Transportation has again formally ordered Fung Wah Bus company, one of the most well known "Chinatown bus companies" credited with helping to pioneer the now popular business model of picking up passengers outside of bus terminals and charging very low fares.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered Fung Wah bus to halt operations between Boston and New York in late February after Massachusetts inspectors found cracks in the frames of many of the company's buses. Within days that order was escalated to a total shut down of the company.
Longtime riders bemoaned the loss of the discount bus they'd come to love and fear all at once. One even composed a music video tribute for the New Yorker.
Today's action from the U.S. DOT rescinds the previous shut down order and replaces it with another one that is more permanent. The original order was because the company would not cooperate with the investigations into poorly maintained fleet.
This shut down order cites "the absence of an effective systematic maintenance program," "fraudulent or intentionally false entries on inspection" and maintenance records, failing to monitor drivers to make sure they aren't on the road too long, not testing drivers for drugs or alcohol.
"Individually and cumulatively, these violations and conditions of operation substantially increase the likelihood of serious injury or death to Fung Wah Bus tarnsportation Inc. drivers, passengers and the motoring public," the order states.
The FMSCA investigation found that Fung Wah didn't just have a bad maintenance program, it had no maintenance program at all. "Indeed, to the extent that Fung Wah maintains vehicle inspection records and reports, these records and reports cannot be relied upon with any certainty because they purport to show that vehicles were inspected on dates for which the mechanic whose signature appears on those reports was not actually working."
If Fung Wah addresses all of that, the FMSCA could rescind the shut down order. But considering the "blatant disregard" for safety rules, it seems like a stretch to assume that will happen soon.
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Thursday, March 28, 2013
Top Stories on TN
Google Maps Adds Real-Time Transit Data in NYC, Salt Lake City (link)
Calif. Devil’s Slide Tunnels Open After a Long Fight (link)
Switching Gears and Bringing Cycling Culture Back to China and Taiwan (link)
Senator Pressuring the FAA to Hurry Up and End In-Flight Ban on Cell Phones (link)
NPR examines the global and growing phenomenon of women's-only subway cars. New Delhi joins the trend but it's still no picnic being a female traveler in India. (link)
New research paper finds mass transit significantly reduces car traffic even if only a tiny fraction of commuters ride it. (link - paywall) But luckily, Paul Krugman summarizes the logic of the paper for us, "commuters who take mass transit are, very disproportionately, people who would otherwise be driving on the most congested routes." (NYT)
The broken bolts on new Bay Bridge shouldn't delay the opening. (Sac Bee)
"The revival of the Railroad Age" is here, reports the WSJ, with "a building boom unlike anything since the industry's Gilded Age." The face of it is "hot trains," special trains for high volume customers like the USPS, Amazon and FedEx (paywall link)
We mentioned Maryland's ambitious gas and sales tax transpo funding plan. Here's way more explanation from T4America (link)
A look at traffic ticket data: "As long as you can manage not to crash your vehicle into something or someone, you can more or less go ahead and ignore the speed limit in Bushwick, the Upper West Side or East Harlem" in NYC. (Capital NY)
A federal database is coming for truck drivers who fail drug tests. (The Hill)
A bankruptcy judge gave the go ahead for American and US Airways to merge. (AP)
How to make an airport energy efficient? Build it modeled on palm fronds maybe. (GizMag)
"Sound suits," cloth horses, and eerie music all combine for a giant dance in Grand Central Terminal as part of its centennial celebration. (WNYC - audio)
The feasibility study is complete on the proposed downtown St. Louis streetcar laying out economic, sustainability and quality of life impacts. This allows the plan to move to next phase of consideration. (CMT St. Louis via Direct Transfer)
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Train station porn: pics of America's "grandest" train stations. (Governing)
And why not, check out a bike made out of wood. (FastCoExist)
Puzzle time. Can you tell urban from rural based on the street grid alone? Per Square Mile posted these (and a few other) test images.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
UPDATED 4:50 p.m.: Google Maps now publishes real-time data for the NYC subway. Not for all subway lines, but it's another step in the march of technological progress that transit advocates hope will make more people ride the subway, and enjoy the journey more too. Salt Lake City was added to Google Maps today as well.
The NY MTA had previously released the data on its website, smartphone apps and through publicly available data for other people to use for making apps. Now the two main transit routing websites have both integrated the real time information, so a passenger, or prospective passenger, can see exactly which train is coming when -- not just when it is scheduled to arrive -- and if they happen to have a choice between the two lines with real-time data, they can even compare departure times and choose the line accordingly. Or more conveniently have Google Maps routing functions do the choosing.
That increases trip and trip planning efficiency and just as important, knowing the departure times reliably can also increase perceptions of efficiency, which makes people more likely to choose transit over other modes according to a 2011 study from the University of Chicago, which makes this point with charming academic-ease:
"The provision of real-time transit information might serve as an intervention to break current transit nonusers’ travel habits and in consequence increase the mode share of transit use. Moreover, the results of this study suggest that real-time transit information may be more successful in increasing transit ridership if combined with facilitating programs that enhance commuters’ opportunities to be exposed to such systems before using them."
Like Google Maps. Or HopStop, or other transit routing that can integrate this data.
Google first added real time data in six cities in 2011. Google spokesperson Sierra Lovelace said, as of today, Google transit routing is now in 800 cities. Real-time data is only available in the handful of those where the local transit agencies make the data available, including Boston, Honolulu, San Francisco, London, Madrid, Torino, Italy, and as of today, New York City and Salt Lake City. "While it's not all 800, it is many, and we're always looking to expanded that offering," she said.
Lovelace says there are one billion monthly unique users of Google Maps (including Google Earth and all map services), half of them on smart phones. While Google didn't have a breakdown of the data by city or by feature, there is certain to be a sizable audience that now has access to NYC's real-time data through a platform they already check regularly.
Note the "real departure times" below the times in the screengrab above, as TN reader Steve Vance and Chicago transportation writer, points out, that line is what indicates the difference between real-time and scheduled arrival and departure times.
The NYC subway only releases real-time data on seven of roughly 25 lines (depending on if you count the shuttles and the temporary H train). For now it's only on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 42nd Street Shuttle lines. The other lines have a different switching system which does not produce real-time data in a way that can be exported. There is no timetable for upgrading the rest of the system.
H/T Second Ave Sagas
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Top Stories on TN
Here's How a D.C. Suburb Avoided the Capital’s Traffic Nightmare (Link)
After Objections, Va. Gov Amends Two-Tiered Transpo Funding Plan (Link) More details here: (TimesDispatch)
Fun Video: Frank Sinatra Sung In Service of Pothole Patching (Link)
NY Auto Show Opens, Debuts Dozens of New Models (Link)
The Solar Impulse, a solar-powered airplane with the wing-span of a jumbo jet, is preparing for a cross country flight. It can even fly at night. (NPR)
Marketplace tries to find out which aircraft maker will win in the US Airways-American merger. American has traditionally bought Boeing planes. US Airways prefers Airbus. (Link)
Boeing 787 faces new risk: limits on extended range (Yahoo)
Using handy charts, Greater Greater Washington shows that driving in Maryland is still a bargain by historic standards, even after the fuel tax hike. (GGW)
Another study reinforcing the current real estate zeitgeist: walkable downtowns are driving booms in several cities. (Forbes) Our past reporting on transit and real estate prices (Link) And new DC data (NRDC)
The Houston area has $446 million to spend on transportation projects. Here's what's on the table. (Houston Tomorrow)
Meanwhile, Houston Metro is trying hard to make its bus system easier to use. (Chronicle)
LA Metro wants to accelerate spending and construction on its 30 year plan to build new transit options. (Metro)
Omaha's mayor's race tackles bike lanes and sprawl. (World-Herald)
Meet the DC Area's million dollar bus stop (WaPo)
Worcester Polytechnic Institute has a plan to trap heat from asphalt roads and pipe it elsewhere, potentially transforming urban streets into giant solar collectors. (Green Futures)
And with an unhealthy craving, we can announce the world record has been broken for the largest train ever built entirely from chocolate. (Link)
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013
That friendly tuxedo clad road inspector is singing a message of municipal upkeep. Imagine some of these choice lyrics set to Frank Sinatra's My Way:
"As now potholes appear / and if you fall, then you'll be hurting / don't worry friends, help is here / we'll take your calls, you can be certain."
"At work our days are full / inspecting all our paths and byways / and more, much more than this, at work in hiiiiighways."
"We lay each tarmac course, / not when it's wet, but on a dry day / and more, much more than this, at work in hiiighways."
Watch the full video for four minutes of robust crooning in the service of pothole patching courtesy of the Worcestershire County Council, U.K.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Top stories on TN:
NYC Transit Tried Everything to Remove Subway Rats, Even Birth Control (link)
Real Estate Study: Homes Near Transit Hold Value Better (link)
FAA to Close 149 Air Traffic Control Towers (link)
Bike Sharing is Coming to San Francisco and Silicon Valley (link)
The Transportation Department is ramping up for another fight to pass a major authorization bill -- and Polly Trottenberg is in charge. (Politico)
For a full list of the transpo amendments that didn't make it into the budget deal from Congress, see Politico's roundup (some links are behing paywalls). (Link)
Mass. is commencing a $13 billion overhaul of the state's rail system, including a route from Boston to Cape Cod for first time since 1995. (NYTimes)
The NY Auto Show opens, plenty of coverage on what to watch for at The Detroit Bureau. (Link)
Maryland House passes gas tax hike to pay for roads and mass transit, awaits Senate approval. (WaPo)
Boeing completes a test flight with its new (hopefully flame-free) battery system. (Guardian)
Air travel mini-roundup: FAA moves toward easing electronics restrictions. (The Hill) Meanwhile the TSA is being pressured to outlaw knives again. (Also The Hill) And the TSA issues rules on body scanner usage (TSA via Politico)
Toyota joins London partnership for hydrogen-fueled cars. (AutoBlogGreen)
Turkey is building high-speed rail. (Balkans.com)
Houston's Railroad Museum has to find a new home. (KUHF)
E-hail app Uber is facing a class-action suit in Boston over allegations of tip-skimming. (Mother Jones)
Long Beach Calif Transit is delaying a purchase of electric buses built in China because a U.S. EV bus maker raised objections, potentially forcing the agency to decide who makes better clean buses. (Long Beach Press-Telegram via TransitWire)
Another entry for the "what could possibly go wrong" files: more on Ireland's County Kerry passing a resolution permitting drunk driving, which aims to address "the decline of pub culture and the isolation of rural life." (New York Times)
The Atlantic Cities asks if a 4'3" high pedestrian walkway in Nanning China is the "world's most uncomfortable," with a summary of the Mandarin language video explaining it. (Link)
The ten worst passenger planes still in service. All aboard the Yak-42! (Jalopnik)
And Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos paid to reclaim NASA Apollo rocket parts from the bottom of the ocean. Pics --> (link)
Friday, March 22, 2013
From our friends at WNYC's Money Talking.
For years, politicians have called for the nation to end its dependence on foreign oil. That time could be fast approaching.
This week, the Energy Information Administration forecast that the U.S. is expected to produce more oil than it imports for the first time since 1995. Most of the increase will come from shale fields in North Dakota and Texas.
This week on Money Talking, regular contributors Rana Foroohar ofTime magazine and Joe Nocera of the New York Times join WNYC's Business Editor Charlie Herman to assess just how the nation is becoming more energy independent and what it means for the economy. Also, with the U.S. consuming less foreign oil and other countries like China picking up the slack, how will that change global alliances.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The Department of Transportation said there were 100 schools where 75 percent or more of vehicles were speeding, according to 2012 data. At three schools, all the cars were driving over the speed limit.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Traffic fatalities rose 12 percent in 2012 in New York City, driven by a 46 percent jump in the number of motor vehicle occupants who were killed in crashes. Speeding, the city says, was the top contributing factor. Pedestrians and cyclist fatalities remained at or near historic lows.
The number of cyclists who were killed dropped 18 percent compared to 2011 (from 22 to 18) while the number of pedestrians struck and killed rose by 5 percent in 2012 (from 141 to 148) according to figures released by the NYC Department of Transportation.
In total 274 people died in traffic collisions, 108 of them in vehicles (including on motorcycles) and 166 of them while walking or riding a bike. The DOT had previously cited 237 as the number of fatalities for 2011 but amended that to 245 in today's release.
The DOT calculates "speeding was the greatest single factor in traffic deaths, contributing to 81 fatal traffic crashes—about 30 percent of all traffic fatalities." Fatal hit-and-runs are also on the rise, the DOT said. Other contributing factors were "disregard of red lights or stop signs, driver inattention and/or alcohol."
“One thousand New Yorkers are alive today who would not be if we simply sustained the city’s fatality rate just one decade ago,” said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. She stressed efforts the city is making to reduce speeding near schools (see graphic below) and long term positive safety trends.
New York remains safe by national standards. Traffic fatalities remain near all time lows following an aggressive program installing about 200 safety improvements in the past five years including street and intersection redesigns, protected bike lanes, slow zones and special attention to schools. NYC traffic fatality rates are less than one third of the national average on a per capita basis, and about half the rates of many other big cities.
To address the dangers of speeding, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and several members of the City Council want to install speed cameras. Last week the City Council called on state legislators -- whose approval is needed -- to permit the city to install cameras.
The NYPD supported the idea in a statement along with the official release of the 2012 fatality numbers. “Just as red light cameras reduced infractions at intersections where they were installed, we anticipate that speed cameras will result in greater compliance with posted speed limits,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.
The Police union, however, has come out against the speed cameras, telling the NY Daily News, "What we need are the actual police officers on the street ... Cops on the street are what slows people down.”
Last month, Kelly announced a considerable expansion of NYPD staffing its Collision Investigation Squad (formerly the Accident Investigation Squad) as part of a wider effort to focus more on preventing and investigating traffic collisions, which kill almost as many New Yorkers as gun homicides.
The NYPD issued one million moving violations last year, 71,000 of them for speeding, a figure advocates say is not enough. (By comparison, about 51,000 tickets went to cyclists in 2011. To see the latest breakdown of what summonses were issued by the NYPD, see this chart from January ). Police point out issuing speeding summonses requires special equipment, while other tickets can be written by every officer on the street. That could be why the NYPD supports speed cameras.
If today's announcement is any indication, the initial focus of speed cameras, if approved, could be around schools.
Speeding is alarmingly common near schools. The DOT measured the percentage of vehicles that were speeding when passing NYC schools. Outside three schools, 100 percent of the cars were speeding: P.S. 60 Alice Austen in Staten Island, P.S. 233 Langston Hughes in Brooklyn and P.S. 54 Hillside in Queens.
At the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety, 75 percent of cars were going above the legal limit. In all, the DOT released a list of 100 schools where 75 percent or more of vehicles were speeding. Cameras, the city says, can help.
"The streets around our city’s schools are the real speed traps, and we can’t play it safe when it comes to doing everything we can to protect New Yorkers on our streets—and especially seniors and school kids,” said Sadik-Khan.
The DOT also pointed out, no pedestrians were killed in crashes with cyclists.
Monday, March 18, 2013
(Paul Eisenstein -- The Detroit Bureau) Following up on a pledge made during his State of the Union address to “shift our cars and trucks off oil for good,” President Barack Obama is seeking Congressional approval for a $2 billion energy trust fund to support the development of advanced vehicle technologies.
The White House hopes to sidestep the ongoing federal budget debate by promising the requested funding “would be set aside from royalty revenues generated by oil and gas development in federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf.” That could be a salve to those who have demanded the White House continue to expand oil and gas drilling. There are already some signs of support from Republicans.
An earlier Obama Administration program focusing on battery propulsion was effectively shut down by Republican opponents after some high-profile problems.
[RELATED:Audi Transforming Wind Power into e-Gas]
In the State of the Union address the president said, "I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an energy security trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good."
On Friday the president said, "The only way to really break this cycle of spiking gas prices — is to shift our cars entirely, our cars and trucks off oil."
During the first Obama Administration, much of the emphasis was put on batteries and electric propulsion. Even funds already allocated to hydrogen fuel cell research was shifted away. In recent months, the Department of Energy has been expanding its focus and while batteries and battery cars would still be a central part of the trust, the program would also push for development of biofuels and compressed natural gas. CNG has been gaining momentum in recent months due to the wide availability of the fuel as a result of the so-called “fracking” boom.
The broader focus of the new trust fund appears to recognize that demand for battery-based vehicles, whether conventional hybrids, plug-ins or pure battery-electric vehicles, is growing much more slowly than proponents had anticipated.
The administration came into office calling for a $25 billion fund to support clean, high-mileage technologies with low-interest loans. After an initial spate of projects, some quickly souring, the spigot was closed and there have been no new loans made in over two years. Some existing loans, such as one for $529 million to Fisker Automotive, were halted mid-stream. That has put Fisker in a critical situation, the company expected to be sold or fail if it can’t arrange more cash. Others hoping for federal aid, such as California-based Next Auto, folded entirely.
Automakers continue to press for assistance in efforts to reduce emissions and meet higher mileage standards – the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, mandate rising to 54.5 mpg in 2025. Most manufacturers believe they cannot get to that figure without the use of battery power and other breakthroughs the new Energy Security Trust will target.
“The Energy Security Trust builds on this historic progress, continuing to increase momentum towards to a cleaner, more efficient fleet that is good for consumers, increases energy independence, and cuts carbon pollution,” said the White House.
Despite ongoing partisan bickering that has so far failed to resolve the so-called “sequestration” issue, the energy trust concept has been drawing a wide range of support. It is “an idea I may agree with,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said after the president’s State of the Union address.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Detroit Bureau.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Real-time bus information is coming to spreading around the NYC transit system. The New York City version of live updates on bus location known as Bus Time will expand to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. But those three boroughs won't be fully wired until April 2014 -- four months later than expected. The MTA says Manhattan will have the service by year's end, the other boroughs will come later.
Bus Time currently operates only in the Bronx and Staten Island. The MTA says the delay in rolling out the service to other areas is because of Sandy-related delays. Right now, riders in Staten Island and the Bronx can use their cell phones or computers to text or look up exactly when the next bus will arrive at their stop, or as the MTA puts it, "Bus Time takes the wondering and uncertainty out of waiting for the bus. "
Bus Time, customers can send a text message to 511123 to find out where the nearest bus is ... if that bus is GPS tracked in the system. While other cities have real-time location data for their fleets, Manhattan's cavernous avenues have proved a challenge in designing a reliable GPS-based system. The NYC MTA operates the largest bus fleet in North America with 5,700 buses and about 300 routes.
For more info on Bus Time and to see which routes are tracked in real time, go to the Bus Time website.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
With Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina chosen as the new Pope, to be known as Francis I, the remaining papal question is: how will he get around?
A Jesuit, the 76-year-old has already promised a humble papacy. He's known for living out that philosophy as Cardinal, giving up his limousine in favor of riding public transportation. (Anyone with a photo of Cardinal Bergoglio on an Argentine bus, please send it to us ASAP!) He also cooks his own meals.
Will Francis I keep his farecard in his new robes or will the title of Pope require him to roll around in a Popemobile like his predecessors? We're looking into exactly how often Francis I used transit (and did he ride the bike share in Buenos Aires? He is 76, but hey, maybe). We'll keep you posted.
We are also watching what will come of the grand glass globe Popemobiles of Popes past?
Here are some recent Poped-out rides pictured below. (Earlier Papal wagons varied a bit more in design. A temporary 1965 Lincoln Continental Popemobile bore a regal black with a sunroof-like standing spot, rather than the domes pictured below. The Lincoln sold at auction in 2011 for $220,000.)
Monday, March 11, 2013
It has been a grisly few weeks for traffic safety in New York City. At the end of last month, a six-year old boy was run over by a truck in Harlem on his walk to school. Days later, a young couple in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was killed in the back seat of a taxi cab destroyed by a speeding ex-con. And today, a car jumped the curb in Long Island City Queens, hitting five pedestrians, and killing a teenager.
It's an apt time to announce a plan, apparently long in the works, to reform how the NYPD handles traffic crashes. The changes were outlined in a letter to the City Council dated March 4th, a day after six-year old Amar Diarrassouba was buried, and while Julio Acevedo was still on loose, wanted for the hit and run that killed Raizy and Nathan Glauber and their child-to-be in Williamsburg.
The roots of the new NYPD policies date back at least a year, to the last time traffic safety was top news in the tabloids. Last February the City Council held a hearing on traffic safety in which NYPD brass were grilled for several hours on all manner of policy, procedures and statistics. Grieving parents slung angry accusations at the Department for failing to adequately investigate their childrens' deaths.
So a year later, just as a second swelling of grief and anger was taking shape in the form of petitions circulating and reporters renewing requests for safety data, the NYPD sent a letter to to City Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca that outlines a considerable expansion of police resources toward traffic safety, just about exactly what advocates had called for a year ago, and were likely to demand afresh.
The NYPD will expand the number of traffic cases it will closely examine, add new officers for enforcement and prevention of crashes, and implement new and additional training for officers who conduct collision investigations.
"Any of these on their own would have been a huge step forward for road safety," said Juan Martinez of Transportation Alternatives, one of the most vocal groups calling for the changes. "Taken together, it's a banner day."
In a symbolic move, the Department will also change the name of the unit that investigates traffic crashes from the Accident Investigation Squad to the Collision Investigation Squad, because, "in the past the term "accident" has given the inaccurate impression or connotation that there is no fault or liability," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly wrote in the letter.
The NYPD has consistently been criticized for not treating traffic collisions seriously enough in the eyes of safety advocates and family members of victims of crashes. About 250 people die in traffic crashes each year in New York City, almost as many as killed by guns. In most cases of traffic deaths, there is no criminality because of how traffic law is written. Enhanced investigations are often cited as necessary for establishing criminality or more frequently, essential for evidence for civil lawsuits brought by victims.
In the letter, dated March 4th, Kelly outlines the changes to the NYPD traffic crimes policies, many of them already quietly implemented. The most dramatic is a shift in which collisions will be closely investigated by the Accident Investigation Squad's specially trained detectives.
As we reported, before the new policies, the AIS had just 19 investigators and responded only to crashes where someone was killed or was deemed "likely to die" by a medical professional. That meant that many crashes resulting in serious non-fatal injury, such as the loss of a limb, were not handled by AIS, instead by local precincts who perform less rigorous investigations. The policy also meant that cases that resulted in deaths were sometimes not investigated immediately because the victim was not deemed "likely to die" at the scene. That's what happened in the cases of Clara Heyworth and Stefanos Tsigrimanis, neither of which resulted in criminal charges.
Tsigrimanis, a 29 year old musician, was struck while riding his bike. He sustained a severe head injury and was in a coma later that day, but was not deemed likely to die in the emergency room, so local precinct officers investigated, not the AIS who are specially-trained in gathering evidence from a traffic crash crime scene -- such as how to reconstruct an accident based on skid marks or from the locations of vehicle debris. Tsigrimanis died three days after the crash, but no photos were taken of the scene under the less rigorous investigation, and by the time AIS did respond, after Tsigrimanis' death, it was too late to collect some evidence. No charges were filed against the driver.
That type of case will now get full AIS attention from the start under the new policies. Police will send the AIS (soon to be renamed the Collision Investigation Squad) to cases where "an individual involved in a collision has sustained a critical injury" that "will be defined as a patient either receiving CPR, in respiratory arrest, or requiring or receiving life sustaining ventilator or circulatory support," according to the letter.
The patrol guide has already been "substantially revised" to reflect these changes, and to better guide officers who first arrive at a crash scene when to call notify AIS to come to investigate.
"Too many traffic collisions have been overlooked because the City hasn't collected the data it needs to hold people accountable and to intervene to prevent future crashes," said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn who added, the NYPD is implementing reforms that "will keep our streets safer."
It is not clear exactly how many additional collisions this new policy will encompass or the additional workload it will mean for the AIS. NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for more information.
According to the the New York DMV there were 252 fatal crashes in NYC in 2011, the latest year on record. There were 2,942 "serious" injury crashes, which could be as minor as a broken limb. The new NYPD policy is more likely to mean hundreds of additional crashes will be closely investigated, not thousands more.
To handle the additional workload, the NYPD has already made staffing changes and is "in the process of increasing both the overall uniformed headcount of the Highway District as well as the number of investigators assigned to AIS," according to the letter.
Commissioner Kelly noted this policy change is only possible because the number of fatal crashes has decreased considerably over the past decade.
"I am pleased that the NYPD is taking this first step towards tackling the serious issue of traffic crashes," Council member Brad Lander said in a statement. Lander was the lead sponsor of the Crash Investigation Reform Act of 2012 that called for changes of this type of change. That bill called for a task force on traffic safety.
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
January was the worst month in more than a year for pedestrian safety in New York City, according to preliminary data from the NYPD. Twenty pedestrians were killed on city streets during the first month of the year. That's nearly double the monthly average for pedestrians deaths in 2012, which -- according to the same NYPD data -- was 11.
As the above chart shows, in NYC more pedestrians die in traffic than motorists, passengers or cyclists, the four categories tracked by NYPD. Fatalities fluctuate substantially from month to month, but the peak month of May 2012 saw just 15 pedestrians killed in crashes. There were two months when more motorists died than pedestrians last year.
The NYPD also released data on summonses issued in January. The most common ticketed violation was failure to obey a sign (14,677 summonses). Offenses are more common if they can be spotted and issued by officers without special equipment, such as using a cell phone while driving (11,244 summonses), not wearing a seat belt (9,621 summonses) and tinted windows (9,004 summonses) in the front seat. Speeding, unless it is excessive, requires a radar gun (6,356 summons). Failure to yield to pedestrians is considered one of the more dangerous traffic offenses, and the violation for which the driver of the truck was cited in the death of six-year old Amar Diarrassouba in East Harlem. There were 1,198 summonses for failure to yield in January.
See chart below. Full list of summonses is available on NYPD website here.
As we reported earlier this week, using this and other preliminary data it hints that NYC traffic fatalities ticked up in 2012 over 2011, a record low year. The DOT has said it will release the official numbers "soon."