Alex Goldmark appears in the following:
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."
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
The fatal accident last week that killed Amar Diarassoubba was just half block from his school. P.S. 155 sits at the center of a hot spot for kids in traffic accidents, according to two different studies. Hear the latest story from the neighborhood.
Monday, March 04, 2013
As we reported last week, six-year old Amar Diarassoubba was killed while crossing a Harlem street last week. The emotional case has thrust the dreary issue of pedestrian safety into the spotlight, and what that reveals is a poor record of traffic crashes involving kids for East Harlem and a lack of fresh data to measure progress.
According to police, Amar was walking with his nine-year old brother. A crossing guard was supposed to be at the intersection on First Avenue and 117th Street, but wasn’t. And, of course, the truck was supposed to yield but didn’t. The rear wheels of the tractor trailer ran Amar down as he was in the crosswalk. His brother stood watching. All of it was just half block from Amar’s school.
PS 155 sits at the center of something of a hot spot for kids in traffic crashes according to two different studies.
The group Transportation Alternatives looked at all crashes involving kids from 1995-2009. In East Harlem, children made up 43 percent of traffic injuries. A much higher proportion (15 percent) than just a few blocks south on the same avenues on the Upper East Side which has the same percentage of children in the population according to the study.
“This is not a force of nature that we do not have control over, this is something we can fix,” said Juan Martinez of Transportation Alternatives.
In the second study, The Tri State Transportation Campaign tracked all traffic deaths from 2009 to 2011 in the New York region. The group found that in Manhattan, five kids under 15 years old died in traffic. But there was a cluster. Three of them were within just seven blocks of PS 155. (See map here).
Parents at PS 155 say the area is hazardous as trucks are constantly roaring by to and from the nearby shopping mall and the RFK (formerly Triborough) Bridge.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his Department of Transportation say they’re aware of the problem, and working on it. “We try to have traffic lights, we try to have red light cameras, which the state won’t let us have. We deploy our police officers when they’re not doing other things.”
Seth Solomonow of the Department of Transportation said in an email, “From last year’s safety redesign of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard to school safety projects to simplifying the entrance to Harlem River Park, Harlem has seen some of the most extensive and innovative safety changes ever brought to New York City’s streets." Solomonow said prior to this recent incident, just one child pedestrian had died in Manhattan since 2011.
First Avenue is slated for a redesign to add pedestrian plazas and a bike lane.
Both the Mayor and Department of Transportation like to point out that in 2011, the city had the lowest number of traffic fatalities on record. That year, the Mayor announced the tallies even before he pushed the button for the New Year's Eve ball drop. But preliminary data for 2012 show a rise in traffic deaths, and the city has yet to release the final numbers to the dismay of city council members like the east side’s Jessica Lappin. She’s been calling for detailed reports for over a month.
“They’re supposed to be providing this information. We’ve been asking for it for months. And they still haven’t provided it. That’s why we had a press conference back in January. And they promised us we would have it in weeks. Well it’s been a month plus and we still don’t have the data.”
Since January, Transportation Nation has repeatedly asked the Department of Transportation for the number of children killed or injured in traffic in New York City to no avail. The only available data on 2012, or that includes the locations of crashes, is an NYPD preliminary data based on initial accident reports. Those figures show that fatalities might be on the rise over 2011, but they are un-audited.
Police say the investigation into the Diarrassouba crash continues, including into the whereabouts of the crossing guard. No charges have been filed and no arrests have been made.
Sunday, March 03, 2013
The day after a six-year-old student was killed on his way to P.S. 206 in Harlem, parents complained about the heavy volume of trucks, especially since 2009, when the East River Plaza mall opened a block away.
Friday, March 01, 2013
Parents held their childrens' hands a little tighter as they picked them up from PS 155 on Friday afternoon. Danger felt closer than usual here, and tragedy was the topic of conversation after six-year old Amar Diarrassouba died on the corner, struck and killed by a turning tractor trailer truck.
"I was the one who picked him up off the middle of First Avenue," said Melanie Canon, a mother who was standing in front of the school a day after the accident.
"He was face down," she said of Amar, who'd been walking to school with his 9 year-old brother. "His brother was standing right next to him. The little boy said, 'Help.' I picked him up by the back of his jacket. He was lifeless, limp. I saw a big pool of blood."
Canon is a doctor but there was nothing she could do. Amar--praised by neighbors as being kind to all--had no pulse.
Canon's daughter is a 3rd grader who attends nearby PS 206 and passes the same intersection every morning. Like the parents outside the PS 155, she said it's a treacherous walk for a child. "The paths to the schools need to be safe."
Outside the school, where the flag waved limply at half-mast, parents complained about the heavy volume of trucks, especially since 2009, when the East River Plaza mall opened a block away.
Tara French lives in the neighborhood and walks her three children to the school each day. "It's dangerous," she said." First Avenue is a dangerous street for them to be crossing. And now we have the mall so we have all the 18-wheelers coming up First Avenue."
Jaime Barton agreed. "The trucks should have at least another way to go for deliveries, that's how I feel," he said. The truck that struck Amar was coming from the direction of the mall, heading west on 117th street, and hit the child as it turned right onto First Avenue toward the Tri-Borough Bridge, which is seven blocks north. 117th Street is a narrow, one-way side street.
"Even 116th is a bigger intersection because it's two-way. This is one-way," Barton said as her daughter interrupted to boast about a recent birthday, her 6th.
A crossing guard was supposed to be at the intersection. Police are investigating her whereabouts. "What we're saying is that she was not on post when the accident happened which was 0754--that's all we can say at this time is that she wasn't there," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters Friday.
While some parents said that crossing guard was frequently late or absent, others didn't blame her. Lydia Soto, who has a 13-year old at the school, said that parents had complained in the past about the guard to the school. Standing with French, the parents said that several years ago--the date was uncertain--parents had petitioned to have a different crossing guard replaced. The new guard on Second Avenue was "fabulous," they said.
Department of Education spokesperson Marge Fienberg said, "The principal of the school has not received any complaints about this guard and generally, when there are complaints, the safety agents provide parents with the number of the local precinct.
The NYPD is responsible for hiring crossing guards. The department has said that retaining crossing guards can be difficult because the job is only part time, several hours in the morning and several in the afternoon, and, according to the NYPD website, can pay below $10 per hour .
A spokesperson at the NYPD said the department would have to research whether there had been past complaints about the crossing guard at PS 155.
The city Department of Transportation oversees the rules of the roads, such as where trucks are permitted to drive or when special turn signals or lane markings are needed. The department has declined repeated requests over the past two months for data on the number and locations of children who were hit by vehicles in New York City.
Amar's family wouldn't speak about the accident. But outside the family's home, a man identifying himself as the boy's uncle said of the tragedy, "It is God." He said the rest of the family was taking the same approach.
-With WNYC News
Monday, February 25, 2013
Fourteen pedestrians died along Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County, NY from 2009 through 2011. That's almost one fatality for each mile of road, a morbid statistic that earned that 16-mile stretch the dubious distinction of the most dangerous road in the NYC area according to an analysis by a transportation policy watchdog group.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign crunched traffic data numbers from 2009-2001 for the New York City area, including suburbs in Long Island (which includes Nassau County), New Jersey and Connecticut. According to a report issued by the Campaign today, one type of road stands out as particularly dangerous for pedestrians.
"The analysis found that arterial roads – roads with two or more lanes in each direction that are designed to accommodate vehicle speeds of 40 mph or higher – are the most deadly for pedestrians, with almost 60 percent of pedestrian deaths in Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York occurring on this type of road.
“Arterials were traditionally designed to move vehicles from one destination to the next without regard for other road users like pedestrians and bicyclists. We continue to see that designing roads like this results in needless loss of life,” said Renata Silberblatt, report author and staff analyst with the Campaign."
For a full list of the 10 most dangerous roads according to the report, scroll down. For maps and lists by county, go here.
In the report, the Campaign praised governmental agencies for taking steps to redesign dangerous corridors.
State complete streets laws exist in New York and Connecticut and the New Jersey DOT endorsed a complete streets policy in 2009. In addition, over 40 municipal and county governments in the tri-state region have adopted complete streets policies. These local policies will help ensure that the roadways under local and county jurisdiction are designed and redesigned with all users – pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists in mind.
In 2012, the New York State Department of Transportation began pedestrian safety improvements along Hempstead Turnpike, also known as Route 24.
“We have seen again and again that relatively low-cost improvements such as the improvements being done to Hempstead Turnpike can save lives,” said Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s executive director. "“We applaud NYSDOT’s attention to Hempstead Turnpike," she added in an emailed statement.
According to the statement, the improvements include "eight raised medians and five new crosswalks, as well as relocating six bus stops closer to crosswalks and altering traffic signals to calm traffic."
The report recommends increased spending on Safe Routes to School, Safe Routes to Transit and Safe Routes for Seniors programs, and promotes "complete streets" laws that require the inclusion of pedestrian and cyclist concerns in street planning and redesigns.
"Recent improvements to New York’s most dangerous roadways are very encouraging and AARP is hopeful that this report will instill a sense of urgency to make even more improvements where necessary," said Will Stoner, associate state director for AARP in New York in a statement.
The report uses the latest data available in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
The 10 most dangerous roads in the NYC Tri-State Area
|Rank||Change in Ranking (Prior Year's Rank)||Road||Pedestrian Fatalities (2009-2011)|
|1||-||SR-24 (HEMPSTEAD TPKE,FULTON AVE),Nassau County,NY||14|
|3||↑ (6)||SR-25 (JERICHOTPKE,MIDDLE COUNTRY RD),Suffolk County,NY||11|
|4||↑ (6)||SR-27 (SUNRISEHWY),NassauCounty, NY||9|
|4||↑ (6)||SR-110 (NEW YORK AVE,BROADHOLLOW RD, BROADWAY),Suffolk County,NY||9|
|4||↑ (14)||US‐322/40 (Blackhorse Pike),Atlantic County,NJ||9|
|4||↓ (3)||US-130 (BURLINGTON PIKE),Burlington County,NJ||9|
|4||↑ (6)||ROUTE 1,Middlesex County,NJ||9|
|9||↓ (3)||SR-27 (SUNRISEHWY,MONTAUK POINT STATE HWY, CR 39),Suffolk County,NY||8|
|9||↑ (26)||US-30 (WHITE HORSE PIKE),Camden County,NJ||8|
|9||new||ROUTE 9,Middlesex County,NJ||8|
Friday, February 15, 2013
Listen to a conversation about why NYC Taxi innovations so often result in litigation.
The latest effort to reform and remake New York City's taxi industry has met a similar roadblock as previous efforts: a lawsuit. Livery cab drivers have filed suit to block a rule change that was set to go into effect Friday permitting yellow cabs to accept passengers through smartphone apps.
But city officials say they're reviewing apps as planned and hope to have the system up and running soon.
In New York, yellow cabs have the right to pick up passengers who hail them on the street, but can't be dispatched by phone. Livery cabs are a different category of taxi that can only pick up passengers who call ahead to pre-arrange a pick up.
If the city's 13,237 yellow cabs are allowed to pre-arrange pickups through apps like that, it amounts to a violation of Taxi and Limousine Commission regulations that distinguish yellow medallion cabs from livery cabs, the lawsuit filed Thursday alleges. (Lawsuit is here)
The spokesperson said the apps could go live after March 1 when a contract expires with the companies that provide the in-cab credit card processing and other technology--a suite of services known in the taxi industry as TPEP for Taxicab Passenger Enhancements Project. The TPEP contract would prohibit payment through a third parties, like the smartphone apps. That contract was set to expire today, but has been extended to March 1.
The TLC says four smartphone app companies have already submitted apps for approval and are being reviewed for features like integration with the meter and usability by drivers so they aren't dangerously distracted by their phones while on the road.
So called e-hail apps can make finding a cab easier and driving one more profitable, according to Anil Yazici, a Research Associate at the University Transportation Research Center. "This will bring some efficiency to the search process," he says.
Yellow cabs in New York spend 40 percent of their time empty looking for fares, especially during off-hours and outside the city center. Yazici says apps "won't eliminate empty trips, that's for sure. But surely it will reduce the empty percentages."
It could also reduce business to livery cabs. In the past just about every change in taxi rules that could cut into the business of one category of cab has resulted in court battles. Earlier this year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan was blocked to add a new category of outer borough "green" cabs that would have a meter and be allowed to pick up street hails outside Manhattan's central business district. (Ruling) Another plan to convert all yellow cabs to a single new car model known as the Taxi of Tomorrow is also facing a court challenge.
The latest legal challenge against yellow cab e-hail apps goes to court on February 28th.
NYC yellow cabs are a $2.5 billion industry and carry over 500,000 passengers a day.
Friday, February 15, 2013
Of the many options for political humor served up earlier this week in the State of the Union speech, the Daily Show's Jon Stewart chose infrastructure. Yup, bridges. With his usual exuberant brand of comic outrage he even went so far as suggesting President Obama should have made infrastructure the top issue in the State of the Union speech.
You can start the video two minutes in for the best part.
Stewart: "Shouldn't you have led the speech with that one?" Stewart implores. "I mean, c'mon, shouldn't you have just opened with that one. Or broken into whatever programming was scheduled the night you found that BLEEP out?!?!"
He goes on to suggest what the speech might have been like if Obama had focused entirely on crumbling bridges, and even gives a special, ignoble mention of the Tappan Zee, which we've covered extensively.
According to a TN analysis before the previous SOTU, bridges and infrastructure were pretty common words mentioned by Obama in public speeches.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to add 10,000 public parking spots for electric vehicles over the next seven years.
According to prepared remarks for his 12th and final State of the City address Thursday, the Mayor says:
“This year we’ll pilot curbside vehicle chargers that will allow drivers to fill up their battery in as little as 30 minutes. We’ll work with the City Council to amend the Building Code so that up to 20 percent of all new public parking spaces will be wired and ready for electric vehicles."
The proposal would require that a fifth of new parking spaces to be charging stations for electric vehicles. Zoning laws in New York require the construction of new parking spaces along with new building construction, usually in the form of parking garages under or next to the building. According to the mayor's office, about 10,000 new parking spaces are added each year in this way.
The City currently has 100 public charging stations and 120 for the city's own fleet of EVs. Thirty more government stations would be added under this proposal.
Building public charging stations however is no easy task. As experience in other cities has shown, building codes, utility cooperation and construction permitting can all slow or impede installation of EV charging stations on public streets.
Private companies began installing public charging stations in New York City in 2010. According to a New York state initiative last year, there were about 400 charging stations set to be live by April 2013. San Francisco city government offered free charging in about 20 public garages at one point. Houston has built, or plans to build about 50 charging stations.
Under the mayor's NYC proposal the city would also initiate testing of curbside charging with two chargers that can fill batteries in as little as 30 minutes, rather than the standard eight hours. One would be in Seward Park, a middle class apartment development and park on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
The second station will be just for electric taxis, located at the ConEdison Building. This year six all-electric Nissan Leaf taxis will join the more than 13,000 yellow cabs already on the road. The winning model for the Taxi of Tomorrow, also by Nissan, is designed to enable retrofitting run as an electric vehicle if testing shows that's workable and preferable.
The mayor is also expected to announce that the city will add 50 new battery electric cars to New York's municipal fleet, which already includes 458 plug-in electric cars, the third largest EV fleet in the country after the federal government and General Electric.
According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: as of December 2012, there are 2,069 electric vehicles registered in the five boroughs of New York CIty. The breakdown by county: 10 in Richmond (Staten Island); 80 in Queens; 753 in New York (Manhattan); 413 in Kings (Brooklyn) and 813 in the Bronx.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Snow was still dumping down on Boston Friday evening when the city had to pull down its public website for tracking snow plows. Within a couple of hours of snowfall the site had over a million requests from users. Boston's total population is 625,000.
"[The site] couldn't handle all the traffic," said John Gulfoil, spokesman for Mayor Thomas Menino. "It was hurting our efforts to actually track our own plows," he said.
The city had built the GPS-enabled tracking website so the public could watch along in real time as plows made their way around the city street by sodden street.
After the blizzard of 2010, New York City was trapped in piles of snow. Cars, buses, even ambulances were abandoned in streets that went unplowed for days. stranded on unplowed streets and citizens crying foul that they couldn't tell when and where the cleanup was coming. In the aftermath, NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg said, "there was a discrepancy between information coming into and out of City Hall and what people were actually experiencing on the streets." He vowed to track each plow using GPS in the future. (More on that below.)
The blizzard this past weekend that hit Boston hardest, brought with nearly three feet of snow and the first real test (that we are aware of) of a GPS-managed snow plow fleet in a major snowstorm.
Boston has had a private GPS tracking system in place for smaller storms since. This was the first time the public was able to watch the plows move in real-time along with city officials.
The catch is that the same GPS system that populated the dots on the public website map also powered the Department of Public Works operational maps at its command center. The flood of interest from the public was clogging the servers and preventing plow fleet managers from doing their jobs.
The Department of Public Works mustered private contractors to join the city fleet in removing more than three feet of snow from city streets. The GPS tracking system has been in place for years and helps hold the drivers accountable because managers can see where they are. "They can't hide," as Gulfoil puts it. “Hopefully next time there’s a major storm we’ll have all the bugs worked out,” Gulfoil said.
New York City had a similar website in place, though with much less snow to contend with -- and citizens out sledding and such in higher numbers -- the PlowNYC website proved less popular and less problematic. Keith Mellis of the NYC Department of Sanitation didn't have traffic numbers immediately available. "We had no interruption," he said. "It works."
You can see where plows went in NYC hour by hour on this visualization of the PlowNYC data extrapolated by plow-watcher Derek Watkins.
Monday, February 11, 2013
New England is still digging out of a blizzard that dumped over three feet of snow in many places. We could show you lots of pictures or looping short videos of treacherous transportation, but as we are a public radio reporting project here at Transportation Nation, we offer instead the sounds of the great blizzard dig-out of 2013.
Friday, February 08, 2013
In New York, the city is managing expectations ahead of the blizzard hitting the Northeast Friday evening with a detailed plan showing which streets will get plowed first.
Once plows and salt spreaders hit the NYC streets, residents can follow their progress at the PlowNYC website.
Neither city is actively plowing yet--according to the maps. This storm may prove to be a first major test of how useful citizens find this kind of real time location information, and how accurate it will be.
Friday, February 08, 2013
Vehicle travel is banned in the entire state of Massachusetts beginning at 4 p.m. in response to blizzard conditions. Boston subway service will be suspended at 3:30 p.m. Logan international airport will try to remain open.
WBUR reports that Governor Deval Patrick said the ban was in response to "extremely dangerous conditions," with the potential for two to three inches of snowfall per hour.
The ban, which will be in effect until further notice, covers all motor vehicle traffic across the state, with some exceptions for both public and private sector employees. Patrick said drivers seen on roadways after 4 p.m. could face up to a year in prison or a $500 fine, but conceded the penalties are unlikely.
In a 1978 blizzard in the Boston area, motorists were stranded on area roads, abandoned their cars, and some were struck by other vehicles while walking.
For the latest on NYC area transportation updates, check our Transit Tracker.
Friday, February 01, 2013
Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch died on the 100th birthday of Grand Central Terminal. That's a poetic coincidence, but not a random one. Koch played a crucial role in ensuring America's cathedral to public transportation lived to see its centennial celebration, fiercely advocating for its preservation first as a Congressman and then as mayor. (Here's the Grand Central Terminal preservation story told with charming archival audio).
That's just one of many of Koch's staunch stances during his three terms from 1978 - 1989 that has transit advocates heaping praise in memory of the bellicose mayor who helped pull New York out of dark times.
In fact, many of his most controversial moments have to do with transportation, including famously walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in protest of the 1980 transit workers' strike.
Though, his biggest impact on transportation may have been through a project that never was. Early in Koch's tenure, NY Governor Hugh Carey pushed for a highway megaproject known as "Westway" to put the West Side Highway underground, a plan the federal government would only fund if the mayor also signed off on it.
Koch refused until Carey promised the state would subsidize the NYC subway enough to avoid any fare increase for four years. The governor kept his word for two years, then reneged. But Koch -- with his subway loyalties -- had the last laugh.
In 1985, a legal challenge and Congressional opposition doomed the Westway project. Koch and then-governor Mario Cuomo chose not to fight to resurrect Westway and instead scrambled to "trade-in" the federal funds to be reallocated to transit, yielding more than $1 billion for subways and buses according to Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. (See video of Koch discussing Westway below.)
The NYC Straphanger's Campaign also said in a statement of condolence to Koch's family that the former mayor inherited a subway system with ridership at the lowest level since 1917. Yet when he left office, the system was on the rise.
"Mayors have limited powers to affect subway and bus service, which is run by a State public authority. Mayor Koch used his to the fullest, employing his bully pulpit to drag public promises out of transit executives before the glare of cameras, such as improved announcements and a crackdown on subway graffiti. Under pressure from Mayor Koch, the MTA completely eliminated graffiti on subway cars in 1989, during Mayor Koch's last term in office. In the mid-1980's, Mayor Koch doubled the City's commitment to the MTA's vital five-year rebuilding program."
Inadvertently, Koch gave a boost the the NY cycling community as well: by trying to ban bikes from Midtown in 1987. What was meant as a crackdown on weaving bicycle messengers transformed hordes of casual riders into activists, or at least supporters of advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives, which saw membership sign-ups increase ten fold. The bike ban was eventually voided over a legal technicality, but the organized bike lobby remains strong to this day.
Koch's memory has been firmly fastened to transportation with the most sturdy and standard of civic tributes: the Queensboro Bridge has been renamed the Edward Koch Queensboro Bridge. "There are other bridges that are much more beautiful like the George Washington or the Verrazano but this more suits my personality," he told WNYC, "because it's a workhorse bridge. I mean, it's always busy, it ain't beautiful, but it is durable."
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare released its latest batch of customer trip data -- and the fine folks at Mobility Lab turned it into an interactive map. What's interesting about this visualizer is that it sorts trips by neighborhood cluster.
Instead of seeing all the trips everywhere -- which is beautiful -- you can see how a given station connects to the areas around it. The more rides between two stations, the thicker the red line. Click on most downtown stations and it looks like a starburst of rides.
Trips on the National Mall tend to stay on the National Mall or head over the Jefferson Memorial.
Mobility Lab has also set the map so you see the direction of trips, including "unbalancedness" between stations. That's when trips tend to be in one direction more than another. It's not so surprising that more people ride downhill on Connecticut Avenue from the Van Ness station to Dupont Circle. But it is interesting to see how many more people ditch the heavy bike share bikes at the bottom and return by some other, presumably less tiring, means. Of the 203 trips between those two stations in the 4th quarter of 2012, 82 percent of them were downhill.
(Read TN's article on how DC rebalances bike share stations here.)
Michael Schade over at Mobility Lab has pulled out a few more interesting data points. Alexandria, Virginia, joined CaBi last year. Most of those bike share trips appear to be heading to or from the two Metro stations. So Schade concludes bike share in Alexandria is being used to solve a last-mile transit problem.
See his full analyses and more maps here.
Monday, January 28, 2013
Two more links in the New Jersey commuter rail network will return to pre-Sandy levels today.
Hoboken terminal station will reopen and PATH service will run on pre-Sandy overnight levels with the restoration of Newark-World Trade Center service. The dual announcements from Northern New Jersey's two commuter rail agencies come after criticism of the slow pace of service restoration and just days before the three month anniversary of Sandy, which poured 10 million gallons of water into PATH train tunnels, and washed out dozens of miles of NJ Transit track among other damage.
NJ Transit trains have been running from Hoboken, but the station building has been closed, leaving passengers to wait in the cold without access to bathrooms. NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein is marking the occasion by greeting passengers at the Historic Hoboken Terminal, pictured here before and after the storm. "The waiting room, which is opening a day earlier than expected, will provide a heated shelter and temporary seating for customers as the agency continues with remediation work to address storm-related flood damage," an official statement says.
The Hoboken Terminal had reopened in mid-November only to be shuttered less than a month later when mold was discovered. State Senator Paul Sarlo had been threatening to hold hearings on the delay last week.
Hoboken is served by both NJ Transit commuter rail and PATH. PATH tunnels under the Hudson to lower Manhattan were particularly hard hit. It took seven weeks to restore PATH service to Hoboken at all, and one line from the city is still out. Round the clock service has been offered since earlier in the month on some lines while repairs on others continued.
Starting tonight, the agency announced, the route connecting Newark and World Trade Center will run 24-hours.
The statement reads:
"Service on the Newark-WTC line had only been running weekdays between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. since service resumed on the line after the storm. Return of the Newark-WTC PATH line overnight on weekdays, in addition to the ongoing overnight service from Journal Square to 33rd Street via Hoboken, means PATH’s overnight schedule during the week has returned to pre-Sandy status.
"Exchange Place and World Trade Center Stations remain closed weekends from 10 p.m. Fridays through 5 a.m. Mondays during the month of February to allow crews uninterrupted time to complete necessary repairs.
Crews continue to work around-the-clock to return weekday Hoboken to World Trade Center service and weekend service between Newark and the World Trade Center. Those are the final segments of service yet to be restored."
Monday, January 28, 2013
Portland has been a national leader in building light rail, but the transit-friendly city is considering buses as the next round of expansion. Portland is seriously considering bus rapid transit for two high-capacity transit corridors it is planning to expand. Nearby, Eugene is adding to its existing BRT lines, rankling some in the community.
There are two high priority corridors in Portland’s long-term transit plan. BRT is on the table, for discussion, in both of them...
Elissa Gertler, a deputy director at the Metro regional government, and the supervisor of the two corridor planning efforts, says there’s one big reason that interest in bus rapid transit may be overtaking light rail: "First and foremost, light rail is expensive. A big capital investment costs a lot of money, and partnership with the federal government in how to fund that has diminished over time, as we’ve expanded our system in this region.”
Bus rapid transit, as pictured above, is a cheaper alternative to light rail lines. Buses are given a dedicated lane to ensure traffic-free travel. Passengers pay before boarding -- similar to subway use -- to speed loading and unloading times. The scheme has proved effective and popular in cities from Curitiba, to Mexico City, to Cleveland.
As has happened in other cities, BRT's flexibility can lead to partial implementation with a kind of BRT-lite. Something that is an option on the table in Portland. Again from Manning's report:
Transit consultant Jarret Walker says the ideal is to run the bus like a light rail train. Easier said than done in the two corridors Portland is studying.
"You have stretches there, where there’s just so much width," Walker says. "There’s only so much space in the road. And in those places, it doesn’t really matter if you’re building light rail or Bus Rapid Transit, the real question will be: Where do you find a path?"
Standing at 82nd Avenue and Division, Metro’s Elissa Gertler says planners are starting with a focus on where people are traveling. This Division corridor includes multiple college campuses. She says administrators see a value in getting their students out of their cars.
"We have heard them say, 'We don’t want to be a sea of parking lots, we don’t want to have to just building parking. We want to invest in educational space, and serving our students,' ” Gertler says.
Oregon knows how to do bus rapid transit as well as any state in the country. According to rankings by BRT proponents at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the Eugene BRT system is the second best in the nation, after Cleveland's. Both cities received a "bronze" rating by ITDP compared to "gold" in Bogota and Guangzhou.
The EmX buses in Lane County around Eugene carry 10,000 riders each weekday through dedicated lanes or with "signal priority," traffic lights that change to green when the buses approach.
A new 4.4 mile proposed extension is drawing opposition, according to this report from OPB's Amanda Peacher.
Kilcoin says the EmX extension will help connect West Eugene residents to downtown, and will improve traffic congestion. The project would widen the road in some places. LTD is also planning a number of other improvements, like two pedestrian bridges, new sidewalks, and an additional bike lane. That's in part why the price tag is so high-- all this is estimated to cost $95.6 million.
And that's the main complaint from groups like Our Money, Our Transit. Along 11th Avenue, opponents of the extension have lined the road with signs that read "No Build" with a picture of the big green bus crossed out.
"It's a really poor use of public funds." Roy Benson owns the Tire Factory, an automotive store along the planned route. As a business owner, he doesn't see any benefits of the new line. "I'll probably never have anybody come here on the bus, and then buy four tires and get back on the bus to go home," Benson says.
Peacher cites other opposition, as well as support from transit riders as is to be expected.The plan is going forward, currently in the design phase with a completion date of 2017 if all goes according to plan.
Friday, January 25, 2013
Another cycling innovation is making its way from the Netherlands to this side of the Atlantic. Cyclodeo is a bike-focused mapping website that pairs videos of bike lanes with Google maps.
The screen grab above shows the view for the small city of Eindhoven in southern Netherlands. A smattering of bike path still photos are strewn about the map of the city. Click on one of the tiles to see what it is like -- from the perspective of a cyclist -- to ride in a number of the city's calm, well-paved bike paths.
What's impressive, and most potentially useful about Cyclodeo, is that each section of the video is geocoded to match the map. That red line is a bike path. Click anywhere on the line to see the frame of the video that corresponds to what that exact part of the path looks like. The site also calculates the distance of that ride and the average speed. It adds up to a pretty solid picture of what a bike trip will be like, all available before you leave the house.
"In the very near future close to 100 km of videotaped cycling rides from Copenhagen will be released," Cyclodeo founder Samir Bendida says. He tells TN the company's bike path mapping is expanding to other cities soon after. "This will allow comparison of cycling infrastructure from different cities which could hopefully inspire city planners to improve their own network for cyclists."
There is already a NYC map posted with a few sample test rides that hint at this use.
Some streets just aren't pleasant rides in Manhattan. Seeing which ones have better bike lanes might help guide a route, or let a cyclist know the safest way home.
Google Street view is certainly a more comprehensive tool with endless panoramas of static images, but as the short sample NYC rides show, a nice urban bike ride is not just about what stripes line the road, but how the lane is respected by cars. A video in this case really is worth a 1,000 pictures when it comes to conveying what it's like to ride on a given street.
Pairing video to a map is a clever use of a new technology even if the sheer immensity of videotaping every bike path in a major city seems prohibitive and potentially an obstacle to turning these sample maps into fully populated cycling tools.
In the meantime though, fans of urban cycling might just enjoy seeing what a ride is like in other cities. Here's Copenhagen during rush hour -- set to opera for some reason -- hectic, safe, and because of the soundtrack, a tad heroic.