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Andrea Bernstein

Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:

On PPW Bike Lane: They Like It. They Really Like It.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  The most interesting thing about Assemblymember's Jim Brennan's scientific poll of people living in neighborhoods around Prospect Park is how remarkably consistent opinion is on the two-way, protected bike lane.  It was installed last June, reducing automobile traffic from three lanes to two.  But there has been noisy discussion around it -- and a lawsuit to remove it -- ever since.

When Councilmember Brad Lander did a 3000-person survey back in December, 49 percent of respondents said they wanted to keep the bike lane as is, 22 percent said they wanted to keep it with changes, and 29 percent said they wanted to remove it.

When Brennan hired a national polling firm to do a statistically significant survey of how some park-bordering communities felt, 44 percent of respondents said keep it as is, 25 percent said it should be altered in some way,and 28 percent wanted to remove it.

Thus, in December of 2010, 71 percent of those surveyed wanted the bike lane to remain, 30 percent did not.  Today, 69  percent of respondents want the bike lane to remain (albeit some want changes) while 29 percent wanted it removed.  That difference is minuscule, and certainly well with the margin of error on Brennan's poll, 4.5 percentage points.

Given all the press that the lawsuit against the bike lane has gotten -- and all the opportunities for both sides to make their arguments, the sentiment has been remarkably consistent.  Nothing is moving these numbers.

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"This is only the most recent proof that bike lanes and this particular bike lane are and is popular,” Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson told me in in a telephone interview. “Sixteen points is a pretty overwhelming margin. If you have a sixteen point electoral victory they call it a landslide.” (Wolfson, having been a top aide in Hillary Clinton's campaign for President, knows something about elections.)

But if this were an election campaign, it's almost impossible to think of numbers holding like this.   Some public officials have been loudly and vocally berating bike lanes -- the lanes have literally become a punch line.  The tabloids have run anti-NYC DOT headlines for days in a row.  Even the NY Times and NY Magazine have raised the question of whether bike lanes can turn New Yorkers against Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Apparently not.  The Lander survey -- not scientific, but sampling a broad range of opinions using an array of techniques, the Brennan poll, and a recent Quinnipiac poll showing overall, 54 percent of New Yorkers say bike lanes are "a good thing" vs. 38 percent who do not -- would seem to indicate that, actually, bike lanes are one of the more popular things Mayor Bloomberg has done.  (His education numbers by contrast, show only about a third of New Yorkers approve what he's doing in the schools.)

Now, this doesn't mean there isn't dissent.  The Brennan poll probed depths of feeling, and found that both sides felt strongly about their positions, but more of those who are opposed felt strongly in their position.  That's exactly the kind of feeling that gives rise to angry testimony at the city council, lobbying of elected representatives, and, even lawsuits.

But apparently, these strongly held beliefs are not persuading people on the other side.

Now, there were some interesting secondary questions in the poll.   More people than not said  the bike lane made traffic, presumably automobile traffic, worse.  But that's what the members of Community Board were aiming for -- cars were speeding, they wanted them to slow down, they thought trimming Prospect Park West to two automobile lanes from three would have that effect. In general, slower speeds are experienced as more traffic-- whether you like to drive,walk, or bike.

What would be really interesting to know, and traffic engineers have studied this in elsewhere ,is whether making Prospect Park West a less auto-friendly street has affected the overall volume of automobile traffic in Park Slope.

Gridlock Sam one related to me a tale of how, when the West Side Highway fell down, he and the other engineers at City DOT were convinced that surrounding streets would be inundated with traffic -- and they were, for a while. But as they studied the traffic patterns over time what they found was that traffic was dispersing through the grid, and that a full 1/3 of it simply disappeared altogether as people switched to other modes.

A highway, former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist once argued to me, draws traffic.In fact, because drivers will go out of their way to take a route they see as faster. But if you remove a highway (as he did) it doesn't mean 40,000 cars traveling on the highway will suddenly be plunked down into the surrounding streets.  Ultimately, what happened in Milwaukee is that traffic volume dropped as cars dispersed around the street grid.

Was Prospect Park West functioning in the same way, pre-bike lane,when it was faster to drive on?  Were drivers going out of their way to take PPW versus, say, Seventh Avenue, two blocks over, a notoriously slow commercial street?  (PPW is mostly residential.)

But back to the poll.  Jim Walden, the attorney for the group suing to remove the bike lane, was clear in his dismissal of this poll:  "Safety is not a popularity contest," he said.

But he couldn't resist parsing the numbers, anyway.

"Pedestrians feel less safe crossing Prospect Park West, as this poll decisively shows.  But DOT's own data tell the same story, and the numbers don't lie:  people feel less safe because they are less safe.  In the end, safety is not a popularity contest.”

The poll does not decisively show pedestrians feel less safe:  It shows most of the respondents -- a plurality -- feel neither safer nor less safe.  In fact , 44 percent either feel no impact  (38 percent) , or aren't sure (6 percent).  Thirty three percent feel less safe, and 22 percent feel safer.

The lawsuit argues that the DOT manipulated safety data to make it look as if the bike lane were making the street safer.

Some other interesting numbers -- two thirds of respondents said they owned a car that they used regularly, while only a third said they biked regularly.  Which means that drivers are for the bike lane in pretty big numbers.

Unfortunately, the poll didn't ask a follow up question to the 25 percent who said they were "in favor of altering the bike lane and traffic pattern to address driver and pedestrian concerns," so its impossible to know what those people meant -- putting in pedestrian signals, islands, and adding parking spaces, as Councilman Lander has advocated?  Make the bike lane one-way, instead of two way, as some bike lane opponents have articulated?

The battle now really does move to the courts, as the court of public opinion seems to have weighed in.  The first hearing is scheduled for May 18.

Except, somehow, I'm guessing we haven't heard the last word.  From anyone.

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Poll Finds Large Plurality Supports Brooklyn Bike Lane

Friday, April 01, 2011

A new poll finds a large plurality of people living near Prospect Park, Brooklyn, support keeping a two-way, protected bike lane as is along Prospect Park West.

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BREAKING Poll: Plurality Favors Keeping Prospect Park West Bike Lane As Is

Friday, April 01, 2011

Prospect Park Bike Lane

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Assemblymember Jim Brennan of Brooklyn is out with a poll showing 44 percent of residents favor keeping the two-way, protected bike lane on Prospect Park West in place, 28% favor removing it, and 25% favor altering it to respond to pedestrian and driver concerns.

Brennan said, “I did the poll because I thought it would be helpful to get an accurate read on public opinion about the bike lane from a professional pollster using standard statistical sampling techniques."

The poll in many ways reflects the finding of a survey earlier conducted by City Councilmember Brad Lander, which found three quarters in favor of keeping the bike lane..  We'll have more analysis on this, but here's a summary.  (Full poll at end of post)

 48% said it was a change for the better, and 32% said it was a changes for the worse. 20% had no opinion.

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 Results break along demographic lines: Younger residents under 50 definitely support the bike lane (59%), while residents over 50 tend to oppose it (44%) rather than support it (36%). Younger residents favor keeping the bike lane as is (57%), while older residents are in favor of changing it (25%) or getting rid of it (39%) instead of keeping it (30%).

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BREAKING: Deal to save LI Bus

Friday, April 01, 2011

This just in:

We'll have more in a bit.

MTA, NASSAU COUNTY, STATE SENATE ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT
TO SAVE LONG ISLAND BUS SERVICE

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Nassau County and State Senate Republicans, lead by Senator Charles Fuschillo (R, Merrick) and Senator Jack Martins (R-C-I, Mineola), today announced an agreement to stave off proposed cuts to Long Island Bus that would have affected more than half of the bus routes in  Nassau County.

“We have heard from many of our constituents that depend on Long Island Bus services to get to work, school or go shopping,” Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said. “They are very concerned that if these cuts go through, they will have no other way to get around.  Fortunately, we were able to reach an agreement to avert the cuts and prevent any disruption in service. I want to thank Senator Fuschillo and Senator Martins for their leadership in responding to this issue.”

“A number of communities in Nassau County would have lost bus service entirely, leaving riders who live and work in those communities with no alternative way to get to their homes or jobs,” Senator Fuschillo, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said.  “Riders are tired of hearing about problems, they want to hear solutions and we were happy to finally achieve a solution.  I’m pleased that we were able to work together with the MTA and Nassau County to prevent the harmful service cuts as well as avoid layoffs.”

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The MTA proposed cutting 27 of the 48 Long Island Bus routes this summer due to a lack of funding.  The cuts would have impacted about 16,000 riders. The MTA was scheduled to vote on service cuts at its April board meeting.  Several hundred Long Island Bus riders attended a public hearing at Hofstra University last week to express their concerns over the service cuts.

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Make the Holland Tunnel a Bike Tunnel?

Friday, April 01, 2011

On April 1(!) Brian Lehrer asked listeners to weigh in on the proposal to transform the Holland Tunnel into a bike-only tunnel to be re-named the Charles Schumer Tunnel.  Political perspective from Andrea Bernstein

Segment here.

What do you think about this bike lane expansion project?

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NY Congressman Mocks Himself on Parking Ticket Debt

Thursday, March 31, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) NY Congressman Anthony Weiner is seen as "a contenda" in New York's next Mayoral election (okay, in 2013, but people need something to talk about while we're waiting for spring).

The youngish outer-borough congressmember got lots of airtime (and kudos from the kind of people who vote in Democratic primaries for Mayor)  for supporting a public option in health care reform.

But he has been in hot water in some communities for telling the New York Times that he said at a Mayoral dinner: "When I become mayor, you know what I’m going to spend my first year doing? I’m going to have a bunch of ribbon-cuttings tearing out your (expletive) bike lanes.”  (He later tweeted that he was "joking.")

Then, Roll Call found he owed $2,180 in DC parking tickets -- an embarrassment since he's been particularly vocal about United Nations diplomats failing to pay their parking tickets.   He jokes about it in this video at the Congressional Correspondents Dinner.

Rehabilitating himself?

Via Azi, in the New York Observer Politicker

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What's Up With Those Inter-City Bus Investigations? The Latest Here

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Alex Goldmark and Soterios Johnson discuss the lastest on the ever-growing list of investigations into the safety of the burgeoning long-haul bus industry. Listen here.

Bonus: hear Senator Frank Lautenberg read the news bulletin.

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News Analysis: As Political Climate Shifts, Obama Energy Policy Holds

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

((Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)   At the almost-end of the 2008 presidential primary season -- May, 2008 -- gasoline prices went through the roof , up to $5 a gallon in some areas of the country.  The price hike prompted near-panic, along with car-pooling, more mass transit rides, more careful grocery lists (just one trip to the supermarket) -- and a very big policy debate.

As it happened,  Hillary Clinton, fighting the last days of the primary, got behind a gas tax cut.  Most economists dismissed the idea -- not only would the gas tax cut simply disappear in the rising price of gasoline, they argued, but it would also bankrupt the already broke highway trust fund.

Barack Obama did not get behind the gas tax cut, even though, as I trailed the two candidates through the rolling hills of Indiana, cutting the gas tax got some of the biggest whoops of any proposals during Hillary Clinton's speeches.  Obama called it a gimmick.

He still thinks so, today.

"We’ve been down this road before," he told an enthusiastic audience of Georgetown University students at a speech (video here) on energy security today. "Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon. Working folks haven’t forgotten that. It hit a lot of people pretty hard. But it was also the height of political season, so you had a lot of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians waving three-point-plans for two-dollar gas – when none of it would really do anything to solve the problem. Imagine that in Washington.

"The truth is, of course, was that all these gimmicks didn’t make a bit of difference. When gas prices finally fell, it was mostly because the global recession led to less demand for oil. Now that the economy is recovering, demand is back up. Add the turmoil in the Middle East, and it’s not surprising oil prices are higher. And every time the price of a barrel of oil on the world market rises by $10, a gallon of gas goes up by about 25 cents."

Indeed, President Barack Obama has had a remarkably consistent position on energy through his campaign and his presidency, even as the political climate has dramatically shifted.

In September of 2008, I was watching Rudy Giuliani give his address to the Republican National Convention with Congressman Peter King.  "Drill, Baby Drill," Giuliani said, as King cringed "we're not supposed to use the 'D-word,' we're supposed to say 'explore.'"  Still - the genie was out of the bottle. The crowd roared when Giuliani said that, and when Sarah Palin picked up the refrain during her acceptance of the Vice Presidential nomination later during the Minneapolis convention.

But despite the popularity of that slogan, talking about developing solutions to climate change and oil dependency was, in those days, a much more bi-partisan issue than it has since become.   Just two years later, In the elections of 2010, several Republicans won by practically spitting when mentioning Democratic support for what they called "cap and trade" legislation.

But Barack Obama?  In 2008, he supported a combination of nuclear power, alternative energy, and mass transit use.  Today?  He supports a combination of nuclear power, alternative energy, domestic oil drilling (the "Drill,Baby, Drill) part of his policy, and mass transit use.

"Seventy percent of our petroleum use goes to transportation," he said today."Seventy percent."

His speech today (full text here) made a careful argument.  We must, he posited, reduce oil consumption by a third in a decade.  To get there, he proposed, first, the US must exploit its own supplies -- "as long as it's safe and responsible."

"When it comes to drilling onshore,"  he added, in a line of argument that might surprise some of his 2008 primary voters -- "my Administration approved more than two permits last year for every new well that the industry started to drill.  So any claim that my Administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve “shut down” oil production might make for a useful political sound bite – but it doesn’t track with reality.

And, then, in an adroit Obama-esque intellectual maneuver, he added "But let’s be honest – it’s not the long-term solution to our energy challenge.  America holds only about two percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.  And even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every one of those reserves, it still wouldn’t be enough to meet our long-term needs."

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Obama: Cut Oil Imports by a Third in the Next Decade

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(File Photo: Getty Images)

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) President Obama is vowing the U.S. will cut oil consumption by a third in the next decade.  Speaking before a group at Georgetown University, Obama said:  "So today, I’m setting a new goal: one that is reasonable, achievable, and necessary. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third."

To achieve this, Obama said, he would take several measures:  continue to expand domestic drilling, pursuing increased natural gas drilling while ensuring it didn't endanger oil supplies, and, as he put it, keeping nuclear power "on the table," because he said, nuclear power doesn't produce carbon.  But he said that must be done safely.

His biggest proposals, however, were on the consumption side. By 2015, he said, all federal cars purchased will be hybrid or electric.

"The fleet of cars and trucks we use in the federal government is one of the largest in the country.  That’s why we’ve already doubled the number of alternative vehicles in the federal fleet, and that’s why, today, I am directing agencies to purchase 100% alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles by 2015.  And going forward, we’ll partner with private companies that want to upgrade their large fleets."

Obama noted that even if the US were to drill "every drop" of U.S. oil, US oil only accounts for 2 percent of the world supply, while the US consumes 25 percent of the oil.  He also pointed out that 70 percent of US petroleum consumption comes from the transportation sector.

Most of the oil consumption part of the speech focused on alternative-fueled personal and commercial vehicles, but he did make reference to increasing mass transit options: " We’ve also made historic investments in high-speed rail and mass transit, because part of making our transportation sector cleaner and more efficient involves offering Americans – urban, suburban, and rural – the choice to be mobile without having to get in a car and pay for gas."

The administration has invested about $11 billion in high speed rail, and wants to spend more than $50 billion more.

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Obama: Time To Secure Energy Future

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Text Of President Barack Obama's Obama's Speech at Georgetown University:

We meet here at a tumultuous time for the world.  In a matter of months, we’ve seen regimes toppled and democracy take root across North Africa and the Middle East.  We’ve witnessed a terrible earthquake, catastrophic tsunami and nuclear emergency batter a strong ally and the world’s third largest economy.  And we’ve led an international effort in Libya to prevent a massacre and maintain stability throughout the broader region.

As Americans, we are heartbroken by the lives that have been lost as a result of these events. We are moved by the thirst for freedom in many nations, as well as the strength and perseverance of the Japanese people. And of course, it’s natural to feel anxious about what all this means for us.

One area of particular concern has been the cost and security of our energy.  In an economy that relies on oil, rising prices at the pump affect everybody – workers and farmers; truck drivers and restaurant owners.  Businesses see it hurt their bottom line.  Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank.  For Americans already struggling to get by, it makes life that much harder

But here’s the thing – we’ve been down this road before.  Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon.  Working folks haven’t forgotten that.  It hit a lot of people pretty hard.  But it was also the height of political season, so you had a lot of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians waving three-point-plans for two-dollar gas – when none of it would really do anything to solve the problem.  Imagine that in Washington.

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New App to Crowd-Source NYC Subway Delay Information

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Using the NYC MTA's information page, or any of the apps based on it can be an exercise in imagined bliss. On the one hand, it's thrilling to get information on subway status, and whether a line is running before setting out for a subway stop. On the other hand, the information can come late, or be insufficiently detailed.

Here at Transportation Nation, we've often asked ourselves why subway information isn't crowdsourced. If the A train is delayed, hundreds or thousands of riders know it before the MTA relays that information. Now Roadify, the Brooklyn-based app outfit that started crowdsourcing arrival data for the B-67 bus, is adding all NYC subways lines to its crowdsourcing system.

True, the subways aren't wired.  But Roadify's Dylan Goelz says the hope is that a combination of information coming in from above-ground riders, riders leaving the subway, and riders entering stations will create a more complete and immediate picture than the MTA's own info page.

Tell us how it's working!

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New York State Continuing to Issue Thousands of Parking Placards

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Subaru in Lower Manhattan parking in a no parking zone displays placard that says "this vehicle is on official police business." Photo: Andrea Bernstein

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration is continuing to issue some 3500 parking placards to state legislators and state government employees. Those placards permit the bearer to park in most areas in New York City where others could not.  Many of the permits say “this vehicle is on official police business,” even though they are frequently carried by officials with no law enforcement responsibilities.

The practice is not new – it’s so accepted that spokespeople for the Governor, Assembly Speaker, and Senate Majority Leader could not immediately say how the placards are distributed, who gets them, or why.   But, according to Queens State Senator Tony Avella, who cut up his placard and then issued a press release about it, “it’s the kind of business-as-usual we promised to reform.”

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Governor Andrew Cuomo was swept in last November -- a Democrat winning in a pro-Republican year around the country -- on a platform of bringing a new era of ethical responsibility to Albany, a notoriously dysfunctional state government.    To the relief of many New Yorkers, he said he would "end business as usual."

Avella said he would not use his placard because, as a State Senator, he should experience New York the way his constituents do “and that includes looking for parking.”  Avella also said “I’m not on official police business, nor is any politician who gets one of these on official police business.”

Other elected officials have said in the past that having the placards enables them to attend several community events in a day, and that driving around looking for parking would mean they couldn’t serve their constituents as effectively.

Despite repeated inquiries over the course of a week, Governor Cuomo’s spokesperson, Joshua Vlasto, did not explain why the placards refer to “official police business,” even though that is not the case.

Some years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg faced a controversy when it was revealed that there were some 140,000 placards in use by city employees.  Those placards also used to refer to “official police business.”  But the Mayor promised to reduce city placards by half, and changed the language for non-law enforcement officers to “this vehicle is on official city business.”

The placards were a potential embarrassment because nothing irks a New York City resident more than the whiff of a city official getting a privilege he or she does not.  But also, making it easier for city employees to park is an inducement to drive to work at a time when Mayor Bloomberg is encouraging people to drive less and take mass transit more.   Other mayors around the country have also been  eliminating employee parking privileges for that reason, notably former Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, who took away the right of city employees to park free at meters.

When asked if Governor Cuomo would look at changing practices involving the state permits, Vlasto said in an email, “we are reviewing the matter.”

Right now, some 6000 placards are distributed by the state, according to the David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, which oversees the production of the placards.  Some 3500 go to New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.  Those placards say “State of New York Executive Branch.”  A spokesman for that Division, Dennis Michalski, could not immediately say on Friday how the recipients of those 3500 placards are chosen.

In addition, Bookstaver said, some 2500 placards are distributed to the New York State Judiciary – and some of those – about a hundred, go to the New York State Department of Environmental Protection, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Waterfront Commission. Those entities do have law enforcement responsibilities.

Senator Tony Avella's placard, cut down the middle

Senator Avella was unsure how he was chosen to receive one.  He said his placard was delivered to his Albany office, and that his understanding was that all State Senators received them.  A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader, Dean Skelos, whose party regained power after two years on the outs, Scott Rief,  said placards had been distributed previously by majority leaders as a perk, but he said that practice had ended.  The Governor’s office did not offer clarification on how the placards are distributed.

The pro-transit advocacy group, Transportation Alternatives, has been working for many years to shine on light on the practice, which it says encourages the use of personal vehicles over other forms of transportation, a practice they say is environmentally harmful.    TA’s Noah Budnick said “this is one of those things that recipients don’t question, because things have always been done this way.  But widespread distribution of placards for people who don’t need them has got to stop.”

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State Continuing Practice of Issuing Thousands of Parking Permits

Sunday, March 27, 2011

WNYC

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration is continuing to issue thousand of parking placards to state legislators and state government employees. Those placards permit the bearer to park in most areas in New York City where others could not. Many of the permits read "This vehicle is on official police business," even though they are frequently carried by officials with no law enforcement responsibilities.

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Deputy Mayor: We're "Foursquare Behind" Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan

Thursday, March 24, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Speaking on  WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show today, deputy mayor Howard Wolfson gave New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration's most full-throated endorsement in recent months of the city's policy of expanding bike lanes and pedestrian plazas.

"The Mayor is foursquare behind the commissioner," Wolfson said. "He believes this is the right thing. At the end of the day, when you take away all the overwrought rhetoric, it's about providing choices to New Yorkers."

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Wolfson was also asked to respond to anti-Prospect Park West bike lane attorney Jim Walden's charge, made yesterday on the Brian Lehrer Show, that the Quinnipiac poll showing 54 percent of New Yorkers think bike lanes are "a good thing" means "a very, very significant minority do not, and you can feel the pulse around the city and people are largely extraordinarily upset that the administration has been so fast and loose with the data, promised a robust study, and failed to deliver."

Wolfson said: (about a minute in) "If you had a political candidate who won by fifteen points in an election, you'd call it a landslide. And so fifteen points is a significant margin, especially considering some of the adverse press that bike lanes have gotten.  And you do have a minority of people who don't like bike lanes  -- and they're certainly entitled to that.  In this instance they've hired an outstanding attorney with a very, very prestigious law firm to engage in legal process and that's fine too, people are entitled to do that.

"We have thousands of lawsuits filed against the city every year.  If we let lawsuits or the threat of  lawsuits deter us from heeding the will of the people, the vast majority of the people, in making positive change, we'd never get anything done in the city...In this instance the DOT did nothing wrong and I am quite confident of the outcome of the legal process that the minority of people opposed to this bike lane have chosen to engage in."

(Note: Walden and his firm, Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, are working pro bono.)

Brian also Wolfson whether it's "a coordinated strategy from city hall to have the NYPD enforce" traffic laws for cyclists in Central Park and elsewhere.

Wolfson: (about 9 minutes in) "We have a strategy of providing greater transportation choices for New Yorkers, that certainly includes bike lanes, and we have a strategy of insuring our laws are obeyed on the roads."

You can listen to the interview below.

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Lawyer Suing City on Bike Lane Discusses Bike Lane Popularity, and Why He's Doing Case Pro-Bono

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Jim Walden, the lawyer representing groups who are suing New York City to remove a two-way bike lane that runs along Brooklyn's Prospect Park West, was on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show today (listen here or below) to discuss the lawsuit.  Much of what he said dedicated readers of this blog have heard before, but here are a few interesting parts.

About 15 minutes in, Brian asked Walden about the survey conducted by Brad Lander showing some three-quarters of residents surveyed support the bike lanes as is:

Walden:  (About 14:50 in) "As I've said to Brad directly,  I'm concerned about the position he's taking.  They keep trumpeting this study, as if safety was a popularity contest. What they don't talk about, and it mystifies me how they would do this - there are significant number of people who responded who said they felt less safe.  Now clearly the majority of the people felt more safe but it was more than 30 percent.

"I wonder if he conducted the survey again, and if he conducted the survey in person, and not over the internet so people could pad the numbers, and if he conducted it with senior citizens who access the park and disabled people who access the park what those numbers would say. "

(Michael Freedman-Schnapp, Lander's policy director, had called into the program, and he responded that some of the surveys had been conducted in person, and that all told eight percent of all residents living between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue -- a block away -- had responded to the survey. )

Brian Lehrer: (about 17:40 in) " Why are you doing this pro-bono? Isn't that usually reserved for indigent clients, not politically connected neighborhood groups?"

Walden: "No,  but I'm glad you asked me that question.  It's clearly been a source of great interest."

BL: "Right, I mean people say you're trying to suck up to Senator Schumer and get a job from him, because his wife is part of this group."

Walden: "She's not part of the group. He turned me down for the only job I ever applied so I promise you its not for any of those reasons. My pro bono work largely falls into two categories, part of it is a lot of work for indigent people and a lot of it is good government litigation.  I was part of the term limits team, attacking the mayor's decision to sidestep term limits, property tax rebates -- when they tried to double the expansion of a prison in a residential area.  These good government suits largely have big groups of the community, some of them rich, some of them middle class, some of them poor. None of them should have to pay to get their government to work."

[Just to clarify the above, when we'd initially reported on this, Walden told us he'd been introduced to the plaintiffs by Randy Mastro, a former deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani.  Mastro has working closely with both Senator Schumer and his wife, the city's former transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall.  While it's accurate to say that neither Senator Schumer nor his wife are plaintiffs, both have made their anti-Prospect Park West bike lane position clear, in a wide array of forums. Both joined a Facebook group in favor of removing the bike lane, and Weinshall co-signed a  letter to the New York Times. ]

Brian then asked about last week's Quinnipiac poll, showing that New Yorkers think bike lanes are "a good thing" by a 54 to 39 percent margin.

Walden: "If 54 percent support, that means a very, very significant minority do not, and you can feel the pulse around the city and people are largely extraordinarily upset that the administration has been so fast and loose with the data, promised a robust study, and failed to deliver."

Note: New York City deputy mayor, Howard Wolfson, will be on the Brian Lehrer Show on Thursday morning (at about 10:25am) to talk about bike lanes from the city's point of view.

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Mayor Bloomberg on Iris Weinshall

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his first public remarks on his former Transportation Commissioner, Iris Weinshall, today, in answer to a question about whether her opposition to the Prospect Park Bike lane is about defending her tenure as Transpo Commissioner.

Bloomberg said "I've known Iris for twelve years she was a commissioner in our administration for eight. She did a very good job. I was sorry she chose to leave, I tried to convince her to stay. I read about her position on bike lanes I think I'm probably on the other side of it. It's probably not fair to ascribe motives to Iris for trying to stop a bicycle lane other than she doesn't think there should be a bicycle lane there."

His comments came at a question-and-answer session after a press conference announcing New Yorkers can now pay parking tickets online.

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Tuesday is the 200th Anniversary of the Manhattan Street Grid

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Hats off to the New York Times' Sam Roberts for bringing our attention to the 200th anniversary of the Manhattan Street grid. In 1811, Roberts writes, Manhattan only went as far as Houston Street (then called North Street) -- above that was scattered farmland. But in an audacious move, city planners mapped a plan that would level hills, straighten streets, and plow through property.

They created a burgeoning metropolis, set up the walkable Manhattan we know it today, and powered the real estate industry.

The plan was greeted, literally, with cabbages and artichokes. Resonant?

Full article here.

And listen here to NYU professor Hilary Ballon speak with WNYC at about 7:30 Tuesday morning on what this 200-year old plan means for life today.

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NY City Hall Weighs in on Bike Lanes

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) None of the following will be new to our readers.  But it's interesting, in light of reporting that the New York City Mayor may not be backing Janette Sadik-Khan, that this memo comes today from Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, an extremely smart and experienced politico pro (former Schumer aide, former Hillary Clinton aide)  within the Bloomberg Administration, in response to a New York Magazine article (whose contents will also be no surprise to our regular readers, sniff.)

Would seem to indicate pretty strong support for JSK, which those familiar with the situation tell me is real, not manufactured.

UPDATE:  Howard emails me he's been tweeting on this issue for a while @howiewolf.t...Here are a few:

From March 18: Will those who say bike lanes are "imposed" note this? CB6 trans committee unanimously endorsed modifications for PPW bike lane last night

From March 18:  New Q Poll NYers support bike lanes by 15 points 54-39. Strong #s.

The City of New York

Office of the Mayor

New York, NY 10007

MEMORANDUM

To: Interested Parties

From:  Howard Wolfson

Subject: Bike Lanes

Date: March 21, 2011

In light of this week's New York magazine article about bike lanes I thought you might find the below useful.

  • The majority of New Yorkers support bike lanes. According to the most recent Quinnipiac poll, 54 percent of New York City voters say more bike lanes are good "because it's greener and healthier for people to ride their bicycles," while 39 percent say bike lanes are bad "because it leaves less room for cars which increases traffic."

  • Major bike lane installations have been approved by the local Community Board, including the bike lanes on Prospect Park West and Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn and on Columbus Avenue and Grand Street in Manhattan. In many cases, the project were specifically requested by the community board, including the four projects mentioned above.

  • Over the last four years, bike lane projects were presented to Community Boards at 94 public meetings. There have been over 40 individual committee and full community board votes and/or resolutions supporting bike projects.

  • Projects are constantly being changed post-installation, after the community provides input and data about the conditions on the street. For example:

o       The bike lane on Columbus Avenue was amended after installation to increase parking at the community’s request.

o       Bike lanes on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and on Father Capodanno Blvd. in Staten Island were completely removed after listening to community input and making other network enhancements.

  • 255 miles of bike lanes have been added in the last four years. The City has 6,000 miles of streets.

  • Bike lanes improve safety. Though cycling in the city has more than doubled in the last four years, the number of fatal cycling crashes and serious injuries has declined due to the safer bike network.

  • When protected bike lanes are installed, injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists), typically drop by 40 percent and by more than 50 percent in some locations.

  • From 2001 through 2005, four pedestrians were killed in bike-pedestrian accidents. From 2006 through 2010, while cycling in the city doubled, three pedestrians were killed in bike-pedestrian accidents.

  • 66 percent of the bike lanes installed have had no effects on parking or on the number of moving lanes.

I

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Queens Tunneling Starts on East Side Access Project

Saturday, March 19, 2011

(Queens, New York -- Alva French, WNYC) The MTA christened two new tunnel boring machines to kick off the Queens tunneling phase of the East Side Access Project. The East Side Access Project will provide a nonstop link to Grand Central Station on the LIRR and create a new transportation hub in Sunnyside, Queens.

Five miles of Manhattan bedrock have already been excavated to create two new tunnels slated for completion in May 2011. In April, the underground journey continues through softer soil in Queens for almost two additional miles. All four new tunnels using customized excavation techniques will be finished in October 2012, while the overall project will be put into service by 2016.

It's the biggest infrastructure project in the nation, the MTA says.  More here.

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Senator Bill Nelson: Last Hope for Florida High Speed Rail Dashed

Friday, March 18, 2011

This in from Democratic Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:

FLORIDA’S LAST REMAINING HOPE FOR $2.4 BILLION AND 24,000 HIGH-SPEED RAIL JOBS DASHED

"WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amtrak has just informed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson it would very much like to partner with a newly created regional authority in Florida to apply for high-speed rail money rejected by Gov. Rick Scott. But, Amtrak said, it cannot do so now.

“There’s not enough time to meet an April 4 deadline to apply for the $2.4 billion Scott recently turned down, the rail company just told U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson moments ago.  In essence, that means a bullet train linking Orlando, Tampa and Miami is, for now, gone.  And so are the 24,000 jobs it promised to bring to the state, Nelson said.

“During a call with Nelson at 10:20 a.m., Amtrak said it still would like to work with Florida cities on reviving the project in the future, because it believes in building a nationwide system of high-speed rail. Said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, “We’ll keep doing everything we can to fight for jobs and transportation improvements in Florida.

“Nelson, one of the prime backers of high-speed rail, received word from the head of Amtrak Joseph Boardman in a telephone call minutes ago.  It was followed by a letter.”

“Amtrak was the last possible hope for immediately saving the rail project’s initial phase.  When the state turned the money down last month, a consortium of cities along the proposed route – Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland, and Miami – stepped up and wanted to get the state’s federal grant money. amounting $2.4 billion.  Still, the governor said no.”

“Then federal transportation chief Ray LaHood said the cities would be welcome to apply for the funds in competition against other states, provided they could find a partner like Amtrak.”

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