Thursday, October 31, 2013
There was not a dry eye in the room Thursday morning as the parents and sister of a 12-year old boy killed by a van in Brooklyn testified in favor of a bill reducing speed limits in New York City's residential areas to 20 mph. The chair of the City Council's transportation committee, reporters, even the taxi owner lobbyist who'd come to testify against the bill -- couldn't stop crying. We were sobbing too.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
After an 88-year-old woman was beaten to death inside her Bronx public housing apartment, Councilman James Vacca said security cameras will be installed at the development where she lived.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Let's go back in time to December 2010. The city's tabloid editorial pages are just beginning to sink their teeth into the transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, for -- among other things -- her avid support of bike lanes and pedestrian plazas. In Brooklyn, well-connected residents are preparing to sue to remove a bike lane.
On December 9, New York's City Council holds a standing-room-only, overflow-room-inducing, five hour-plus hearing on bikes and bike lanes in New York City. Bronx councilman James Vacca, who chairs the council's Transportation Committee, kicks things off first by warning the crowd to be polite, then sets the stage by pointing out "few issues today prompt more heated discussion than bike policy in New York City."
In the hours that followed, he was proven correct: Sadik-Khan was grilled, interrupted, and accused of ignoring the will of the public, prevaricating, and acting by fiat.
And she was put on the defensive, repeatedly exclaiming "That's what we do!" when yet another council member excoriated her for not soliciting sufficient community input.
At one point, Lewis Fidler, a council member from Brooklyn, told Sadik-Khan her answer was "kind of half true. I don't say that to be snooty. I say it because I think maybe you're not aware."
And then he reeled himself him. "This is not like you've got to be for the cars or you've got to be for the bikes or you've got to be for the buses. It's really not...the cowmen and the farmers can be friends."
The mood at this week's Transportation Committee hearing, held in the same hearing room as the 2010 hearing -- and with many of the same players in attendance -- was markedly different.
"I want to first off say thank you to the agency," Fidler started, before launching into an encomium. "Quite frankly I don't always get the answer I like from DOT, but we get a lot of answers from DOT. And they're very responsive, your agency, your Brooklyn office continues to be a very responsive one."
He then waxed on about major construction work going on on the Belt Parkway -- a roadway almost entirely in his council district. "I will say for a project of that size to have gone on, without my getting repeated complaints from constituents -- that says something all by itself, and the work that's been completed looks really good."
Back in 2010, Fidler's questioning of Sadik-Khan was one of that hearing's most contentious exchanges, with the two of them repeatedly interrupting each other. Fidler at that time told Sadik-Khan that her answers were "half true;" he later accused the DOT of failing to solicit community input on bike lanes -- a charge Sadik-Khan repeatedly denied.
On Tuesday, Fidler asked Sadik-Khan to look into repairing a bike lane in his district (a lane under the Parks Department jurisdiction since it's on their land. Sadik-Khan said she'd make sure her office reached out to the Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe.)
So maybe the cowmen and the farmers might be friends after all.
To be fair, Tuesday's hearing was not one in which members of the public could comment (public hearings on the budget will be held next week), and biking wasn't the only topic on the agenda.
Peter Koo is the Queens councilman who represents Flushing (a neighborhood so heavily trafficked by pedestrians that the DOT said Tuesday that it's slated for a sidewalk expansion project.) At the 2010 hearing, Koo complained that bikes lanes had been implemented at the expense of motorists and pedestrians, and that they were empty. "I hardly see any people using the bike lanes," he said at the time. (Transcript here; Koo's remarks begin on page 39.)
At Tuesday's hearing, Koo had a different complaint. "I find a lot of bicycles chained to the fence, to the trees, light poles, meter poles, everywhere." He wants the NYPD to cut the chains of bikes that are illegally parked. But before that happens, he said, "we have to find a place for them to park."
Letitia James -- long a bike lane supporter, put the cherry on the Charlotte Russe. "Commissioner, I want to thank you for all the docking stations in my district. I want to thank you for the bike share program. I want to thank you for using my picture, my image, on your website, on the bike -- it's absolutely fabulous. Thank you for the plazas in my district...thank you for all the street renovations...thank you for the bike lanes, thank you for recognizing that we all have to share the space and no one is entitled to a city street."
A few minutes after James spoke, the May 29th hearing ended.
"I do think since that hearing in 2010, many actions my committee has taken, and the legislation that we have passed, has brought New York City DOT to a realization that they could do a better job when it comes to community consultation," Council transportation chair Jimmy Vacca said in a phone interview. "I think there's been more outreach, there's been more involvement, so I think that the strongly held views that existed in 2010 have somewhat been mitigated by DOT realizing that it's better to work with local neighborhoods where possible and to try to seek areas of consensus."
And is he happy with bike lanes? Yes -- even though he said the ones in his Bronx district weren't heavily used. "I do think in time, though, people will be bicycling more in neighborhoods where they are not bicycling now. And I think the groundwork that we've laid legislatively will make that reality more positive, have a more positive impact on neighborhoods throughout the city."
Vacca said the Bronx bike lanes have been successful in reducing speeding. "They've had an impact in slowing down vehicular traffic, and that's always a positive thing," he said, adding that that's a persistent issue for his constituents. "In my neighborhood there's not a block party I go to, there's not a civic association I go to, where people are not demanding speed bumps, where they're not demanding police enforcement for ticketing of people who speed in their cars."
Next up for the City Council: reigning in rogue delivery people -- a project they're collaborating with the DOT on. "We cannot have commercial bicyclists driving the wrong way on one-way streets, we cannot have them ignoring red lights, we cannot have them on sidewalks," Vacca said, adding that he's working on legislation to address this. "I think within the next several weeks we should have a consensus bill that will reflect my views as well as the views of the Department of Transportation. We're working together to come up with type of bill, and I think we're making good progress."
TN MOVING STORIES: Problems Delay Debut of LA's Expo Line, Boca Raton Rolls Out Bike Paramedics, North Dakota Oil Boom Strains Housing
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
New York’s Taxi Bill’s Long and Bumpy Ride (Link)
Maryland Moves Closer to Joining D.C. and Virginia in Capital Bikeshare Program (Link)
Hispanics Overrepresented in D.C. Area Pedestrian Deaths (Link)
DC Dangles Cash to Fight Congestion (Link)
The opening date for Los Angeles's long-awaited Expo Line has been postponed several times, and technical problems continue to delay the light rail system's operation. (Los Angeles Times)
The New York Times test-drives possible reasons for the FAA's ban on electronic devices during takeoff and landing. Verdict: "The only reason these rules exist from the F.A.A. is because of agency inertia and paranoia.” (Link)
What started out as commuter rail will end up as bus service on highway shoulders in the Kansas City area. (Kansas City Star)
Oil towns in North Dakota have spawned a robust job market, but there aren't enough homes for all the workers. (Marketplace)
In Madrid -- and maybe one day in the Bronx -- parks bloom where freeways once ruled. (New York Times)
Boca Raton (FL) started a bicycle paramedic program. (AP via New York Daily News)
London's subway drivers walked out over a pay dispute Monday, causing trouble for thousands of shoppers heading out for the start of Christmas sales. (BBC)
Fare hikes and service cuts are looming in 2012 as Massachusetts' transit system tries to erase a deficit. (AP via WBUR)
A Boston T employee is in hot water after programming the LED display signs in one station with the lyrics to "Deck the Halls." (Boston Globe)
The head of the New York City Council's Transportation Committee is considering a range of legislation aimed at regulating bicyclists. (New York Posts)
TN's Todd Zwillich is hosting The Takeaway this morning.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
CUNY officials say that if the Bloomberg Administration follows through with its budget cut plans, community college students will suffer from a domino effect. At a City Council hearing Monday, CUNY officials said cuts to instructional staff will lead to fewer classes, larger class sizes and lower graduation rates. CUNY students also face a five-percent tuition hike.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
By Kate Hinds
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New York City Council’s Transportation Committee held a meeting today on the impact of bicycles and bike lanes in the city. Committee chair James Vacca told the packed room that when it came to bikes, he knew passions were high. “Believe it or not,” he said, “few issues today prompt more heated discussion than bike policy in New York City.”
And it showed: there was a long wait in line to clear security, and the City Council hearing room’s overflow room had to be used. More than 70 speakers signed up to voice their opinions about bikes and bike lanes, but the hot seat belonged to City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who was grilled by council members for almost two hours. (Click the audio player to hear her statement, as well as the extensive—nearly two hour—question and answer session, below. The transcript -- all 296 pages -- can be found here.)
Sadik-Khan said that her department's goal is to create an interconnected bike lane network citywide. “Half of the trips in New York City are under two miles, we think cycling has a strong role to play in the transportation network,” she said. In other words, if you build it, they will ride. “The addition of 200 miles of new bike lanes between 2006 and 2009 coincided with four straight years of double-digit percentage increases in our commuter cycling counts,” she said, adding that the increase in cycling, and the concurrent pedestrian improvements made to streets, made 2009 “the lowest overall traffic fatality rate in New York City’s history.”
But some council members felt that their districts had been left out of the planning process, and Brooklyn’s Lewis Fidler said that the DOT needed to do a better job of getting public input. “You gotta go back to communities and ask them again,” he said emphatically.
"That's what we do! That's what we do, that’s what we do, council member!” the commissioner interjected. “I'm asking that it be institutionalized,” said Fidler. Sadik-Khan said during her statement that her agency “remain(s) committed to problem-solving for and with the people of the City on a nearly 24/7 basis.”
She also said that the lanes have proven to be a good investment, because bicycle commuting in New York City has increased by 109 percent since 2006. It's a bargain according to her figures: the federal government bears 80 percent of the total cost, leaving New York City to pay just 20 percent of the bill for bike lanes.
But the topic of enforcement—of bicyclists who run afoul of the rules of the road, of buses and cars who block lanes—came up continually, with many council members wondering how best to ensure that cyclists obey the rules of the road.
Sadik-Khan said that the DOT is planning a major media campaign in the spring that will feature celebrities “bluntly tell(ing) cyclists to stop riding like jerks.” There will also be a bike ambassador program to help people obey the rules of the road.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
By Kate Hinds
UPDATED WITH NEW COMMENTS FROM JANETTE SADIK-KHAN (Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) We've been following New York City's plans to build protected bike lanes on Manhattan's east side. These lanes were initially planned to stretch from Houston Street in the East Village up to 125th Street in East Harlem, but construction has stopped at 34th Street. Last week supporters held a rally urging the city to move forward on the lanes' full implementation. So when we saw the city's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, in Brooklyn this morning, we asked her if the lanes would be extended north of 34th street. Here's the exchange.
KH: Are there plans to build out the East Side bike lanes?
JSK: We’re working on what we’re working on right now. We’ve got a full plate.
KH: I know you had said in the summer it wouldn’t happen in 2010; is it on the table for 2011?
JSK: Not at the moment.
KH: Not at the moment?
JSK: No. Our plans are our plans and we continue to work with communities about what’s the right set of tools and what works best, tailored to meet community needs.
(You can hear the exchange here.)
KH: Why did the city back away from the original plan to go north of 34th street?
(answer after the jump)