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Transportation Nation

NYC Mayor Bloomberg: Cities Are Ahead Of Nations In Reducing Greenhouse Gases

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (photo by NYC Mayor's Office)

(New York, NY - WNYC) By the end of the decade, climate-related actions taken by cities around the world will reduce greenhouse gases by 250 million tons per year. That's what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told delegates at the Rio Earth Summit. He added that by 2030, the annual reduction of greenhouse gases by major cities could be a billion tons per year--the combined output of Mexico and Canada.

Bloomberg was addressing the Rio+C40 Summit, which he said includes 59 cities "from Bogota to Berlin, from Jakarta to Johannesburg, and from my New York."  One of every 12 people on the planet live in those cities, he said, and account for about 14 percent of the world’s total carbon footprint.

“The world is rapidly urbanizing," Bloomberg said. "Cities are becoming bigger and bigger. Our problems are sometimes harder and harder to tackle. Yet we continue to make major progress, even in times of tough budget cuts."

He said New York City has shrunk its carbon footprint by 13 percent in the past five years, and praised other cities for taking similar steps.

“Let me point out that nearly two-thirds of the climate change actions the C40 cities have taken have been paid for solely from our budgets – without support from our national governments," he said. "That’s because cities recognize our responsibilities to act; we haven’t waited for our national governments to go first."

Bloomberg also announced initiatives to improve the management of city solid waste, including reducing the release of methane and other greenhouse gases, and a web site "to provide a broad, deep, and constantly updated library on what the world’s cities are doing about climate change – and about the tools and resources cities can use to further their work."

Go here to read the mayor's full remarks.

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Transportation Nation

When Bike Parking Goes Wrong

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bike traffic jam (photo by Collin Campbell/WNYC)

Car alarm going off? Someone park too close to you? Putting notes on car windshields is a time-honored New York City way of conveying annoyance. Now that's expanding to another form of transportation.

Friend to TN (heck, he's TN spawn) Collin Campbell sent us this picture, describing it as "a (loud, argumentative) traffic jam on a bike rack." It was taken right around the corner from WNYC near the intersection of Varick and Charlton Streets -- a place where bike parking is indeed at a premium. But that's no excuse to lock your bike to another one. If you're the owner of a brown Upland Beach Cruiser, please report to the corner.

 

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Transportation Nation

Let it Zip: NYC's Summer Streets Gets Airborne

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Test-driving the zip line (photo by Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC)

(Guia Marie Del Prado -- New York, NY, WNYC) In case you missed the news earlier this week, New York City's fifth annual Summer Streets will have something new this year: a 30-foot zip line, which will give locals a new way to appreciate car-free streets.

During Summer Streets, a seven mile stretch of Manhattan roads — from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park — are closed to cars on three Saturdays in August. It allows New Yorkers to walk, bike and play in public spaces they usually don’t have sole access to.

The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled the free zip line at Union Square Park on Tuesday.

NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan (photo by Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC)

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said she rode the zip line, twice. “I highly recommend it," she said; "you don’t need a cup of coffee, just start the day with a zip line."

Fahim Saleh took a break from work as an app developer to test out the zip line with his co-workers.

“We thought we’d just take a break from work and why not?” he said. “Just zip line in the middle of work. Sounds like a good idea to me.”

Sophia Taylor, 47, waited in line to face her fears with her 6-year-old daughter Neveah.

“I want to try it because I'm afraid of heights,” Taylor said. “So I'm going to test my fears today and I'm going to get on there.”

Aside from the zip line, Summer Streets will also host a 25-foot climbing wall, yoga and other activities at different locations along the road on August 4, 11, and 18 from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

According to Sadik-Khan, as many as 60,000 New Yorkers make use of Summer Streets every year.

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Transportation Nation

NY Mayor: Removing Sheridan Expressway Would Cause Too Much Traffic

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


New York's Mayor responded in blunt terms Wednesday to calls to tear down an aging expressway and replace it with affordable housing, schools, and park.

At an unrelated press conference on clean energy buildings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said "The traffic impact would be so dramatic on lots of neighborhood. It would be great if you didn’t happen to have-need elevated highways or even highways at ground level, it takes space you could use for other things."

Some South Bronx community leaders want the city to tear down the Sheridan, and replace it with affordable housing and parks. But the city says that option is off the table.

For more details, read our previous story about the $1.5 million study about tearing down the Sheridan, and the Community leaders pushing for the plan.

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Transportation Nation

NYC's Refusal to Tear Down Sheridan Expressway Irks Activists, Locals

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sheridan Expressway (photo: Dougtone via flickr)


Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano is fuming over the city’s decision last month not to tear down the aging Sheridan Expressway and replace it with mixed-use development.

Serrano, a Democrat, helped get a $1.5 million federal grant for a years-long study that examined replacing the aging Bronx highway with housing and parks. The congressman said the city made a decision about the road that runs through the South Bronx before the study was completed.

"It destroys their dreams," he said, referring to members of the community who worked for more than a decade on the project. "It destroys the study. It destroys any semblance of doing it right by immediately taking this option off the table."

A spokesperson for the city says the two remaining scenarios — to retain and to modify the Expressway — "will continue to undergo further analysis. The study will be completed in early 2013." The city has said removing the highway would divert too much truck traffic to local streets.

Serrano says he'll work with members of the community to try to convince the city to change its mind.

"Why would you quickly say removing it is not an option?" he said. "Well then, why even keep studying it? That wasn't the agreement we had. We were going to look at everything."

Activists shared Serrano's outrage.

"The first thing that we need to do is for the city to look at all the economic development options that are possible," said Elena Conte, an organizer at the Pratt Center for Community Development, which is part of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance. "And to make a decision that actually benefits all the stakeholders in the community. And that involves giving (the Sheridan's removal) the hard look that it deserves."

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Transportation Nation

'Lost Subways' Goes Live At New York Public Library

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What might've been. (WNYC Map)

(New York, NY - WNYC) New York's Lost Subways loom large in the mind for things that aren't there.

Our January post, map and radio feature about the city's "ghost system" of never-built or abandoned lines sparked a robust public reaction. More than 5,700 TN readers talked them up on social media. And that fearsome cultural arbiter, New York Magazine's Approval Matrix, placed us not in the page's Lowbrow / Despicable quadrant -- where we always thought we'd end up -- but the Highbrow / Brilliant quadrant.

Best of all, New York Public Library took notice and invited us to cross the threshold of the esteemed Mid-Manhattan branch and give an illustrated talk about our lost subways research -- where they would've gone and why they weren't built -- and how tricky it was to come up with the post's cool interactive map.

The presentation happens this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with Jim O'Grady, WNYC reporter and TN contributor, and John Keefe, Senior Editor for Data News & Journalism Technology at WNYC.

Come by to say hello! And comment below to let us know where you'd build a new subway.

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Transportation Nation

Companies Get in the Race for NYC Taxi App

Monday, June 11, 2012

NYC Taxi (photo: Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

(New York, NY -- WNYC) A taxi app competition sponsored by New York City is heating up. The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is accepting proposals for an app that will help passengers pay for their taxi trips with their smartphones.

"You could pre-load your credit card and pre-set the tip amount that you use and that way when you get in a taxi you click that app and you don't have to worry about swiping that credit card at the end," said TLC Commissioner David Yassky.

In addition to the convenience of not having to dig for a credit card before getting out of a cab and having a record of the receipt, at least two of the companies in the running also promise their technology will assist customers in locating a taxi.

One of the competitors, Jay Bregman, who is CEO of the company Hailo, said, “We want to help solve the inefficiencies in the taxi market.” The company already offers a popular taxi app in London. “Why go into the street when you can hail the cab from inside the house or the bar?” he added.

Radios and dispatchers are barred from use in yellow cabs but companies like Hailo said that there isn’t any need for a dispatcher with their app — it’s more like putting your technology in the air, instead of waving your arm in the air to hail a cab.

But some in the industry are against using gadgets to find cabs.

The Livery Roundtable, a group that represents over 300 livery bases in the city, said in a statement: “Digital hailing is just another sleight of hand by the TLC to masquerade its desire to de-reregulate ground transportation … Besides forcing the driver to text and drive — prearranged service is legally the exclusive right of the for-hire service sector.”

But TLC Commissioner Yassky said digital hailing isn’t necessarily their goal — it’s only a function they’re considering.

"App developers are welcome to give us other functions on top of payment … we'll see what comes in," said Yassky.

Another company keen on getting into the city’s taxi market is GetTaxi.

The company’s CEO, Jing Wang Herman, said they’d like to provide drivers with a dashboard-mounted box that will help them connect with customers. In addition to other functions, their app will help disabled customers find a wheelchair-accessible taxi.

Yassky said the number of winners in the app contest depends on the quality of the submissions.

The last day to submit entries is Thursday. Winners are expected to be announced this fall.

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Transportation Nation

NPR's Car Talk Guys Retire - Reruns Continue

Friday, June 08, 2012

Ray, left, and Tom Magliozzi, of Car Talk (photo: Cartalk.com)

People are driving fewer miles, taking mass transit more frequently, and young people care way less about cars and driving.

Now comes word quarter-century-long running public radio program, Car Talk, will no longer produce fresh episodes.

NPR said today that:

"Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, the comedian mechanics who host NPR's Car Talk, will tell their listeners this afternoon that as of this fall, they'll no longer record new programs. But their weekly call-in series will continue to be distributed by NPR drawing on material from their 25 years of show archives." The show ran for ten years as a local program in Boston before going nationwide.

NPR says the two, who are 74 and 63, and who've broadcast for 35 years, decided "it was time to stop and smell the cappuccino."  (We are not making this up.)

Stations, including flagship WNYC in New York, say they'll continue to air the re-packaged episodes culled from choice moments out of the 12,500 logged and rated calls in the 25 years of archives.

The guffawing brothers aren't worried the show will sound stale in repeats. And why should they? Public radio listeners will still be hunting for affable fixit advice for a 1995 Suburu... ten years from now.

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Transportation Nation

Broken Permitting System Forces NYC Food Trucks Into Black Market

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The line on a recent afternoon for Korilla food truck. (Ilya Marritz/WNYC)

(Ilya Marritz - New York, NY, WNYC) Running a food truck may be the hippest job around. But there is a shadowy side to food trucks’ fun and quirky image.

In order to get started, many of these gourmet trucks flout the law, and pay high prices to obtain black-market vendor permits. They say they have no choice.

Ed Song is a part of the new wave of gourmet trucks. Together with two friends, he started Korilla, a group of three bright orange trucks that sell bulgogi, burritos and tofu tacos.

Ed Song (photo by Ilya Marritz/WNYC)

Speaking from his office in Ridgewood, Queens, the spiky-haired 26-year old sporting a Mickey Mouse T-Shirt said he decided to start a food business shortly after graduating from Columbia with a degree in economics and mathematics.

It was the year Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers failed, and striking out on his own seemed like the best path.

“All the jobs in finance were all drying up. And so I decided to take the opportunity to do what I wanted to do. And follow a passion,” said Song, whose parents emigrated to New York from South Korea.

Then Song discovered the fact that confronts every new food truck entrepreneur: to sell prepared food on the streets of New York City you need a permit. It’s a little bit like a driver’s license, authorizing the holder to be on the road.

A Mobile Permit Road Block

There are only 3,000 citywide, two-year permits, and there are so many names on the wait list (more than 2,000) that the Department of Health hasn’t taken names since 2007.

“There really is no legal channel to go through to obtain a permit,” he said.

So Song turned to a middleman for the permit for one of his three trucks (the other two permits he obtained by going into partnership with existing permit holders).

Recalling his first contact with the middleman, Song said “it was scary. You’re giving them a lot of hundred dollar bills without a receipt. It’s just the nature of the business.”

After an initial down payment, Song took the truck to the Department of Health for inspection, and when it passed, he paid the balance and received the white sticker that’s now on the side of the truck. In total, it cost about $20,000.

Several others in the food truck business confirmed the existence of a large and robust underground market for permits. But only Ed Song allowed his name to be used.

One popular vendor told WNYC anonymously that turning to the black market went against her instincts, as someone who’d worked in a variety of retail and service businesses.

“All the other jobs or businesses I was involved with were much more straightforward in terms of paperwork or how you get a license for something,” she said.

Vendors say the city’s Health Department does a thorough job of checking sanitary conditions in trucks. And traffic police frequently chase trucks out of spaces where vending is not allowed. But by ignoring the trade in permits, the Health Department forces them into the black market it claims it’s trying to eliminate.

It’s not known how many trucks operate under illicitly procured permits.

Song isn’t even sure whose name is on the permit he uses, and treats as his own.

“I could try to remember. I do have his name somewhere,” he said. “I don’t think this person even lives in New York City.”

How it Works

Where red-brick residential Brooklyn gives way to a grittier industrial neighborhood, there’s an unmarked asphalt lot where permits can easily be bought and sold.

This is a commissary, a one-stop shop where food truck entrepreneurs can get everything they need: purchase a vehicle, order meat and vegetables -- and secure a permit too.

On a recent visit to the lot, WNYC asked about buying a permit. A worker took the reporter into a store room full of jars of mayonnaise and pickles, and dialed a number on a cell phone and handed the phone to the reporter.

The man on the other end of the line, who called himself Mohammed, said he could obtain a second-hand permit in a few days, and it would cost $18,000.

New York City’s Health Department charges just $200 for the same document, so the street value is nearly 100 times higher than the official price. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported the street price was around $14,000, up sharply from just a few years earlier.

Vendors say the black market thrives because permit-holders can renew their papers year after year, for decades, without proving that they still operate a truck.

Like an illegal sublettor with a rent-controlled apartment, the vendor pockets the difference between the price set by the government and the market price.

A Longstanding Problem

Authorities are aware of the problem. In 2009, six people were arrested for trading in black market permits, which can be a felony offense. The arrestees included a Queens woman, Ifigenia Tsatsaronis (PDF).

Today, Tsatsaronis still runs a permit-services business out of a storefront on a quiet, tree-lined street in Astoria. The window of Effie’s, as the business is known, functions like a bulletin board for vendors – including those selling permits, as a recent visit by WNYC found.

“New Mobile Food Vendor Truck With Permit” said one. Another sign touted a “full-service lunch truck” including a two-year permit (no price given).

Tsatsaronis expressed surprise when a reporter pointed out these notices, which would seem to violate the city code forbidding the sale of permits.

“People put things in the window, I don’t check everything,” Tsatsaronis said, as she pulled down the flyers.

Tsatsaronis said the charges against her were eventually dropped, and that she was never prosecuted (the records of the case are sealed). And she said her work today is 100 percent legit: she works as an expediter, handling paperwork that can cut into the time vendors would otherwise spend on the street.

But she acknowledged the Department of Health’s current system of issuing permits is frustrating and “should be more systematic.”

Very Slowly, the City Responds

In a joint press release after the arrests, the Departments of Health and Investigation said they were discussing “improvements that would eliminate the criminal conduct found in the investigation, including the creation of a competitive, sealed bidding process to, in essence, replace the illegal payments with legal payments.”

WNYC recently asked the Health Department what changes have been made since the 2009 arrests. For weeks, the Department was silent.

On Wednesday, as this story was about to be published, the Health Department abruptly released new draft regulations covering permitting, among other things. Dan Kass, deputy commissioner for environmental health, conceded it’s a problem that longtime permit holders don’t need to show up in person to renew.

“We’re changing that,” Kass said. “We’re gonna require that the permit holder appear at least every two years, partly so that we can photograph them, we know who they are, to keep them close to the operation and to communicate that we fully expect them to be deeply involved in the operation of their cart as the law expects them to be.”

This could cut down on illegal transfers. But even Kass concedes it’s hard to eliminate a black market when the government limits the quantity of something valuable, and sets the price artificially low.

Song suggested the city raise the official price to reflect the street value and let the city collect that cash.

He reached for a calculator and did some quick math: $20,000 multiplied by 3,000 permits equals $60 million.

“That’s a lot of money,” Song said.

Song said he wanted to go public to draw attention to the issue, even if it meant putting the little Korilla food truck empire in jeopardy.

“That’s the risk that we take,” Song said. “Hopefully somebody will hear this, hopefully in the government, and would want to regulate and make a change in this industry. ‘Cause they’re leaving a lot of money on the table.”

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NYC's Livery Plan, And Billions in Budget Funding, Remain in Limbo

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Livery Cab (photo by Kate Hinds)

(New York, NY - WNYC) New York isn’t planning to appeal a temporary injunction against the city's five borough taxi plan — even though Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the decision “worrisome.”

Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engron’s ruling Friday against the plan has put the sale of 18,000 outer borough livery permits, as well as the auction of 2,000 yellow medallions on hold. That sale was estimated to bring in about a billion dollars to the city's cash strapped budget.

Bloomberg told reporters on Tuesday that money is key.

"If we were to not get it, it would be very serious,” he said. Bloomberg believes the city is on the “right side of the law” and the courts will eventually rule in their favor.

The court's ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by yellow medallion owners and lenders. It alleges the city’s plan to allow livery taxi street hail service outside Manhattan violated the state's constitution because Bloomberg went to Albany for approval instead of the City Council.

Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade (one of the plaintiffs in the case) said, “we hope the city realizes that the law is unconstitutional and unsalvageable – and that we can work on a clean slate so the city can get real revenue.”

While the city said last week that the court was “mistaken” in its analysis and was exploring its appellate options, Corporation Counsel’s Michael Cardozo said on Tuesday that the city isn’t appealing the ruling because the judge's decision is only an interim one, expected to be in place for only a few weeks. “We believe that immediate resolution rather than appealing one interim ruling is in everyone’s interests,” he said.

The court will be receiving submissions from all parties in the case on June 19 in connection with motions for summary judgment.

The livery permit sale was to begin this month; the medallion auction was set for July.

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NY Taxi Rates Expected To Rise by Summer's End

Monday, May 21, 2012

(New York, NY -- WNYC) By the end of the summer, it may cost more to take a taxi in New York.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission says it’s considering a fare hike on cabs later this month.  Its been 8 years since the last overall fare hike. The TLC will hold a public hearing on the rate hikes on May 31.

The Taxi Workers Alliance submitted a proposal for a hike a year ago. The group is asking for an increase between 20-25 percent.

Official sources say that number would likely be closer to 16-20 percent but that drivers have made a good case for an increase.

That would raise the average fare to $14 from about $12.

Taxi Workers Alliance’s Bhairavi Desai says  “Its about time, the last overall raise was in 2004—and we’ve seen drivers really struggling out there to make ends meet."

TLC Commissioner David Yassky says “it’s reasonable for taxi drivers and fleet owners to put this one the table. We will consider their petitions over the next couple of months.”

The TLC will also look at maximum lease rates, know as "lease caps," which have been requested by fleet owners.

If a fare increase is approved by the summer-- it will coincide with the sale of the new outer borough livery permits and 2000 yellow medallions.

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Union Says NY Subway Inspection Fraud Arrests Miss the Mark, Big Perpetrators Are Getting Off

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NYC subway signal. (photo by CC by Flickr user HelveticaFanatic)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Ten NY transit workers are set to be arrested Friday for allegedly falsifying records about how many subway signals they inspected in the years prior to 2009. But the low-level inspectors aren't the real criminals in the so-called "signalgate" scandal, says Transport Workers Union president John Samuelsen. He slammed the planned arrests, saying managers are the culprits.

The NY Daily News first reported the story; a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance confirmed to TN that the arrests are pending.

The signals keep trains moving smoothly and prevent them from crashing into each other. The MTA's own investigation released in 2010 found maintenance goals were not being met and records were falsified "on a widespread basis" to cover that up.

Samuelsen said the workers, who are expected to be charged with felonies, are low level signal maintainers and managers who were assigned excessive workloads. He said their supervisors may also have falsified their inspection records without the workers' knowledge.

"It's astounding to us that the senior level bosses that orchestrated this entire charade, this entire issue that led to fraudulent signal inspections, have been untouched by the district attorney," Samuelsen said.

He said senior management "put severe pressure on low-level field level supervisors and signal maintainers to perform fraudulent signal inspections."

Samuelsen further maintained that that a bar code system used to verify work "was so corrupt that any over-zealous manager could input an employee’s identification credentials and sign for as much equipment as he felt necessary."

The real perpetrators of subway signal inspection fraud, he claims, have so far gone untouched despite an investigation by NY MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger. "There's an absolute witch hunt going on here against transit workers and low level supervisors," Samuelson said, " while the big bosses hide behind the curtains."

Neither the Manhattan District Attorney's office nor Kluger would comment further on the case.

But MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg weighed in. He said, "If Mr. Samuelsen has any information that people involved in fraudulent signal inspections have not been prosecuted, he should present it to the district attorney."

NY MTA Signal Division Chairman John Chiarello told WNYC that TWU members arrested in the Signalgate investigation could expect to be backed by the union as they make their way through the legal system. "Leadership of the union is going to stand behind the members and we’re going to defend them," he said.

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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About NYC's Bike Share Program

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

(Photo Andrea Bernstein)

WNYC listeners had questions about New York City's impending bike share program -- and TN's Andrea Bernstein had answers. Cost? Liability? Docking station locations? Length of ride? She fielded phone calls on Tuesday's Brian Lehrer Show on all of these topics.

And want to hear her response to Miriam in Greenwich Village, who complained that "bicycle riders are not very good about following traffic rules -- they don't stop for red lights"? Listen to the segment below.

And go to the Brian Lehrer Show web page as well to read the healthy conversation in the comments section.

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Transportation Nation

42 Bike Share Docks for Lower Manhattan Revealed in Semi-Public Rollout

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Slide showing the location of several planned bike share docks in Lower Manhattan. (Photo by Jim O'Grady)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The New York City Department of Transportation continues to show community boards in Brooklyn and Manhattan where it's planning to install Bike Share stations in those boroughs.

NOTE: WE'VE TURNED THIS INTO AN INTERACTIVE MAP, VIEW IT HERE.

NYC DOT has promised to post a map of the entire system online once it's done. But the department is sticking by its refusal to release the draft maps, though it's supposed to have the actual program up in running by mid-July, a mere 10 weeks from now.

There is a way to glimpse what the city has in mind, and that's to go to a community board meeting and sit through the department's presentation of bike share locations. Hence our presence, with cell phone camera, at Thursday night's meeting of Community Board 1's Planning and Infrastructure Committee.

We photographed five slides, like the one above, that show where the bike share docks would go around Lower Manhattan. By our count, CB 1 will hold 42 of them.

The locations were whittled down through a series of meetings with department staff and community board members. Kate Fillin-Yeh, director of New York City Bikeshare, said any proposed location that had been red-flagged in a previous meeting did not make the cut.

Of the 42 that remain, twelve would require the removal of parking spaces--"three or four" per location, according to Fillin-Yeh. The stations would also be installed on street sites not used for parking, sidewalks, parks and plazas, and private property.

She said the department tried to spread the the bike docks evenly throughout Lower Manhattan, and place them near subway stations, large institutions like New York Law School, and tourist sites like south Street Seaport and the boat to the Statue of Liberty.

Board members reacted positively to the plan, with some praising the DOT for the way it has run its consultation with the community. The plan will be presented to the full board in the coming weeks.

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Space Shuttle Enterprise to New York On Friday

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

(New York, NY -- Soterios Johnson, WNYC) NASA officials are delaying the arrival of the Space Shuttle Enterprise to New York until Friday.

Space Shuttle Enterprise is now  scheduled to come to New York on Friday morning on the back of a specially modified NASA 747.  That is, if the weather permits.

This just in, from NASA:

NASA managers, in coordination with Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum officials, tentatively are targeting Friday, April 27, for the ferry of space shuttle Enterprise from Washington Dulles International Airport to John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York.

Managers shifted the flight from Wednesday to Friday because of a large region of low pressure dominating the East Coast. The weather is predicted to be more favorable Friday.

NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) with Enterprise mounted atop will fly at a relatively low altitude over various parts of the New York City metropolitan area on Friday. The aircraft is expected to fly near a variety of landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and Intreprid. After the flyover is complete, the SCA will land at JFK.

The Federal Aviation Administration is coordinating the flight, which is scheduled to occur between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. EDT, weather permitting. The exact route and timing depend on weather and operational constraints.

WNYC is collecting photos on Friday:  Send in your photos here. (scroll to bottom of post)

See the results here.

A large region of low pressure on the East Coast has made it difficult to predict an acceptable day for the flight. NASA officials will keep a close eye on the weather.

"It's the crosswinds they worry about and gusts.  And also rain," said Matt Woods of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, where the shuttle will be going on display this summer.  "You know it doesn't fly like a typical aircraft when you have this large 160,000-pound object on its back.  The aerodynamics are off a little bit.  And they just want to make sure they do it right."

If weather conditions permit, the shuttle will be flown to Kennedy Airport on Friday from Washington D.C., where it has been on display at the Smithsonian Institution. The jumbo jet carrying the shuttle will perform a low-altitude flyover of the shuttle's new hometown, perhaps passing by city landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and the Intrepid.

Enterprise was built as a prototype vehicle for the shuttle program to perform test flights and landings.  And, even though this shuttle never actually went into space, the Intrepid Museum's Woods says it's an important acquisition.

"We look at the Enterprise as really the test vehicle that made the rest all possible, that made all the space exploration possible with the Space Shuttle program,” he said.  “Without Enterprise, without proving that you could do takeoffs and landings with these things, you never would have gotten further with the program."

After it arrives in New York, Enterprise will be transported in early June from JFK Airport to the Intrepid Museum by barge through the New York Harbor and up the Hudson River.  It will then be lifted by crane onto the Intrepid's flight deck.  The museum plans to have the shuttle exhibit open to the public by July.

"We're going to design an experience around the outside of the shuttle, but we'll be able to walk under ours here," said Woods.  "We'll build some ramp systems, where you can see it from different angles, create a nice lightshow and a defined exhibit route with interactive audio-visuals -- create a whole experience."

 

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Almost Half Of Staten Island Ferry Fleet Crippled By Chronic Engine Trouble

Friday, April 20, 2012

 

Staten Island Ferry looking iconic as it crosses New York harbor. (Photo by shiny red type)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The Staten Island Ferry is free to passengers, but engine problems with three of the fleet's seven boats are costing the city millions. And that's causing a showdown between the city Department of Transportation and NYC Comptroller John Liu.

DOT says the ferry's three largest boats, which cost $139 million, have had problems with their propulsion systems since they went into service in 2005 and 2006. The department says the original contractor, the Wisonsin-based Manitowoc Marine Corporation, has failed repeatedly to fix them. So the department has asked Liu to approve an emergency contract of $9.5 million to hire Siemens to do the job.

DOT Spokesman Scott Gastel said in a statement to TN that, “This vendor will be a one stop shop for an integrated propulsion system on all three boats, an upgrade that will benefit over 65,000 passengers who rely on the Ferry each day. We clearly explained to the Comptroller why the new Siemens products are needed.”

Liu is not pleased. He said, "It's appalling that the highly-touted new ferry boats are still saddled with defects and more troubling that the DOT has no clear solution for resolving these longstanding problems.”

The comptroller is only approving $3.2 million for repair work on one of the ferries, which is in dry dock in Virginia. He says if that goes well, he might approve more. In the meantime, ferry riders must make do with boats have trouble getting up to speed.

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Transportation Nation

Musician: Use Technology To Make NY Subway Turnstiles Sing

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Should a beep be replaced by a series of notes?  (photo by Susan NYC via flickr)

An off-the-cuff idea about re-tuning subway turnstiles is--pun alert!--striking a chord in New York.

Musical legend David Byrne and LCD Sound System co-founder James Murphy sat down at Yale last month for a moderated discussion on the evolving role of the artist in the digital age, during which Murphy floated the radical notion that the beep attending a MetroCard swipe need not be shrill and grating. Not only that, Murphy suggested turnstiles at a given station could be set to sound with a range of notes to give that station a particular sound, especially at rush hour, when the swipes come as swiftly as the notes in a Beethovian crescendo.

The notion has bounced around the blogoshere, including this post that reports on whether the NY Metropolitan Transit Authority would be interested in making the underground experience more sonorous. (No.)

Meanwhile, you can read about James Murphy's turnstile plans -- and listen the Soundcheck - moderated conversation.


All the subway turnstiles in New York City…make a beep. It’s a really unpleasant sound and the one that’s right next to it is slightly out of key with it. So, it’s like “ehhh….aehhh…uehhh” Unless you get it wrong and it’s like, “No!” Then it’s the sound of your bruised hip as you hit the thing…

So I thought, I love New York and I love its aggression, and I love that it doesn’t make it easier for you to be a member of the city…But, I wanted to change the sound of going through the turnstile to a series of notes - I could do a little program. I could be like, well, the dominant note is the root, this is the fifth, this is the third, have a couple of sevenths, throw a few sixths in there just to be crazy. And during rush hour it would make arpeggiated music. And each subway station could have its own key or tonal set. For me, for a new person going to work, I think it would just be nice. It would be hard not to like that more than “shut up, idiot, you’re walking so slow!”

It would be an interesting way to have people relate to the city and I didn’t think it would be that expensive…if anybody knows anybody?

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Transportation Nation

Killed While Cycling: Why So Few Fatal Bike Crashes Lead to Arrest in NYC

Sunday, April 08, 2012

A "bike lift" in silence during a memorial ride for killed cylists, March 2012 (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

Last year, 21 cyclists died in vehicle crashes in New York City.  But only two drivers were arrested and local district attorneys are hard pressed to cite convictions for cyclist deaths.  Instead, they say, cyclists and their advocates don't understand how tough it is to call a traffic crash a crime.

As far as intersections go, Bowery and Delancey is a pretty big one, eight lanes cross six. It’s never really empty, not even at 1:30 in the morning. It was that time of night about four years ago when Rasha Shamoon was fatally struck there by a Range Rover while riding her bike home.

As is standard procedure in traffic deaths in New York City, the police arrived and treated the intersection as a crime scene. They interviewed the three people in the car, but no other witnesses were mentioned in the police report -- several people had called 911 from the scene, but we'll never know if they saw the crash or not. Police determined Rasha Shamoon caused the crash and let the driver go.

Rasha's mother didn't buy the story. Samira Shamoon would later tell a New York city council hearing: “The first police report to the newspaper claimed that Rasha was at fault because she had  run the red light and she was not wearing a helmet.” No helmet was found at the scene, but Rasha was known as obsessive on safety issues.

“Even the statement they got from the driver and his friends were not accurate and complete,” Samira Shamoon lamented. To get more information, she took the driver to civil court.

“We didn’t have any eye witnesses that said he was speeding," says Shamoon's lawyer, Adam White.  "We didn’t have an accident re-constructionist, nothing in the police report that indicated rate of speed.” White used circumstantial evidence: Rasha's whole bike was covered in reflective tape, the passengers gave partially-conflicting accounts, and the 21 year-old driver had at least six previous moving violations.

"Ultimately the jury found that the driver was 95 percent at fault and it put 5 percent of fault on Rasha,” White said of the verdict handed down in February. The Shamoons were awarded $200,000.

The year Rasha Shamoon was hit, 2008, was the worst since 2000 for cyclist deaths: 26 people died. Last year, it was 21. But there were 27 times when a cyclist died, or was thought likely to die in NYC—that's how police categorize cases for record keeping. The NYPD tells WNYC of those 27 cases, two drivers were arrested. Looking at all cases where a driver kills someone -- pedestrian, cyclist, other motorists, themselves -- forty percent of the time, there’s not even a traffic ticket. Explaining why not, gets complicated.

Cyclist deaths in 2011 -- locations and dates from NYC DOT.

Bike advocates like Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives want the police to get tougher. If drivers cause crashes that kill, she told me, they should face serious consequences. “Even if you can’t prevent that crash, you can follow up and make sure that another crash like it doesn’t ever happen."

As cycling has taken hold in New York, and cases like Rasha Shamoon’s make their rounds on the bike blogs, something of a furor has risen up in the cycling community. Samponaro’s group organized protests outside police headquarters in November after another killed cyclist's family started criticizing the NYPD investigation.

Artist Mathieu Lefevre was hit by a truck in October in Williamsburg. The driver told police he did not know he hit anyone, so continued driving a few blocks before parking. No charges were filed because police determined both parties were at fault.

Erika Lefevre, Mathieu's mother, pressed for more investigation, and publicly complained the police withheld information from her, eventually filing a freedom of information request to see what the investigation report had found.

There were no photos from the scene because the police camera broke, according to the police report. And the only surveillance video from the scene doesn't show the crash.

I called the truck driver several times. When he didn’t return my calls, I went to his house to try to get his side of the story, but all he said was “no comment.”

As for the police, they say they're just following the law.

Sparked largely by the Lefevre case, the City Council held a four-hour hearing on traffic safety in February. “We realize that these are not just numbers on a piece of paper," NYPD Deputy Chief John Cassidy told angry council members and victims' family members. "And in my opening statement when I said one fatality is one too many, I seriously believe that,” he added.

The morning turned into a lesson in organizational charts, patrol guides and traffic law. The NYPD's most involved traffic investigations are handled by the Accident Investigation Squad. In 2000, there were 24 detectives. Now, because of budget cuts, there are 19. They handle the whole city.

So those detectives can only show up when someone dies or is declared likely to die by a medical professional. Asking them to handle more cases, or adding more detectives would be a policy choice, Cassidy said. “It would take resources away from other enforcement initiatives. One person can’t do two separate jobs at the same time.”

Those other initiatives include speed traps and DUI checkpoints. And, as Cassidy pointed out, traffic deaths are at an all time low. "So the accidents that you speak of," he told the council, "are not in fact occurring. So it’s not that we’re not doing anything out there. I think it’s quite the contrary -- we’re doing a lot with [a] lot less.”

I asked the police to explain how they determine when to make arrests, when to issue a ticket, and when to just let the driver go in a fatal crash with a cyclist. In an email, they said a motorist needs to break two traffic laws to rise to the level of criminal.

“Speeding alone will not produce criminality” the statement reads. “Passing a stop sign only will not provide for criminal charges. They will result in a speeding summons and a stop sign summons only, but together we have established a criminal charge of Criminally Negligent Homicide or higher.”

You'd need both to slap cuffs on a driver. And the police would need to witness speeding to prove it in most cases, they point out.

“We as a society have chosen to drive these  big cars," said Joe McCormack, Assistant District Attorney for the Bronx. It’s his job to prosecute traffic crimes. "And we also as a society have chosen not to criminalize every single small mistake that just has a dramatic consequence because you're driving a car,” he said.

I asked all five district attorneys for an accounting of how many times someone who killed a cyclist was convicted of a crime. They all said they don’t track cases that way. But after much prodding for examples of what types of cases lead to jail time, the Queens DA cited two cases. In a 2009 case, a driver who had just sold heroin to an undercover officer was fleeing the scene when he struck and killed a cyclist. He was sentenced to seven-and-a-half to 15 years. In a 2006 drunk driving case, the motorist was sentenced to two-and-a-half to five years.

The Manhattan D.A. pointed to the case of Marilyn Dershowitz, sister-in-law of prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz. The driver has been indicted. The case is pending.

The Brooklyn D.A. has brought three cases where bicyclists died in the past two years. All got convictions. Two were prosecuted as aggravated unlicensed driving charges. The third death case was tried as a manslaughter but ended with a jury trial conviction of driving with a suspended license.

Only one cyclist died in the Bronx last year. It was a hit and run. The driver was never found.

“There are times where the factual situation that is presented to us doesn’t rise to a crime," McCormack said. "And it’s important to realize that the reason it doesn’t rise to a crime is that society has made that decision that it doesn’t want it to be a crime.”

Some in society do.

When the weather warmed last month, a couple hundred cyclists held a memorial ride to honor the 21 bike riders who were killed on city streets last year. They placed white painted ghost bikes at the site of each crash. Read a statement in front of the 90th Precinct where four cyclists were killed last year, including Lefevre. And rang their bike bells the the backdrop of a bagpipe.

Those 21 deaths, they say, are 21 too many.  On that, the police agree.

Audio of protest used with permission from Streetfilms. In addition to our map above, cyclist deaths from other years are tracked and mapped at Ghostbikes.org

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Transportation Nation

Taxis Are So Hot: Nissan Uses NYC Cab as Ad Model

Monday, March 26, 2012

(Soterios Johnson, WNYC -- New York) New York City's "Taxi of Tomorrow" will be making a kind of early appearance starting this week.

Nissan, the maker of the city's next model taxicab, said it will be using the boxy van in an ad campaign to help brand the company as innovators to be showcase the company's innovation.

Last year, Nissan's NV200 van won the city's design competition for all new New York City yellow cabs, which are expected to hit city streets next year.

Among the taxi's novel features are passenger airbags designed to work around the partition, exterior alert lights when a door is opened, independent passenger climate controls and more cargo room than a large sedan.

The car company’s advertising campaign will include huge billboards throughout the city around town, social media outreach and signs on existing taxi rooftops. It will also tie in the company's launch of five new vehicles over the next 15 months.

One of the other aims of the campaign is to get people to visit one of the new taxis at next month's New York International Auto Show.

Nissan's confidence in attaching its brand so closely with the city is seen as a sign of how big a draw New York has become for advertisers.

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Transportation Nation

The Next New York Cabs? For the Outer Boroughs, City Eyes Green Cabs

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Photo Illustration: John Keefe/WNYC. Original image courtesy of bsabarnowl/flickr

( New York, NY -- Kathleen Horan, WNYC) It ain’t easy being green. But in a few months New Yorkers could be hailing an emerald, lime or chartreuse cab.

The city is moving ahead with its plan to sell street hail livery permits that allow livery cars to accept street hails in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs. Part of the plan: the cabs have to be noticeably different from other taxis.

The TLC rules state the cabs “must be painted” what’s called “Street Hail Livery [color to be designated]” — and it can’t be yellow.

[To vote on what color you like, click here. )

Though TLC officials say they have not yet settled on a color, insiders say it’s been narrowed down to green.

“From my understanding, it’s going to be ‘livery green,’” said Guy Palumbo, former executive director of the Livery Roundtable.

Green has become the likely choice through a process of elimination, according to Livery Base Owners Association spokeswoman Cira Angeles.

“Blue to a certain degree is associated with the police, red with emergency vehicles. Finally someone mentioned green, and it sounded like a pretty good idea when it comes to identifying the car,” she said. “I, personally, love green.”

Other than color, street hail liveries will look and act like yellow medallion taxis. They’ll have roof lights, credit card readers, meters and partitions.

But street hail liveries can only pick up in the outer boroughs and in Manhattan north of West 110th street and East 96th. Airports are also excluded.

The yellow taxi hasn’t always been painted its signature color. Cabs could be found in an array of hues until the City Council passed a bill in 1968 that prohibited non-medallion cabs or liveries from using typical cab colors of yellow, orange, red or gold— differentiating them from medallion cabs.

In 1970, the city made yellow the official color of the medallion cab.

Yellow was the easiest color to differentiate long distance and not a lot of regular cars on the road were painted that color, according to professor GrahamRussell Gao Hodges, author of the book Taxi! A Social History of the New York City Cab Driver.

He said now the livery industry has come “full circle,” ready to enter a more legitimate world and be painted its own distinctive color.”

The TLC is expected to announce the color sometime this spring before the draft rules are finalized and the sale of the first 6,000 livery permits begins in June.

Livery passengers have differing opinions about what color the TLC should settle on.

Bronx resident Mario Robles favors dark blue, the color of many New York professional sports teams.

“Green is OK, but me, personally, I don’t think it professional,” he said. “I’ve seen green cabs in other cities, I don’t think of it as a New York color.”

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