Day Two: Ten Things for Governor Spitzer to Fix

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Eliot Spitzer’s campaign for governor promised, "Day One: Everything Changes." Well, it’s Day Two and it’s time to govern. Much of New York City’s transportation policy rests in the hands of Albany legislators and agency officials. Here are ten things that the new governor can do to make New York City’s streets more livable and transportation policy more sensible. Feel free to add more to the list in the comments section.

1. Improve safety on the Hudson River Greenway.

Congratulations, Governor Spitzer. You now run the busiest bike path in the United States. Some 5,000 cyclist use Manhattan’s west side greenway each day and over 10,000 people visit Hudson River Park during peak times. In 2006, drivers killed two cyclists on what is supposed to be a car-free bike path. State DOT and the Hudson River Park Trust are currently examining greenway safety and redesign options. We need you to make sure that they come up with some real solutions. Likewise, rather than simply counting vehicles and measuring success as "vehicle throughput," you should push your DOT hard to begin analyzing the highway, greenway, park and all of its various users more holistically. As Fred Kent at Project for Public Spaces says: "If you only plan for cars and traffic, you get more cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get more people and better places."

2. Give us our red light cameras.

Support legislation to grant the City of New York permission to deploy red light, speed and bus lane enforcement cameras at its discretion. Don’t let Albany continue to prevent us from making our streets safer.

amsterdam_bikeparking_1.jpg3. Create secure bike parking at major transit hubs

New York State now has its hand in the planning and development of a remarkable number of major, New York City transit hubs: Moynihan Station, World Trade Center Transportation Hub, Fulton Street Transit Center and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. All of these transit hubs should have significant bike parking facilities in and around them. According to the NYC Department of City Planning, the lack of secure bike parking is the primary obstacle to potential commuter cyclists. Take a look at European cities (like Amsterdam, right) or, heck, even Chicago, for examples of how to integrate bike parking into train and bus stations.

4. Accelerate Bus Rapid Transit.

The MTA should increase funding to complete, not just five, but ten BRT corridors by 2012. The governor should challenge New York City to increase its annual contribution to BRT as well. The State and City should launch a p.r. campaign framing BRT in the broader context of "citywide traffic relief" so that drivers and parking-hungry neighborhood groups understand why it is necessary to prioritize buses over cars. And, oh yeah: The state also needs to pass legislation to allow New York City to deploy bus lane enforcement cameras.

5. Make sure New Yorkers know how to drive.

It must be a strange feeling after all of the hard work of running for governor and the elation of winning to wake up the morning after inauguration and realize, "Oh, crap, I’m in charge of the Dept. of Motor Vehicles." You may as well take the opportunity to strengthen the meager pedestrian, bicycle and street safety components of New York’s driver education curriculum. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Just steal from the Germans. Their drivers licensing requirements are incredibly stringent. New York’s should be too.

6. Make it easy to bring bikes aboard trains.

NJ Transit and PATH abolished bike-on-board permits several years ago. It’s long past time for Metro-North and the LIRR to do the same.

bus-bike_1.jpg7. Allow bikes on buses

Tell the MTA that its time to wake up from its Rip Van Winkle-like slumber and, like cities all over the world, make it possible to put bikes on buses. Prioritize bus routes crossing bike-inaccessible bridges such as the Verrazano Narrows and longer-distance Long Island Bus routes. Bikes should also be permitted in the luggage bays of express buses.

8. Accelerate development of the East River Greenway.

The state legislatures must pass legislation to approve the conversion of a sliver of the Robert Moses Playground to Greenway. Make it happen, Governor.

9. Make a real commitment to pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Re-invent the Dept. of Motor Vehicles’ Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee as a forum for inter-agency traffic safety planning and policy. Improve the reporting and analysis of car crashes. Create an online crash database and map to inform planning. Allocate federal HSIP funds fairly: Bicyclist and pedestrian deaths and injuries account for more than 55% of the New York City total traffic deaths yet these modes receive less than 5% of New York City transportation safety funds and 8% of federal safety funds. That’s a crime.

10. Make sure federal funds are used to achieve broader transportation goals.

The State Dept. of Transportation should set aside at least 15 percent of its federal CMAQ funds for bicycling and pedestrian projects. Most important, CMAQ grants should reflect the broader policy goals of reducing motor vehicle trips and promoting transit, cycling and walking. Tell the highwaymen to take a seat.

  • P

    Great list.

    I know many people have a lot of hopes tied to the new Governor. So far he has surrounded himself with the right people- now all he has to do is ‘change everything.’

  • Aaron —

    A good list, and you’re on the ball, as always.

    But you left out perhaps the most important thing: Gov. Spitzer should commit his office to supporting a fair and effective NYC road pricing plan to simultaneously unsnarl traffic and raise transit funds for use in the city. This will help kill the bogeyman that “the State will never ratify NYC road pricing” and provide cover for City electeds to start voicing support.

    In addition, Point #9, on pedestrian and bicyclist safety, should include funding and staff support to analyze NYS pedestrian and cyclist fatalities as to cause and culpability, along the lines of Right Of Way’s landmark studies, KILLED BY AUTOMOBILE (1999) and THE ONLY GOOD CYCLIST (2000). This will likely confirm those studies’ key (but neglected) findings: (i) drivers are culpable in a large majority of ped and bike fatals; (ii) the most common cause of ped fatals is driver turning into peds crossing w/ right of way; (iii) the most common cause of cyclist fatals is driver aggressive passing.

    Keep up the great Sblogging.

  • From today’s State of the State speech — about what we saw in the May speech on transportation, plus Stewart and upstate projects added…

    Transportation
    ————–

    Infrastructure also means transportation. We must finally break through the political gridlock to complete priority projects so we can move people and goods faster and cheaper.

    Upstate, we must follow through on the replacement of the Peace

    Bridge and the construction of I-86 along the Southern Tier.

    Downstate, we must construct the first segment of the Second Avenue subway and plan for the full extension to Lower Manhattan. We must also complete the planning process to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge and move forward on the East Side Access project to connect

    Long Island and Queens commuters to Grand Central Terminal.

    And we must have the vision to expand Stewart Airport to become the fourth major airport in the Downstate region and to serve as an economic engine for the Hudson Valley.

    As we complete these priority projects, we must ensure they are accompanied by smart-growth planning, which will alleviate environmental degradation, instead of contributing to it, and will make our communities more vibrant places to live, work and raise a family.

  • You’re kidding? Bike racks on buses didn’t make the State of the State?

  • P

    o/t

    Does anyone have a report on the Park Avenue CB meeting?

    Back on:
    “to serve as an economic engine for the Hudson Valley.”
    Isn’t this a euphemism for ‘generate sprawl’? Of course there needs to be economic growth in all parts of NY State but airports seem to have a horrible track record with regard to urbanism.

  • Steve
  • In addition, I’d like to see the governor put pressure on Amtrak to add a baggage car for bicycles on the Adirondack, which runs from NYC to Montreal. After all, New York taxpayers directly subsidize the service through a grant from the NY Department of Transportation.

  • James Radcliffe

    Do not fall for number 2, speed, red light, and bus lane enforcement cameras. If governments here work out what a gold mine they are, as they have in the UK and Australia, then you will have them everywhere. In the UK there are now over 4000 of them. Big Brother is watching you. In Australia all states they have them, and in some states you will get fined for being a mere 2mph over the limit. In fact quite a few people got fined and disqualified when defective cameras were issuing fines to people who had not been speeding.

  • Clarence

    Amen to this list.

  • Steve

    The portion of James’ comment I am sympathetic to is the reference to big brother–I have no love for state surveillance. I wish that motorists did not violate the laws so regularly and dangerously as to drive me to accept the “lesser evil” of traffic violation cams. Also, the call I heard from a member of CB 8 last night for the licensing of bicycles reminded me of the possibility that under a bicycle licensing regime bicyclists could be subject to automated ticketing too although I think the technology would have to be adjusted and fine-tuned to be able to detect violations by bicyclists).

    Is intrusive surveillance on the road and the possibility of automated enforcement directed at bicyclists worth it to me, if it is the price that must be paid for compliance by motor vehicles? This is a very difficult question–the experience of bicycling in NYC would be radically transformed, and bicycle commutes for some might take a lot longer than they do now due to traffic lights. On the other hand, the most dangerous motorists would be driven out of their cars and into mass transit or possibly onto bicycles or the sidewalk. This would contribute to a general increase in bicycling due to increased safety on the road to double or triple the current rate. The resulting growth in the bicycling minority would set the stage for even more gains in encouraging alternatives to private motor vehicles. And reduction in driving and elimination in speeding would significantly ameliorate atmospheric impact. As much as I am opposed to government surveillance and the licensing of bicyclists, to me, the upsides of automated enforcement against motor vehicles are too great–I support it.

    James’ other concerns–getting ticketed for being just 2 MPH over, or being mistakenly ticketed–don’t worry me. There no doubt will be “accidents” in the implementation of automated enforcement, but they are of the correctable kind, unlike the “accidents” chronicled weekly by AD on these pages ( http://www.streetsblog.org/category/special-features/carnage/ )

  • The best way to improve the safety of the Hudson River Greenway is to first understand that the adjacent roadway is not a highway but a PARKWAY. And (to borrow from the Massachussets Department of Environmental Protection) a parkway is a road with a park that runs through it. In this case it is a corridor shared by the road, the greenway, and 13 parks. The Henry Hudson Parkway has been nominated as a New York Scenic Byway, the first in New York City. The designation would help protect the historic and park-like character of this historic and beautiful road and provide special funds to protect its outstanding features — like the Greenway, landscaping, beautiful esplanades, bridges and tunnels. The parkways of New York represent an irreplacable network of parks – and account for about a third of the city’s total parkland. It is crucial that we preserve, restore and expand their park functions — not abandon them to become expressways, project by project. I therefore implore Transportation Alternatives to rethink its position advocating opening the city’s beautiful parkways to trucks. Try to imagine them as verdant greenways instead. Please visit our website http://www.henryhudsonparkway.org for more information.

  • AD

    Let me get this straight:

    Spitzer says, “New York should also build on its existing regional compact to address climate change. I have already started speaking with other governors about the need to link and expand our climate change initiatives. This is something that can and must be achieved.”

    O.K., great.

    Equally refreshing is this: “The second part of our plan to adapt to the Innovation Economy will be a coordinated effort to revitalize distressed cities, towns and neighborhoods across our state – because in the Innovation Economy, investment and jobs will flow only to those areas that are safe and vibrant places to live and work.”

    Finally: “And Lieutenant Governor Paterson will lead efforts to increase renewable energy production so the state can meet its goal of obtaining 25 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources.”

    All wonderful! What specifics does he mention for transportation policy that will further these goals?

    “we must follow through on … the construction of I-86 along the Southern Tier.”

    What? He’s going to reduce climate change, encourage renewable energy and restore city centers by spending scarce resources to build or upgrade a 200-mile interstate?

    Widening highways, encouraging urban flight and energy consumption. That’s so 20th century.

    CAVEAT emptor: Locally, Spitzer’s much better, with stated support for the Second Avenue Subway, (YES YES YES!) and LIRR to Grand Central Terminal (good). I’d have preferred it if he said LIRR to Fulton Street however.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Good point, AD. Why not spend some of that money re-establishing passenger service to Binghamton?

    http://www.thedailystar.com/news/stories/2002/05/03/train.html
    http://www.syracuse.com/news/nyslushfunds/poststandard/story4.html

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Another article on rail service through Scranton:

    http://nyc.theoildrum.com/story/2006/9/2/204732/7715

    – although it’d be politically difficult for a NY governor to spend money on a rail line that’s mostly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

  • AD

    The Empire State Passengers Association wants to re-establish rail service to the Southern Tier (end of page). That would be better for the Tier’s economy than I-86.

  • v

    What a great list!!!

    James, I’m usually against camera surveillance, but I’m with Steve on this one. There are a lot of good ways to make a case for traffic cameras that doesn’t make the case for “general big-brotherness.” I’d add that cameras can be a good way to cut down on the number of police(cars) and attending troubles. Just mail ’em tickets. Cameras wouldn’t be on my top ten list, but I’m not against ’em.

  • Regarding red-light cameras, there’s a good way and a bad way to do them.

    The good way is to maintain safe and effective yellow-light periods and not succumb to the revenue-generating opportunity.

    The bad way is to shorten the yellow-light period to artificially induce more violations and greater revenue opportunity.

    The shortened yellow-light strategy is so pervasive that any support for red-light cameras really ought to include a statement “without messing with light timing.”

  • A quick follow-up on why ubiquitious speed cameras are the only effective speed cameras: combination radar/laser detectors with GPS and an inventory of known speed cameras and speed traps.

  • Steve

    Hey Sean, can’t get the link to work.

  • Steve, probably because I’m a moron. (As God is my witness, I have successfully written HTML code before.)

    For your patience, heare are two  links .

  • How about smart growth? I hear that Spitzer ran as a smart-growth advocate, so two top priorities should be:

    Shift funding from freeways to public transportation.

    Provide incentives to locate new development near transit stops, as Glendenning did in Maryland.

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