Last year, 23-year-old Ella Bandes was killed by a turning MTA bus driver at a complex intersection on the Queens-Brooklyn border. On the anniversary of her death in January, her parents called on DOT to implement more aggressive street safety measures. Tonight, DOT is scheduled to present a plan to Queens Community Board 5’s transportation committee, including new crosswalks, curb extensions and turn bans [PDF].
DOT already installed brighter street lighting beneath the elevated train in January and added pedestrian countdown clocks. “I thought they were just going to improve the lighting and do as little as possible,” said Judy Kottick, Ella’s mother. “But they’re adding a crosswalk, they’re shortening crossing distances.”
The plan would add painted curb extensions at most of the intersection’s corners. It also calls for a new crosswalk across Myrtle Avenue in the middle of the intersection, to match a route many pedestrians already follow. An existing crosswalk across Myrtle Avenue on the intersection’s east side would be widened significantly, and all crosswalks will receive new high-visibility zebra markings under the plan.
The multi-leg intersection, at the transfer point between an elevated train and a subway, is also a hub for bus routes in both boroughs. A 2007 DOT Ridgewood transportation study [PDF] found that the corner where Ella was killed had the neighborhood’s highest pedestrian volumes.
DOT is also proposing five turn bans during rush hours. The agency is focusing on banning movements that do not have high volumes of turning traffic, and has examined alternative routes for drivers.
The bans would apply to all vehicles, but do not affect MTA bus routes in the area. They would only be in effect from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Kottick noted that the bans would not have prevented the crash that killed her daughter, which involved an MTA bus driver at approximately 11 p.m.
In order for the turn bans to be successful, Brooklyn CB 4 manager Nadine Whitted said NYPD will have to be involved. “We’re going to have to have some enforcement out there,” she said. “It’s a dangerous intersection.”
In its presentation, DOT says it is considering the addition of leading pedestrian intervals to the intersection and is working with the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District on maintaining the painted curb extensions. DOT is also developing pedestrian safety handouts for distribution at the intersection.
DOT hosted a meeting with representatives of elected officials and community boards to unveil the plan yesterday, Whitted said. The transportation committee of CB 4 is scheduled to meet on May 1, where Whitted said she expects DOT will present the plan again, before it proceeds to the full board on May 21.
Whitted called the plan “a long time coming” and said she thinks people will be glad to see DOT is proposing fixes. “There are a lot of changes that are necessary,” she said. “I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of negative reaction.”
Kottick learned about the details of the plan from Streetsblog today and was upset that DOT didn’t notify her family about the presentations. “They promised that they would let us know when they would have a meeting. They never told us,” she said. Kottick’s husband, Ken Bandes, will try to make tonight’s CB 5 committee meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the board’s offices, 61-23 Myrtle Avenue.
In addition to Ella Bandes, another pedestrian was killed at the intersection in 2009. From 2008 to 2012, there were 29 traffic injuries, including four severe injuries, according to DOT. Fifteen of the victims, including three of the people who suffered severe injuries, were pedestrians.
“Why did my daughter have to die to get them to do this?” Kottick said. “It was obviously a problem for a long time.”