3 Ways NYC Can Avoid Future Snow Removal Travesties for Peds and Cyclists

grand_snow
The Grand Street bike lane. Photo: Ben Fried

Here we are a whole work week after Winter Storm Jonas dumped two feet of snow on New York, and the streets are still not passable for a lot of New Yorkers who get around without driving.

In the beginning of the week, the biggest travesties were the snow barriers at street corners and the uncleared bus stops that compelled people to wait in the street. Today, the worst accumulation seems to be in the city’s protected bike lanes and greenways.

These are supposed to be transportation arteries that give people a refuge from biking next to motorized traffic, but a lot of them are still barricaded by snow and next to useless. Without some action from the Department of Sanitation, we’ll be lucky if the rain melts the stuff away and the city loses no more than a week of useful bikeway time.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s always going to be some level of inconvenience after a big NYC snowstorm, but there’s no reason it should be this wretched or last this long.

In his assessment of the post-Jonas streetscape, Justin Davidson at New York Mag pointed to Montreal as a city that’s mastered the science of snow clearance. City Hall should send a fact-finding crew across the border and bring back lessons for the next big storm.

Not that we need to venture far afield to figure out what needs to improve. Here are three suggestions that would make a big difference for walking, biking, and riding the bus after a snowstorm. This is by no means a comprehensive list — it’s just the obvious stuff.

Make someone responsible for clearing paths at street corners. Currently, property owners are legally responsible for clearing the sidewalk in front of their buildings, but when you cross the street you enter a no man’s land where the law doesn’t apply. Hence the snow piles, reinforced by passing plows, that block the way at street corners. Corner property owners should be responsible for this area too, and the city could start by setting a better example at buildings it owns, like schools. In areas with lots of foot traffic, the Department of Sanitation should dispatch more workers to clear these problem spots (also see “snowblowers” below).

Integrate bike lanes, especially protected bike lanes, into the city’s snow clearance street hierarchy. The Department of Sanitation has a system to prioritize snow clearance on the city’s 6,000 miles of streets, with bus routes and highly trafficked streets getting plowed before low-traffic, residential streets. Apparently, all bike lanes fall entirely outside this hierarchy, with the department telling DNAinfo that bikeways get cleared after everything else. But protected bike lanes, especially, should be a priority — they are major through routes for bike traffic and perform a crucial public safety function. Letting snow pile up and block bike lanes degrades the transportation network for significant chunks of time.

Buy some snowblowers. Sanitation hired 920 laborers to clear snow from sidewalks and bus stops with shovels. Imagine how much faster they could clear pedestrian areas, not to mention how much easier it would be on their backs, if they were equipped with snowblowers instead.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    subsidy is $4,000 per US car that’s old news

    Bridges. ? The cost of a toll needs to cover both maintenance and eventual replacement cost. Your nulbers only cover maintence.

    Patking ? Free Parking costs a fortune

    Negative Extetnalities ? Try telling that to the 1 million Children in NY with car caused illness. Try telling that to the familied of the 50,000 NYers killed or aimed every year by cars. Try telling that to the NY property owners whose land values are depressed because they are next to a foul highway. Try telling that to the Elderly who are terrified to cross the street.

  • Joe R.

    Those numbers could very well be correct. Remember that NYC doesn’t pay for all the negative externalities caused by motor vehicles. Many are borne by the private sector in the form of lost business, lost time from work, illness or injury, etc. Part of the cost here is also lost opportunity cost. If NYC tolled the free bridges, it could realize a substantial amount of revenue. If driving decreased as a result, NYC would save even more by not having to cover some of the negative externalities. Same thing with the private sector.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Estimates I’ve seen here:
    http://www.uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Who%20Pays%20for%20Roads%20vUS.pdf
    Put externalities at about $46-$180 per car/year. THis is a national average, however.

  • reasonableexplanation

    subsidy is $4,000

    Eh… I just gave you a source with very different numbers. Is there something you don’t like about USPIRG?

    The cost of a toll needs to cover both maintenance and eventual replacement cost

    Right, that’s the debt service aspect: again, 500 million expenses, 600 million debt service.

    Try telling that to…

    There’s really no need to use politician-speak to make an appeal to emotion. There are non-financial up and downsides to cars. they each have their own causes and possible solutions. For example, for pollution: pollution: CAFE standards, PZEV, hybrids/electrics, etc. that’s a different sort of conversation from one about car subsidies!

  • Joe R.

    Here’s another study which puts the subsidies far higher, at $8,250 annually for a car dependent household: http://vtpi.org/autodep.pdf

    You need to count lost land use opportunity costs, health effects of car dependency like obesity, costs of people forced to drive because other people driving makes the roads too dangerous to walk or bike, health effects of air pollution, costs of foreign wars needed to secure oil supplies, etc. We’re not just talking here about the subsidies only for automobile infrastructure. Just the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were line items costing over $2 trillion. Had we not been dependent upon Middle Eastern oil, we likely wouldn’t have had those wars.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    I Like Joe R’s study better $8,000 plus costs of NY Parking and Bridges = $25,000 subsidy for Many NY Car owners. Median subsidy Is therefore approx. $16,000

    The more we discuss the worse cars appear

  • reasonableexplanation

    costs of foreign wars needed to secure oil supplies

    Okay, you lost me there. For one thing, transportation accounts for <30% of our oil use, so uh, any foreign adventures in oil would be more for industry than filling your gas tank. Plus, even before the shale boom most of our oil was from canada and mexico (ever since the crises of the 70's and 80's), and now… well, have you seen the price of oil lately, due mostly to domestic oversupply?

    I mean, I appreciate trying to account for negative externalities, but at some point it gets.. a bit absurd, like; obesity? C'mon.

    Is there another product you try to trace back this far? Can we count ordering train cars from a canadian manufacturer as costing american jobs? The plastic in your phone to wars for oil? The rare earths in your computer to our trade defect with China? At some point you start to get kind of abstract.

    It seems one can group externalizes from cars into 3 basic categories:
    Direct: Road use
    Indirect: public space, public health
    Abstract: killing the horse and buggy industry, etc.

    I'd argue that the abstract category is beyond the scope of a cost estimate that's based in reality, for, anything, really.

    per user auto subsidies are far higher in denser areas

    Interesting, I’d like to see some info on that, since at first glance it doesn’t make sense. Taking the example of road cost; how many cars use a given square inch of road pavement here per year vs say, Kansas? How much car infrastructure is maintained per car here vs there?

    Note that the pollution issue can be (and is being) solved in a way simpler manner for private autos; PZEV, hybrids, and electrics. Now if only we could extend that faster to trucks…

    So road cost seems to be allright; the subsidies are either small or negative, depending on use, tolls, and location.

    Public space… I’m not sure how much you can squeeze from this. On residential streets the sidewalks arent over capacity, so making them bigger, will look more roomy, I guess? On commercial streets parking is paid. and the areas where sidewalks do need to be enlarged we can deal with: see times, herald squares.

    Public health: again, all but the most egregious new passenger cars are not not spewing much into the air anymore. You could argue for bigger fees on non pzev’s and less efficient vehicles, but that’s a conversation for another time.

  • reasonableexplanation

    So I looked a bit more into the study you linked: even the number you gave $8,250 is external cost per household (so 4k/car).
    From that 8250:
    External Accident Costs: 875 (okay)
    External Parking Costs: 1200 (eh… not really; the streets will be there regardless; the city isn’t building any new parking lots)
    Congestion: 1050 (How is this arrived at? but okay)
    Roads, Road Land, and Services: 1175 (we can knock this out: NYC roads are good with their user fees, again, look at the MTA b/t budget)
    Air Pollution: 1200 (How is this arrived at? +see other comment. This needs way more context)
    Noise: 200 (Eh, no. Things that damage my hearing in NYC: trains in the subway screeching on old track, ambulance sirens. Things that annoy my hearing in nyc: noisy trucks, showtime)
    Energy Externalities: 600 (Again, we have a 60c/gallon tax, but okay sure, wars for oil or something)
    The following 3 aren’t applicable to NYC, given that we’re dense regardless, and sprawl isn’t something that’s a thing in this city.
    Barrier Effect: 225
    Land Use Impacts (Sprawl): 1400
    Water Pollution/Hydrologic Impacts: 325

    So taking the numbers at face value, and discarding the ones I proposed: we come to 1475/household, or 738/car.

    Also, I hate to call out a source (I do appreciate you finding one, gives something to work with) but, uh, it’s a Canadian think-tank whose sole purpose is to wean people away from cars, with a focus on the US. It’s also run by literally: a guy, out of his private house. Make your own conclusions from that.

    The source I brought up, USPIRG, is a liberal advocacy group, but at least it has some accountability.

  • Jason

    This isn’t exactly unprecedented, either. I know in DC they have snow emergency routes where it becomes illegal to have a parked car on them the moment a snow emergency is declared. It’s not like NYC would have to invent the wheel to solve this.

    Although Mayor Bowser decided to give everyone the green light to violate the law again next time it snows, because she had most of the tickets for violating the snow emergency routes torn up. The message is pretty clear: if enough people all illegally park next time it snows, you’ll get away with it.

  • Jason

    The best part of Bowser caving is that most of the people who got tickets probably weren’t even DC drivers. Maryland drivers in particular get away with insane amounts of shit in DC; many people in Maryland come into DC on the weekend, park illegally, and the city just has a standing understood arrangement to not ticket any of them. Said drivers have also managed to do things like obstruct bike lanes that would remove the parking they illegally make use of.

    Bowser’s the best mayor of Maryland ever, basically. She’s more concerned with appeasing people who aren’t even her constituents.

  • Jason

    1. Red light cameras have often been accompanied with the shortening of yellow lights to the point where it’s basically impossible to not either wind up running the light, or forcing the person behind you to rear-end you.
    2. I’ve read that red light cameras actually induce undesirable behavior, such as refusing to move out of the way for emergency vehicles if you’re the first car in line, because you’ll trigger the red light camera and be unable to contest it on the basis that you were moving out of the way for an emergency vehicle–your appeal will be denied because, regardless of circumstances, “you got caught running a red light”.

    I’m all about traffic-calming measures, but the way red light cameras have been implemented in most of the US is definitely wrong.

  • Joe R.

    The reason external parking costs are included is due to lost opportunity costs. Consider if NYC didn’t have parking lanes on virtually every street. That means the streets can all be about 20 feet narrower, or the land currently used for parking can be used for other purposes, such as food trucks, bus lanes, bike lanes, even vegetation. Now if NYC charged market rates for ALL curbside parking, you wouldn’t need to consider the costs for parking since the city would be making money, not potentially losing money. Right now I’m sure there are more lucrative uses of that space they’re often giving away for free.

    I think land use impacts is applicable in parts of the outer boroughs. Think how much real estate tax NYC could make if these big box parking lots were even single family homes. Again, it’s a lost opportunity cost.

    I agree we can probably safely discard barrier effect and water pollution. I’ll even let the noise and $1175 for roads/land/services part go just to play Devil’s advocate. So we end up with the following:

    External Accident Costs: $875
    External Parking Costs: $1200
    Congestion: $1050 (might actually be much higher in NYC but OK)
    Air Pollution: $1200
    Energy Externalities: $600
    Land Use Impacts: $1400

    Total is $6325, or $3162.50 per car. Granted, I’m curious how some of those numbers are arrived at but their magnitude seems about right. Right now cancer is epidemic. Most theories suggest the cause is mostly environmental. Air pollution is a significant source of carcinogens. So is food, although these are often tied together. Food grown in polluted air is more laced with carcinogens than food which isn’t. Note that the farming industry uses huge diesel-powered machinery. Anyway, you might take the total society costs of cancer and asthma as a proxy for air pollution. Not 100% of these costs since cancer has other causes, but 50% to 75% sounds about right. Of that 50% to 75%, you have to find the fraction of air pollution caused by motor vehicles. That gives you a ballpark estimate on the pollution costs. To me $1200 sounds feasible.

    Also, I hate to call out a source (I do appreciate you finding one, gives something to work with) but, uh, it’s a Canadian think-tank whose sole purpose is to wean people away from cars, with a focus on the US.

    Perhaps but in this world few sources are truly unbiased. If you want to reduce the bias, perhaps average the costs over a few studies. Your study gives $46 to $180. That might as well be zero because the number seems very low. The study fails to include a lot of things it should. Anyway, if you average the low side of that with my calculation above, you end up with about $1600 per car. In my opinion that’s way too low for the real damage I see cars cause. You might even add reductions in quality of life to the list. I personally can’t go out from early morning to about 9 or 10 at night in the summers because the air quality makes me ill. Anyway, putting aside numbers, the larger point here is that NYC shouldn’t subsidize car use at all. Decades of experience tells us that cars in large cities are a bad fit. If anything we should be heavily taxing and regulating them in urban areas. I’d like to see complete bans on private autos in parts of the outer boroughs and all of Manhattan. I’d like to see a ZEV requirement for any motor vehicle operated within city limits. You can debate the numbers, but it’s clear we shouldn’t be subsidizing private motor vehicles at all in the city. There isn’t any larger public benefit to doing so.

    BTW, I’m far from a car hater. I used to read Car & Driver regularly in the 1980s. I still keep up on the technology. I just realized a while back that cars are the wrong tool for the job in places like NYC, just as a subway would be a poor fit in rural Nebraska.

  • Joe R.

    My reasoning on foreign wars supposes we didn’t use oil at all for transportation. This would be possible with EVs and a national high-speed rail system to largely replace plane travel. Yes, we’ll still use oil for other things, but at that point we can get 100% of our needs from our domestic supply. That means the US doesn’t need to maintain a presence in the Middle East. That presence was one big cause of 9/11 and the insanity which followed. So we’re out of the ME, we save billions on the military, we save the $6 billion we give Israel each year. No need to get involved there at all. Terrorists have less reason to attack us, perhaps 9/11 never would have happened if we made energy independence a goal in the 1970s. So yes, while transportation doesn’t account for 100% of our oil use, it’s enough to tip us in the direction of needing to import ME oil.

    well, have you seen the price of oil lately, due mostly to domestic oversupply?

    Actually, my reading tells me the cause is the Saudis flooding the market with oil, causing the price to drop. Why? Very simple, the US domestic oil industry was booming because prices supported exploring formerly uneconomic (i.e. expensive to mine) sources of oil. And renewables were starting to take off in a big way. Cheap oil will eventually kill both. With the domestic oil industry dead the US will turn back to the Middle East. And the Saudis will raise the price. If renewables and domestic oil become an issue oil, they’ll just flood the market with oil again. They’ve played this game for decades.

    Note that the pollution issue can be (and is being) solved in a way simpler manner for private autos; PZEV, hybrids, and electrics. Now if only we could extend that faster to trucks…

    Unfortunately, cheap oil will set us back on that, again, just as it did the first time we tried pushing EVs in the 1990s. Of course, we could force the issue by mandating ZEVs in cities, but I’m not optimistic of that happening. Again, the Saudis look at this stuff. Every time EVs might look to make big inroads, they flood the market with oil. The wild card though is China. They’re going to make huge numbers of EVs because of their pollution problem. When those hit US shores, they may catch on anyway, not because people care about going green, but because they’ll probably cost less to buy than gas cars. I hope so. Let the Saudis take a bath in their oil.

    Interesting, I’d like to see some info on that, since at first glance it doesn’t make sense.

    If we only restrict the talk to road space subsidies per user, then you may be right. Or not. Remember roads cost somewhat more per mile to build and maintain in dense areas. It’s inherent. For example, look at all the traffic lights and other things you have in NYC which just don’t exist on country roads.

    If you want to talk about things besides road space, then my reasoning is that each auto used in NYC affects far more people. A car on a country road might drive miles without passing pedestrians. Nobody breathes the pollution, and therefore there is little external cost associated with it. In NYC multitudes are exposed to every vehicle’s exhaust. And the space each vehicle takes inherently delays everyone else, costing time. Adding another vehicle to a country road usually doesn’t delay anyone.

    I mean, I appreciate trying to account for negative externalities, but at some point it gets.. a bit absurd, like; obesity?

    Someone pays for the obesity epidemic. Basically, any negative which cars wholly or partially cause needs to be counted as a subsidy. In the interests of fairness I would also count negative externalities from other modes. To be fair though modes like subways pretty much have none. They don’t pollute, and being underground they add little noise.

    Public health: again, all but the most egregious new passenger cars are not not spewing much into the air anymore. You could argue for bigger fees on non pzev’s and less efficient vehicles, but that’s a conversation for another time.

    You’re forgetting about SUVs and pickups. Until a few years ago, those had no emissions controls whatsoever. They still have far less stringent controls than cars. And they’re still not counted in the CAFE because they’re considered “commercial vehicles”. With gas going down there are unfortunately surges in the sale of these large vehicles. If we restricted sale of these vehicles only to businesses who demonstrate a need you might be right but we don’t.

    Public space… I’m not sure how much you can squeeze from this. On residential streets the sidewalks arent over capacity, so making them bigger, will look more roomy, I guess?

    How about using that extra 10 feet of space on each side to add to the land used for buildings? Move the existing sidewalk over 10 feet, then expand the parcels of land by 10 feet. Might not seem like a lot but eventually you’ll get more multifamily dwellings. NYC will get considerably more real estate taxes.

    Or as an alternate, consider just making these side streets inaccessible to cars. Get rid of the parking on both sides. That’s 20 feet gone. The 5 feet of “sidewalk” near the curb on residential blocks is usually a useless strip of grass. Get rid of it on both sides. That gains you another 10 feet. Have a 5 foot bike lane adjacent to one of the sidewalks. You still have 5 of that 10 feet left. Now get rid of the travel lane. That’s another 15 feet. All told you gained 40 feet, perhaps 35 on a narrower street. That’s now space you can use for more housing. The practical implications of doing this, besides more housing, would be to make cars increasingly useless in NYC. You couldn’t drive them to your front door. You would primarily just have the major arterials to drive on. With fewer cars the buses would move faster. Bike travel would be more pleasant. Arguably people wouldn’t lose much mobility at all. Bikes would largely replace cars as the personal vehicle of choice. If NYC legalized electric bikes then even the elderly or unfit can partake of this mobility.

  • reasonableexplanation

    lost opportunity costs…

    I disagree. The NYC street grid was set up before cars even existed, so how wide streets are can’t really be blamed on cars.

    parking can be used for other purposes,

    It already can and is used for that, on a case by case basis; that’s the way it should be. The reason we don’t have more food trucks isn’t because they have nowhere to park, it’s because we limit the number of food vending permits for some reason.

    you have to find the fraction of air pollution caused by motor vehicles

    It’s a pretty small share actually. Most air pollution is caused either by fires, industry, or by commercial transport (see bunker fuel).

    might as well be zero because the number seems very low.

    T His doesn’t make it wrong. If you read the USPIRG report, it gives its methodology.

    I personally can’t go out from early morning to about 9 or 10 at night in the summers because the air quality makes me ill.

    I beleive it, but this is mostly caused by diesel. I know you haven’t traveled, but in Europe (where diesel is popular for passenger cars) cities smell. A lot. Mandating cleaner trucks would solve your problem in a way that restricting petrol autos would not.

    I’d like to see a ZEV requirement for any motor vehicle operated within city limits.

    Not a bad idea, though The difference would be negligible from just banning the dirtiest 10%, which is where I think we should be going.

  • reasonableexplanation

    we can get 100% of our needs from our domestic supply

    Thats…not how commodities work. Oil produced anywhere is traded on the open market at the global price. We’ve had more than enough oil produced domestically to use for a while, but we’ll always care about foreign oil because again, global commodity.

    Cars–>9/11, Israel what? We’re getting ridiculous here.

    my reading tells me…

    Try this for a pretty good summary of why oil is doing what it’s doing.
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/business/energy-environment/oil-prices.html

    they’re still not counted in the CAFE because they’re considered “commercial vehicles”

    You’re wrong here. Gigantic SUVs and trucks are counted in CAFE. What you’re thinking of is vehicles above 8500lbs GVWR (which are still counted, just less towards the toal)

    For scale, an Escalade; the posterchild for ridiculous excess in an SUV, only has a 7300lbs gvwr, an f-150 is 7000, and a ford transit is 5300, and they are not counted differently in CAFE calculations. the 8500lb threshold is meant for far larger, commercial vehicles; like the ford f-250 for example, that has a gvwr of 10000lbs.

    How about using that extra 10 feet of space on each side to add to the land used for buildings?

    Street widths were decided before cars were a thing in NYC. They’re unlikely to change, too. Consider all the utility poles, underground wiring and pipes, fire hydrants, etc. you would need to shift in every street. Our street grid is here to stay. Building housing in existing sidewalk space in NYC can only work the way housing projects have, by clearing a few blocks completely. That’s not the best route to go.

    Bike travel would be more pleasant.

    Bike travel is plenty pleasant on proper separated bike lanes. Building more of those is a better solution than making cars more unwelcome in NYC.

  • ahwr

    Even without EVs emissions of harmful local pollutants (greenhouse gas emissions are concerning, but should be considered separately from local pollutants) from on road vehicles have been declining for years.

    2005-2014 EPA estimates:

    CO down 48%
    NOX down 46%
    PM10 down 21%
    PM2.5 down 46%
    SO2 down 87%
    VOC down 37%
    NH3 down 26%

    http://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-07/national_tier1_caps.xlsx

    Federal and CARB emission standards have been pushing new cars and trucks to be cleaner for years, there is no reason to assume they’ll backtrack on stated plans and let emissions standards plateau. Encouraging the retirement or emissions upgrades of the oldest and dirtiest trucks/trains will do more to reduce non greenhouse gas transportation emissions than pushing for a electric vehicles in cities. Non transportation emissions of harmful pollutants are more significant than you seem to think.

  • Joe R.

    The kicker here though is studies show a lot of those pollutants are acutely harmful in anything but near zero quantities. Yes, it’s good they went down, but the really need to go to zero. Large trucks especially need to be converted to electric. This isn’t just for pollution reasons but also for noise.

    Non-transportation emissions need to be dealt with separately. I was stunned a few years ago when I heard NYC schools still burn coal for heating. Really? I thought that went out before my parents were born. And then you have oil heat (yes, I’m guilty there). It should be phased out in favor of either natural gas, or better yet geothermal heat pumps. The latter would dramatically reduce cooling costs during the warmer months.

  • Joe R.

    That’s exactly what I was saying about oil. Since price is determined on the world market, if prices drop too much domestic oil can’t be sold at a profit. That means a decline in domestic production. That said, it sounds like we’ll soon shed enough capacity so any uptick in oil demand will send prices up. While I appreciate the low heating oil prices, I realize in the long run an extended period with low oil prices is a bad thing.

    I’m reasonably sure as late as 2008 vehicles over 5,000 pounds weren’t counted in the CAFE. And SUVs at the time had no required emissions controls (something my nose can easily attest to).

    Building housing in existing sidewalk space in NYC can only work the way housing projects have, by clearing a few blocks completely. That’s not the best route to go.

    I don’t get the hate for the superblock concept on this site. The main flaw with superblocks was that we didn’t keep the grid intact for pedestrians and cyclists. Had we done that the idea would have worked. That’s exactly what I’m proposing here. Take a parcel maybe 1/4 mile on a side. Keep the bordering streets as is. Narrow all the streets inside to just enough for bikes and pedestrians. That might be about 15 feet-7.5 feet for each. You can have first floor retail in any buildings bordering these narrowed streets. In concept what you might end up with is something resembling a medieval town. The bottom line is keeping the grid intact for motor traffic on as fine a scale as we do adversely affects the urban fabric. Getting to within 1/4 mile of your destination by motor vehicle is good enough.

    Bike travel is plenty pleasant on proper separated bike lanes. Building more of those is a better solution than making cars more unwelcome in NYC.

    That’s only a partial solution. In my opinion frequent intersections and delays from traffic lights and cross traffic are the primary thing which makes riding here unpleasant. So long as we have closely spaced cross streets, and heavy motor traffic, those things won’t change. If we want to make bike riding more useful and more pleasant we either need to reduce traffic, eliminate most traffic lights, or we need to just grade separate bike routes, putting them above or below street level to avoid the mess.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    chicago Apparently bans overnight Parking all WINTER

  • reasonableexplanation

    I’m reasonably sure as late as 2008 vehicles over 5,000 pounds weren’t counted in the CAFE. And SUVs at the time had no required emissions controls

    That’s incorrect. 8500 lbs was the limit. They had emissions controls on all vehicles starting in 1994. Easy way to check: look under a car/truck! Do you see a Cat? If you do, trust me, the car company didn’t put it there out of the goodness of their heart. As someone who reads car and driver, I figured you knew that?

    The emissions controls got stricter every few years, and the categories shifted somewhat:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_emission_standards
    But for over 20 years, all cars have had emissions controls of some sort.

    In concept what you might end up with is something resembling a medieval town….Getting to within 1/4 mile of your destination by motor vehicle is good enough.

    Eh, I’ve seen these sorts of developments in suburbia; they’re really devoid of street life, and feel dead in general, surprisingly. I much prefer the park slope-type streetscape than that. I urge you to look for yourself and see if this is the type of thing that makes a complete city.

    eliminate most traffic lights

    Unless you want to demolish a lot of houses for roundabouts, or switch everything to stop signs, won’t happen.

    we need to just grade separate bike routes

    This I can get behind. It’s expensive though.

  • Joe R.

    The emissions standards were still far less rigorous for larger vehicles back then. Note they had several tiers. I don’t even need to read this because my nose knows the difference. When SUVs pass by, I often gag on the fumes. Most passenger cars, not so much. SUVs made until the mid 2000s smelled nearly as bad as 1960s cars. They may have been technically “cleaner”, but emissions controls deal with quantities of certain pollutants, not necessarily with noxious odors.

    Eh, I’ve seen these sorts of developments in suburbia; they’re really devoid of street life, and feel dead in general, surprisingly. I much prefer the park slope-type streetscape than that. I urge you to look for yourself and see if this is the type of thing that makes a complete city.

    In suburbia any type of development is going to be devoid of street life. For one thing, the low population density means you just can’t get a critical mass of people who all want to be out in one area at the same time. For another, walking or biking in suburbia is usually hostile. That means the locals really have no easy way to get there other than driving. If you have to accommodate cars, then you no longer have what I envision.

    Some cities in Europe have closed off parts to cars. That’s a lot closer to what I’m thinking of here.

    Unless you want to demolish a lot of houses for roundabouts, or switch everything to stop signs, won’t happen.

    If you reduce volumes of motor traffic enough, then you don’t need traffic lights or roundabouts. You just need yield signs on the secondary cross streets. The primary streets would be essentially nonstop.

    This I can get behind. It’s expensive though.

    Of course it’s expensive but if we want to make cycling a serious option NYC has to think in terms of more than paint. In my opinion given the current political inability to significantly reduce car traffic or take much space for other uses, grade separated bike lanes are the only viable way we can get safe, efficient cycling routes in the more congested parts of the city. Expensive, sure, but look how many potential users they’ll serve. Or better yet the number of cars they might eventually get off the streets once biking is faster than driving. They’ll also serve as a redundant network should the surface streets be flooded by hurricanes.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Note they had several tiers.

    I don’t think you understand what tiers mean in this context. From 1994, Tier 1 covered everything under 8500lbs, Tier 2 took effect in 2001, etc…

    but emissions controls deal with quantities of certain pollutants, not necessarily with noxious odors.

    Exhaust smell is sulphur and pm, both of which are controlled. the rest like co2 and carbon monoxide, which are odorless.

    In suburbia any type of development is going to be devoid of street life….Some cities in Europe have closed off parts to cars. That’s a lot closer to what I’m thinking of here.

    Again, I urge you to go to suburbia and see for yourself. There are plenty of communities not devoid of street life, and they’re not the super-blocks you’re talking about.
    Having car free areas makes lots of sense, but not outside of the core. Think more like a car free Broadway and less so like a car free queens blvd.

    If you reduce volumes of motor traffic enough, then you don’t need traffic lights or roundabouts.

    That doesn’t work, and is unsafe at any densities you’re likely to find in greater nyc.

  • Joe R.

    I’m not sure you completely understand the concept I’m proposing here regarding the car-free superblocks. I’m not talking about making streets like Queens Boulevard car free. Major arterials would remain intact. It’s all the little shitty side streets which would be part of the new superblocks. If we did this in Manhattan for example, then all minor side streets would no longer be open to motor traffic. You would still have the major cross streets every ten blocks or so, and all the avenues open to motor vehicles. The goal here is to have contiguous areas where a person can walk or bike for 1/4 mile in each direction without needing to cross streets with motor vehicles.

  • neroden

    For reference it makes absolutely no sense to have property owners responsible for sidewalk clearance. Are property owners responsible for road clearance? No? Hmmm…

  • neroden

    FWIW keeping the sidewalks clear for wheelchairs is *city responsibility* under *federal law* — the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    The city is eventually going to be sued over it. The city might as well take responsibility for cleaning the sidewalks. There are lots of awesome little “sidewalk width” snowplows available.

  • neroden

    Much better for the city to take responsibility for the CITY sidewalks which are part of the CITY right-of-way.

  • neroden

    Ithaca, NY (with a lot of residential areas where people own cars and don’t have driveways) has a complex system of alternate-side parking. Each day one of the sides of the street has parking prohibited, for snow clearance. Then it switches to the other side the next day.

  • neroden

    I think you mean “how entitled some people act”. The point is that they are NOT actually entitled to ignore the snow emergency route signs, but they pretend that they are.

    If I’m entitled to something it means that I have a right to it. You’re talking about people who think they’re entitled to stuff they are definitely not entitled to.

  • neroden

    That is completely whacked. The only reason we HAVE alternate-side parking in Ithaca, NY is for snow clearance. It actually ends during the summer.

  • neroden

    Japanese model: in order to register a car, you must prove that you have a parking space for it.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    1) return to system pre-1952; overnight car storage illegal

    2) Register a car in NYC; must show proof off off street parking

    it’s the civilized model

  • what about putting an HOV guideline in place , so that less car lanes are cleared up and more sidewalks and bike lanes ? IN switzerland, there is no snow removal form streets, cars get special tires or chains . Imagine the savings?

  • Exactly, of al the things Bloomberg did this one is the worst

  • Bravo, absolutely. why do I pay taxes to clear car lanes and pile up snow at the curb, which makes i more difficult to clear the ped lane..

  • Canonchet

    Sorry, owners of properties with sidewalks are responsible for the maintenance of those sidewalks, and quite properly so – but as one of those property owners, with a house on a corner, I draw the line at shoveling snow & slush off the street!

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