Today’s Headlines

  • Christie Pulls the Plug on ARC Tunnel (NYT, Transpo Nation, MTR, Star-Ledger, SAS)
  • “The Worst Policy Decision Ever Made By the Government of New Jersey” (Krugman 1, 2, 3)
  • Buying an Electric Car? The American Taxpayer Will Shower You With Gifts (NYT)
  • Fare Hike Coverage/Reactions from the Times, Post, NY1, WNYC, News, AMNY, SI Advance
  • Lord Have Mercy on Everyone Who Gets Their Transit News From WPIX
  • Good Fare Hike Perspective From DMI’s John Petro on HuffPo
  • Bus Driver Kills 4-Year-Old in Coney Island (News)
  • Stringer’s Office Counts Rampant Bike Lane Abuse By Cops, Drivers, Passengers, Peds, Cyclists (News)
  • Study: Yes, Speed Cameras Save Lives (Reuters)
  • Seeing Fewer Cops Clogging 34th Street Bus Lane? Maybe This Explains It (Post)
  • NYS Supreme Court Justice Dispenses Advice on Fighting Parking Tickets (Gotham Gazette)
  • Ride the Tour de Bronx This Year in Honor of Megan Charlop (Bronx News)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Someone needs to stage an intervention for Greg Mocker. The guy has clearly lost his mind.

  • What can we do now? I don’t want to just sit and whine about ARC. I want to see something done. I feel so helpless and hopeless.

  • iSkyscraper

    So to recap, the MTA approved an increase in the monthly pass to $104 US, a whopping 17% increase. This makes New York the most expensive transit city in US based on monthly passes. (Hey, still cheaper than poor old Toronto, a progressive transit-friendly city that somehow manages to whack its citizens for up to $121 a month.)

    Costs are costs, but there is something in the math here that bothers me. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the past pattern over the last couple decades was to increase ridership by adding more and more passes that took away the per-ride psychology and encouraged frequent use. Passes helped encourage urban living where a car lease/insurance monthly bill was traded in for a transit pass, and short trips became “free” because your daily commute essentially paid for the pass. New York didn’t even have any kind of pass until 1998, and look at what happened to the city’s livability since.

    However, in this new fare hike New York has eliminated the one-day pass and the 14-day pass completely and changed the math on the monthly pass. The typical per-ride rate will become effectively $2.09 ($2.25 with 7% discount when buying Metrocards). This means that to make a monthly pass worthwhile, one must take 50 or more trips a month. Given that there are only 22 workdays a month, that means commuters will now switch to per-ride cards instead of unlimited cards unless they use the subway on nights, weekends or other times to make up the extra 6 trips a month. I don’t think any transit system has ever pushed beyond the 2-a-day gold standard before for the cost of a pass.

    Even in ultra-expensive Toronto, the math still works out to 44 trips as a breakeven on the monthly pass. But if New York now sets a pattern to push commuters to pay-per-ride this may spread to other systems. Are riders really “abusing” a system if they have passes and ride frequently? Or is that in fact supposed to be the point, to get them out of their cars? After all, North Americans hate user fees and love all-you-can-eat buffets; can you imagine a ski resort that charged per chairlift ride?

    From now on, I’ll probably stand on the street corner and say “well, I can spend $2.10 on the subway or $5 on that cab over there or drive and park for $10” and maybe not take transit as a result, instead of “I have this unlimited card burning a hole in my pocket, let’s get some more rides off it.” Maybe that is good for bikes and walking, but I don’t think this is a positive policy trend overall.

  • NY1 has also picked up on the bike lane story. Their images of a huge garbage truck in the Second Ave lane is pretty frightening considering how many cyclists and pedestrians have been killed or gravely injured by these vehicles.

    http://www.ny1.com/content/top_stories/126770/study-finds-city-bike-lanes-have-numerous-safety-violations

  • a Hells kitchen cyclist

    this is why I and other cyclists disobey the rules. there are more than 2x the # of people standing in the bike lane than there are bikes. and people get mad if you point out that it’s a bike lane! mean while bikes get tix, jaywalkers do not for some strange reason

    The staffers also saw 242 bikes going the wrong way, 237 bikes blowing red lights (including some riders ferrying small children) and 741 pedestrians standing in the special lanes.

  • I don’t believe it’s ok to run a red light simply because pedestrians and motorists have little regard for traffic rules. But I do feel that jumping the light often allows cyclists to more safely position themselves in traffic, or get a much needed head start on cars. Bicycles aren’t subject to all of the same laws motor vehicles are and there’s no reason not to extend that a bit. For example, allowing a right turn on red, from one bike lane to another, or a rolling stop when there’s no pedestrian traffic, might not be the worst idea.

    Unfortunately breaking the rules is often the way to get around this chaotic city, particularly when NYPD either fails to enforce the rules, or even encourages cyclists to break them. How often have officers glared at cyclists when we stop for a red light as if we’re stupid or trying to try their patience?

  • Rich Conroy

    Stacy says ” Bicycles aren’t subject to all of the same laws motor vehicles are . . . ”

    Where are you getting that idea?

    NY State VTL gives cyclists all the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of vehicles.

  • @Rich Conroy The NYC Cycling Map is one obvious source. For example, bicycles are allowed on many roads where motor cycles are not. At intersections bicycles are permitted to make turns as vehicles, or pedestrians. Cyclists are often required to stay to the right even though it may be a turning lane for motor vehicles. NYS law says bicycles only have to exercise due care when passing school busses. Bicycles are required to use bike lanes when they’re available. Motor vehicles are forbidden.

    By the same token, bicycles are not permitted on some roads and highways reserved for cars such as the FDR, the Henry Hudson Parkway, or the NYS Thruway. Cyclists aren’t required to carry insurance, use seat belts, nor are they subject to blood alcohol limits, so clearly they don’t have the same rights or responsibilities as motorists.

  • Rich,

    The full text of VTL 1231 provides that bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles except as to requirements “which by their nature can have no application” to bikes.

    This caveat has been interpreted broadly. It doesn’t just mean, for example, that cyclists are not required to wear a seatbelt. The First Department of the Appellate Division interpreted this language to mean that a requirement seemingly tailored to motorists, that would impose an unreasonable hazard on cyclists, need not be followed. The case involved the question of whether a cyclist is required to signal a turn for at least 100 feet, the way motorists are required to do. The court concluded:

    “The 100-foot continuous signal requirement appears to be
    gauged to automotive speeds and cannot be reasonably applied to
    the much lower speeds of bicycles. We hold, therefore, that such
    a requirement is one which “by [its] nature can have no
    application” to bicycles within the meaning of section 1231 Veh. & Traf. of
    the Vehicle and Traffic Law.”

    Here’s a link to the full text of the decision. This is the primary case construing this caveat to Section 1231, but one can imagine plenty of potential applications.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Another application for the caveat to VTL 1231 just came up on the #bikenyc Twitter feed: someone was ticketed for being outside the bike lane when riding in the bus lane on Second Ave. two blocks prior to making a right turn. I’d say that, to the extent vehicles are permitted in the bus lane preparatory to making a right turn, bikes should be allowed to use the bus lane 2-3 blocks prior to turning, even if cars aren’t. That’s because cyclists are generally required to use the left hand bike paths when safe or available for use, adding to the difficulty for them in getting right preparatory to making a right turn, plus its hazardous to ride in between a column of moving buses and a column of moving traffic. So for a cyclist on 2nd Ave. bike path who needs to turn west at E. 11, who hits the red at 14th, they should be permitted to get right at 14th and proceed in the bus lane (assuming the bus lane allows turning non-bus traffic at all) to E.11, rather than be forced to ride in the bike path to E.11 and then wait for the light to change before heading west. This should be so, even if a motor vehicle would get a ticket for traveling 3 blocks in the bus lane, under the principle established in the Secor decision I linked above.

    But cyclists, please don’t abuse this rationale to use the bus lane for entire trips!

  • Driver

    Your justification for traveling 3 blocks in the bus lane is so you don’t have to wait when you get to the block you need to turn on? Sounds more like convenience than necessity.

  • Bolwerk

    Here’s an interesting NYT blog post about policing tactics in public housing. Relates to streets!

  • I agree that New York is expensive, but please stop comparing it to other American cities. On any other matter, New York tries to play in the same league as Tokyo and Paris, rather than Atlanta and Dallas.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Driver, what makes you think that cyclists must demonstrate “necessity”, rather than “convenience,” to lay claim to part of the street? Should motorists’ convenience be disregarded, and motorists be told to make four left turns to make an effective right on an avenue with a right side bus lane, rather than being permitted the convenience of using the bus lane to turn right?

    The general rule is that cyclists have the same right to be on the street as MVs. If MVs have a right to use the bus lane for turning for convenience, then bikes have a right to be there too. And if there are other rules and circumstances applicable only to bikes that make it necessary for cyclists to use the bus lane a bit longer than a car in order to make a right turn safely, then the caveat to the general rule should apply.

  • Now that the self-driving car is upon us, any thoughts on whether the streets are safer with drivers or without them? Is it the cult of the motor vehicle or the cult of the automobilist that is most pernicious to the livable streets agenda?

    In the worst-case scenario, I bet you could get an aftermarket hack that would use bike lanes as passing lanes.

  • Driver

    “Driver, what makes you think that cyclists must demonstrate “necessity”, rather than “convenience,” to lay claim to part of the street?”

    Bicyclists have already laid claim to part of the street. It’s called the bike lane. What gives one bicyclist the right to possibly slow down the commute of dozens of people on a bus (or buses) because they do not want to wait for the light to change when they get to their desired cross street? You have been given a right of way, and now you want to use the buses right of way to shave a few seconds or minutes off your trip.
    Maybe I want to park my car in the bike lane because it is convenient or necessary (I don’t do this btw). Should convenience or necessity allow me to lay claim to this part of the street?

    “Should motorists’ convenience be disregarded, and motorists be told to make four left turns to make an effective right on an avenue with a right side bus lane, rather than being permitted the convenience of using the bus lane to turn right?”

    Motorists convenience is already disregarded in favor of some of the new bike lanes. Left turn right of way arrows have been eliminated at certain major Manhattan intersections (34th st, 23rd st, 14th st)because of the newly installed bike lanes, and replaced with ‘no left turn’ restrictions, forcing heavily congested three right turn (or right, lest, left) detours.

    “And if there are other rules and circumstances applicable only to bikes that make it necessary for cyclists to use the bus lane a bit longer than a car in order to make a right turn safely, then the caveat to the general rule should apply.”

    On a bike you have much more agility turning and maneuvering. There’s no reason you can’t use the traffic lane until the block of your desired turn. If you need three blocks to get over one lane then you should be in the bike lane anyway. You want the benefit of a protected lane (the bus lane) but don’t want to be inconvenienced by using your own protected lane.

  • Andrew

    iSkyscraper:

    In 1995, the fare went up to $1.50. There were no unlimited cards of any sort. There weren’t even free transfers from subway to bus. The fare was just a plain, simple $1.50.

    Now the fare (for regular riders) is going up to $2.09. Except there are still unlimited cards for people who ride very frequently, and there are still free transfers from subway to bus.

    $1.50 in 1995 dollars is equivalent to $2.15 in 2010 dollars. Despite all of the cuts in funding the MTA has faced lately, the fare is still lower than it was 15 years ago.

    I agree that passes have improved the city’s livability, but the MTA’s mission is to operate a transit system, not to increase livability, and the MTA should focus on its core mission during funding crises. If the city agrees with your livability assessment, the city should pitch in to reduce the price of an unlimited pass.

    Of course, there still is an unlimited pass, and it’s still attractively priced for people who take lots of trips aside from commute trips. And that’s how I think it should be priced. Rush hour commuters are expensive for a transit agency to accommodate; they shouldn’t be getting discounts.

    Incidentally, the break-even point is currently (before the upcoming fare hike) 46 rides. That’s already more than 2 per work day. There’s nothing intrinsically new here; the threshold’s just gone up a bit.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Driver,

    You seem to be saying that some of the rights or privileges cyclists should ordinarily have on the road should be taken away on First/Second Ave. because a bike facility was put in. The rules require cyclists to use the path when its safe and available for use, but not when executing right turns (on the side opposite the facility). So your argument that cyclists should be prohibited from the convenience of aking a vehicular-style right turn makes no sense. The law allows it.

    I’ll agree that the right of cyclists to travel in the bus lane for more than one block preparatory to turning right is not clear. That’s why it is interesting to write about.

    What I’m suggesting is that, to the extent there is a.rule that traveling in the bus lane for more than one block is taken to demonstrate a violation of the “buses only” restriction, cyclists should be exempted because the restriction is “by its nature” not applicable to cyclists, and is intended only for motorists, as decribed in the Secor v. Kohl case I linked above. Here is my reasoning why they should be exempted:

    (1) Except when turning right, cyclists are presumed to keep left, in or next to the bike lane or path.

    (2) After moving to the right preparatory for turning, cyclists are subject to 34 RCNY 4-12(p)(3), which states cyclists may ride on one-way 40′ roadways as near to the left or right curb “as practicable.”

    (3) There is no explicit rule as to whether cyclists in this situation should use the bus lane. However, if the bus lane is legal for turns and the cyclist intends to turn, then arguably 4-12(p)(3) establishes a preference that cyclists use it. (As a driver, Driver, wouldn’t you prefer that the turning cyclists keep out of the right-most general traffic lanes, and use the bus lane for turns? Or are you cutting off your nose in spite of your face because you resent the new bike paths?).

    (4) The suggestion that cyclists be required to use the right-most general traffic lane adjacent to the bus lanes when traveling 2 or more blocks preparatory to a right turn mistakenly subjects cyclists to a rule which by its nature does not apply to them. Cyclists tend to travel at speeds lower than the 30 MPH limit applicable to the general traffic lanes, as do MTA buses, while motorists typically travel at or above the 30 MPH limit. And as you point out, Driver, cyclists are more nimble than MVs, so they are less like to disrupt traffic in the bus lane.

    I personally, if traveling alone, would use the traffic lane until 40 yards or so before my turn, or, if I was traveling with kids, would make a “pedestrian-style” right turn at an intersection when the southbound traffic turned red. But the law doesn’t require me to do that, and should allow me to ride up to 3 blocks or so in the bus lane preparatory to turning right.

  • iSkyscraper

    Andrew,

    You are perfectly correct in all of your points, but I still feel there is something new here in pushing the threshold far beyond the 44 trip breakeven. I don’t think the situation prior to 1995 was at all desirable and the increase in the city’s viability since is not coincidental. It is hard to separate social effects from simple transportation — like it not the MTA is already in deep with regard to behavior modification (variable bridge tolls), school policy (via student discounts), environmental impact (electric hybrid buses), streetscape design (bus lanes), etc. If they really only focused on getting from A to B they would just run a bunch of cheap dirty buses, like the private operators out in Queens used to do before they were amalgamated. But given that every single ride is subsidized by tax dollars, I don’t mind a little public good being thrown into their mission. And I feel that encouraging commuters to use off-peak transit was indeed a worthy public good.

    Imagine you and your wife both work in midtown but don’t use the subway a whole lot in the evenings (toddlers don’t go out) or weekends (often either staying local or going out of town). You maybe have a car too but never commute with it. On a rare night out, you’re standing on the corner thinking “hmmn, we both have unlimited metrocards, so subway cost to the movie and back is zero vs $12 cab fares/parking garage. We’ll take the subway.” Now, presuming you’ve switched to pay-per-rides, the thought will be “subway costs us $8.40, cab/garage is only three bucks more, let’s take a cab/drive”.

    Americans have a strong attachment to “free” and to private vs public spaces, and effectively making off-peak transit free for commuters was good public policy in my opinion. Now you’re running the same trains at night at the same cost but they will be emptier, and there will be more cabs and cars on the road. I would rather see higher per-use-fares (nail the tourists) and lower monthly costs, similar to how Montreal does it. There, the lowest possible discounted “cash”-type fare is $2.10, but a monthly pass is only $70, or 33x. The details matter too — their express airport bus is $7, but if you have a monthly pass there is no additional cost. (Imagine using your unlimited Metrocard on the AirTrain for free while the pay-per-ride people cough up the $5…) This is good urban/transit thinking.

  • iSkyscraper, MTA tolls aren’t variable, that’s the Port Authority you’re thinking of. MTA doesn’t have student discounts; they give away free metrocards because the city and state make them do it. MTA doesn’t paint bus lanes; that’s NYC DOT. They do operate the hybrid buses, but I wager that they are cheaper to operate than old-style diesels.

    And MTA doesn’t run the Airtrain to JFK; that’s Port Authority again. It would indeed be exciting for interstate commuters to be able to use unlimited-ride metrocards on PATH, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the PA and MTA to iron the details out on that.

    And $12 for a taxi? After the 15% tip, the $1.50 surcharge, and the $2.50 ante to start the meter, you’re looking at 64 blocks in zero traffic. Maybe you could get half that far at any time not in the middle of the night, and that’s only one way. Paying $8.40 round trip looks pretty good when the alternative is $40-$50.

    I agree with you that making offpeak transit effectively free for commuters was a good idea, but the MTA needs money now.

  • Rich Conroy

    Bicycles Only,
    What are you really saying here, and what are the implications? Your point is sure disingenuous. Sure, some laws don’t apply to cyclists because they simply aren’t applicable (say, for example, a 65 mph speed limit). Unfortunately your use of a court decision on turn signal distances is a poor and too finite example. You entirely missed the point the NYS law still requires cyclists to use hand signals! Or that using signals is not just the law, but a superior way to flow smoothly with traffic.

    And just because some traffic laws may not apply to cyclists doesn’t suddenly mean that all of them don’t apply or shouldn’t apply. It doesn’t suddenly mean that cyclists can or should ignore traffic laws.

    I know Streetsblog is all about the hardware. But it’s a big city, and a big country. We probably won’t have separated bike lanes everywhere, at least not any time soon. Following vehicular traffic laws is still the best way to ride a bike every where else.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Rich,

    You’re ignoring the substance of my comments and putting words in my mouth. Please go back and read what I wrote.

    My point is that bicyclists should as a general matter follow the law, but (in contrast to your assertion) the law governing cyclists in NYC is not identical to that governing motorists. Sure, plenty of overlap, but some differences. I cited a court decision affirming that principle, which is set forth in the NYS Vehicle and Traffic law.

    There nothing disingenuous in pointing that out–especially when there’s so many people out there with positions of authority in the cycling community who will make all-encompassing assertions to the contrary.

    How on earth did you read that and conclude I was arguing that “all of the traffic laws don’t apply or shouldn’t apply” to cyclists?

    As far as signaling goes, you’re the one who missed the significance of the case. The issue in the case is whether the cyclist’s obligation to signal turns is identical to that of the motorist–even though both are subject to the same signaling law–and the court decided that the obligation was different, because of an inherent difference in the operation of a bicycle as compared to a motor vehicle.

    What are the implications of your arguments? Do you think the cyclist in that case should have been denied a recovery for his injuries because he was contributorily negligent in failing to signal for the same length of time that a motorist is required to signal?

  • http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/03/22/how-london-is-saving-lives-with-20-mph-zones/

    “One benefit of changing an entire city or neighborhood to 20 mph speed limits is the cost, which King says may average 50 times less than London-style 20 mph zones. Another plus is that a uniform speed reduces confusion over constantly changing rules.

    “Perhaps the most convincing argument for a blanket 20 mph speed limit is that it helps residents buy into the concept of driving more slowly. According to King, the fiercest opposition comes from those who have to drive through 20 mph speed limits but still live on fast-moving streets. ‘They don’t own the benefits of the 20 mph zone where they live,’ he said, ‘but they still have to pay the cost.’ When a large contiguous area is covered by lower speed limits, it’s easier for everyone to make the psychological switch to slower speeds.”

    When we are able to put up cameras where required that would be great but this important initiative should move forward in any case.

  • #23 gecko, mistake comment under incorrect post.