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City Council Bills to Release Traffic Data Pass Committee Unanimously

Jimmy Vacca presides over a meeting of the City Council transportation committee, discussing four bills to provide more information about traffic safety and traffic calming. Photo: Noah Kazis.
Jimmy Vacca presides over a meeting of the City Council transportation committee, discussing four bills to provide more information about traffic safety and traffic calming. Photo: Noah Kazis.

Three bills to open up information about traffic and street safety to the public cleared the City Council's transportation committee unanimously today. According to committee chair James Vacca, the bills are scheduled for a floor vote this Wednesday. Two of the bills, in particular, should provide New Yorkers with a much clearer picture of what's happening on their streets and empower them to fight for increased safety.

Jessica Lappin's "Saving Lives Through Better Information" bill will require the Police Department to provide monthly data on both traffic crashes and summonses. The crash data will be searchable by intersection and include the types of vehicles, number of injuries and fatalities, and any factors contributing to the crash, like speeding or driver inattention.

The summons data will be disaggregated into the type of summons, but only broken down into borough and police precinct totals -- a step down from the detailed geographic information attached to crash data.

Last November, the Council amended Lappin's bill to require DOT to release the data, which the transportation department would have received from the police department. As passed today, the bill returns that responsibility to NYPD. "DOT had a pretty legitimate objection to being required to report data that another agency tracks," said Bret Collazzi, Vacca's spokesperson. Switching the mandate to DOT had been an attempt to "force the data out even if PD didn't want to give it out," he explained, but "it's preferable to have the agency that actually records the data distribute it."

When Lappin's bill first received a hearing last April, the police testified that they were opposed to the legislation both on the grounds that it would require significant amounts of manpower -- a claim which strained the Council's credulity at the time -- and because they didn't think the public should be interpreting traffic data in the first place.

"This information is only valuable to those with the training, knowledge and experience to understand its context and interpret it correctly," said NYPD Chief of Transportation James Tuller at the time. "That is the role of the police commander." We have a request in with NYPD to see if its stance has changed over the last year.

Rosie Mendez's bill, Intro 374, would require DOT to track all bike crashes that are reported to a city agency, which aren't all currently collected formally. DOT would prepare a yearly report listing all collisions between a cyclist and a motor vehicle, pedestrian, or other cyclist, including all injuries and fatalities from those crashes. That information would be available by borough and precinct.

Gathering that kind of crash data has been a top request of Nancy Gruskin, who established the Stuart C. Gruskin Family Foundation after her husband was killed by a cyclist in 2009. It should also make clear the relative dangers of and to cyclists on New York City streets.

Vacca's bill, Intro 377, would require DOT to explain why it rejected certain requests for traffic control devices. If a community board or Council member requests, say, a stop sign and DOT rejects that request, DOT must send a summary of the federal warrants it used to guide its decision, along with the date and time it collected the traffic data. The community board or Council member may then request that DOT send them a summary of any traffic study it conducted.

The bills were voted on as a package, and received "aye" votes from the eight committee members in attendance: Vacca, Lappin, Dan Garodnick, Ydanis Rodriguez, Deborah Rose, Jimmy Van Bramer, Vincent Ignizio and Peter Koo.

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