In Speech, Vacca Promises Support for Select Bus Service, Pedestrian Safety

In a speech to NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation, City Council Transportation Chair James Vacca focused on improving bus service and protecting pedestrians. Image: City Council

In a speech this morning at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation, City Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca laid out his agenda for the coming year. His remarks focused on efforts to support Select Bus Service outside the Manhattan core and to improve pedestrian safety. Also on Vacca’s list were curbing placard abuse and enforcing existing regulations on commercial cyclists.

Citing reports from the Center for an Urban Future and the Pratt Center for Community Development, Vacca argued that the city’s transit system is inadequate for low-income communities, especially as employment shifts from Manhattan to the other four boroughs. “As our city decentralizes its job growth,” he said, “the hub and the spokes model must be adapted to meet changing needs.” Better transit outside Manhattan, he said, is a matter of “social, economic, and environmental justice.”

The solution, Vacca argued, is Select Bus Service, which he said he hoped to see expand more rapidly than it has so far. “I’m not talking about expanding the network of slow buses,” he said. “I’m talking about the network of SBS buses that will get people where they want to go quicker.” He specifically endorsed each aspect of SBS: dedicated and camera-enforced lanes, priority at traffic signals and off-board fare payment. The city’s first SBS line, along Fordham Road, goes through Vacca’s district and has been a smash success.

There’s little the council can do legislatively to speed up SBS implementation, Vacca said, but he plans to hold an oversight hearing to call attention to the issue. He also suggested that the council could help build political support for rapid bus service, even bringing it back to communities that have rejected the idea. “We can try to get them to be a ‘Yes,'” he said.

In terms of pedestrian safety, Vacca reiterated his position from last week’s landmark hearing on inadequate NYPD traffic fatality investigations. “There are too many people in this city who drive too quickly who physically injure another person who end up with a traffic ticket,” said Vacca. “That’s unacceptable.”

Vacca mentioned a number of ways to improve traffic enforcement and promised that he’d work to find more. He said he wants to see NYPD charge motorists with careless driving, even if police don’t directly witness a crash, and voiced support for state legislation making their ability to do so explicit.

Vacca also called on Albany to allow the city to install more red light cameras. “Many times, we give tickets just for the purpose of raising revenue,” he said, “but these are more than tickets. My purpose in advocating for them is to save lives in this city.”

Finally, Vacca also called on City Hall to set up an interagency traffic safety task force, a top demand of Transportation Alternatives.

Engineering solutions to pedestrian safety, such as bike lanes and traffic calming, didn’t come up during the discussion this morning. Historically, Vacca has been antagonistic toward safety efforts that redistribute road space away from motor vehicles, seeming to prefer enforcement-based solutions. However, he did briefly mention his support for DOT’s slow speed zones, which are intended to be self-enforcing.

During a question-and-answer period, Vacca noted a number of other issues on his committee’s agenda. The council is still working out details of legislation sponsored by Dan Garodnick aimed at curbing the abuse of parking placards, for example.

Some classes of cyclists are also being targeted by Vacca. The council member said he wants to increase enforcement of existing laws regulating the behavior of commercial cyclists and that his committee is exploring how to regulate electric bicycles.

In his speech, Vacca also mentioned his support for bringing Metro-North service to under-served parts of the Bronx, for expanding ferry service, and allowing drivers to use time purchased at one Muni-Meter in another location.

  • Calling for more buses is truly thinking small. Figure out a way to bring rapid transit development to these growing job centers. The plans are out there. It’s a matter instead of finding the money to fund the projects and the wherewithal to cut back on work rules that make construction in NYC cost so much.

  • Voter

    “As our city decentralizes its job growth,” bike lanes are also great options for low-income people who need to get to places that existing transit doesn’t run.

  • chuck

    BRT is a very smart, very economical transit model that exploding in the developing world, and it’s perfect for a city like ours that never wants to seriously invest in transit. 

  • Bolwerk

    @bkchk:disqus: BRT is a waste of money and locks us into dependency on fossil fuel. What the developing world is making the mistake we did in sixty years ago, and they’re going to pay for it down the road when they need more scalable systems.

    @5433edacca71fb9f662f177e56ac1187:disqus: Really, I’m pro-biking, but biking is not a serious commuting option for many people.  Especially in the winter. (That’s not to say it’s less serous than cars.)

  • J

    @bkabak:disqus This is a major turnaround for Vacca. Before this speech, it often seemed that Vacca was arguing against anything that would slow down or inconvenience cars, much less actively campaigning for transit expansion. A true network of SBS service would certainly do slow some car traffic, but it would also dramatically speed up bus service and increase ridership. Maybe this is not “rapid” enough for your tastes, but given the cost of subways versus the cost and effectiveness of SBS, the choice seems clear to me.

    Rather than knock Vacca for this, I think we should get on board with his vision for a network of SBS service on corridors that maybe don’t have the demand to justify the ridiculous expense of a subway line. His vision also happens to be the vision of the mayor, the MTA, the USDOT, much of the city council and a plethora of transit advocates. Given the success on Fordham Rd and 1st/2nd Aves routes, I am thrilled to see these transit expansions gaining political momentum, especially in dense, car-centric areas, such as East Queens and northern Bronx, where congestion is bad but improved transit service would function quite well and attract high ridership. We’ve poured billions into the 2nd Ave subway, but imagine how many SBS routes could have been built with that money and this political support. It would literally change the face of the city, which the 2nd Ave Subway will not.

    I do, however, that we need to be vigilant and hold Vacca to these promises, as his stances have fluctuated over the years.

  • Glenn

    Thanks to all the reporting and advocacy that clearly must have finally gotten through to Vacca and probably Quinn too. We may never know exactly how this turnabout happened, but my money would be on this website and a certain outfit on West 26th Street having a strong role. If anyone does find out the back story on how Vacca went from NBBL-like, pro-auto, parking ticket obsessed thinking to livable streets advocate it would make for a great case study is constructive activism.

  • Voter

    @3a9cb377ae68ba7b489d30e5eb859747:disqus biking is, of course, a serious option for many low-income people who tend to be lost in the general discussion of cycling that takes place in more gentrified areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

    And, yes, winter makes it tough for many people to ride, but we’re really only talking about 3 to 4 months out of the year where the weather presents a challenge.  (Although not this winter.)  If people of lesser means can save hundreds of dollars by not using transit, or even more by not driving, for 8 months out of the year I’d say that’s a good thing. That’s money they can spend on rent, food, education, etc.

    I’m glad Vacca is concerned about low-income New Yorkers, but he should recognize that they are in many ways the greatest beneficiaries of safe streets and bike lanes.

  • kevd

    BRT is an effective solution along some corridors (buses can even be Electric, Bolwerk), bike lanes work along others, and heavy rail is cost effective in a few places.

    1 does not preclude the others, and all 3 are necessary components to solving NYC’s mobility problems.

    Glad to see Vacca is finally doing something forward thinking.

  • kevd

    And J, while the second ave. subway has is enormously expensive – I do not believe that it is a route that is best suited to BRT alone. The passenger volumes are projected to be so high that heavy rail is the only viable long term solution there.

    But there are probably a dozen or more high volume bus routes in NYC that could be converted to BRT (or less effectively, SBS) and that would improve the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of people for a fraction the cost of the second avenue subway.

  • Joe R.

    BRT is good only as a precursor to an eventual subway line. Nothing else can move so many people as rapidly or with as little energy as a subway. BRT is attractive mainly because it’s a cheap, quick way to get something better than regular bus service. The question which must be asked is why are infrastructure projects like subways so prohibitively expensive compared to years ago?  The Second Avenue subway costs many multiples what the original subway lines did per mile, even correcting for inflation. Other countries like China have built subways for much less. Since we are seemingly unable to build anything these days without it costing a small fortune, why not just contract them to do it? If we had done this, maybe instead of just a 2nd Avenue stubway, we might have another 50 miles of new lines in the outer boroughs, which is really where more subways are needed.

  • Andrew

    Subway lines are the way to go, long-term, where projected ridership volumes are very high. But Vacca is specifically addressing non-CBD-oriented travel, which most often will never have the ridership volumes appropriate for subway service.

    The Bx12 is an example of a busy crosstown (non-CBD-oriented) bus route that has benefited from the upgrade to SBS but that doesn’t carry quite enough riders to justify subway construction.

  • Joe R.

    @Andrew_J_C:disqus Sure, SBS and BRT make sense for some heavily used bus routes in the outer boroughs. The problem is I see it being used even in places which might well have the volume to justify a full-fledged subway. Short term the subway costs way more than BRT, but long term it more than pays for itself. Problem is that usually occurs long after someone’s term in office expires. With the current one-term thinking prevalent these days, we’re only going to see projects which reap benefits within that time frame, such as BRT. Had this type of thinking prevailed a century ago, we never would have had the subways which made NYC what it is today.

  • Anonymous

    Am I the only cynic here? Could it be chance that Vacca is speaking our popular safe street lingo just in time for next year’s election, when both he and Quinn will turn into pumpkins if they don’t win? Given how much he has set back our movement in his capacity as transpo. chair, he will have to achieve no less than three tangible safe streets improvements before I believe a word he says.

  • Andrew

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus I share your concern, but I don’t think we should hold up bus improvements just because they’re not rail.

    @jooltman:disqus Talk is cheap, and I’m not convinced that Vacca is doing anything more than talking, but I’m willing to give him a chance.

  • Anonymous

    During the Q&A, Vacca was asked to include bike racks on the SBS buses. Bike riders can use the BRT for fast line haul across a Borough, then don’t need to wait for transfers to slow local buses.  This works particularly well for low income labor that travels late night off peak hours when some local routes even shut down, at both the residential side and jobs in places like Maspeth with poor transit service.

    While NYC Transit refuses to mount bike racks on buses, most bus systems across the country have them.  I just saw an NYU shuttle bus with a bike rack today.  So bus bike racks can work in Manhattan traffic!

    Los Angeles not only has racks on all local buses, but has racks on all their BRT and express buses.  Last year in LA I saw that well over half the buses on the express routes were carrying 1 to 3 bikes on every bus. There was steady bike on bus use.  I believe that LA is using the new Sportworks 3 bike racks.  The first generation bus racks held only two bikes, and often cyclists were left waiting for the next bus.  LA and Queens traffic are not all that different.  Parts of LA may be worse!  If bike bus racks work in LA, they should work here.

    My only concern with the SBS program is where it’s applied to both sides of a two way street.  How well are bikes being managed in the remaining space.  For some streets, such as Fordham Road, there are critical narrow points with no alternate bike route streets – such as where Fordham passes between the Zoo and the Gardens.  Can anyone comment on how bikes in this pass are handled?

  • Andrew

    @Brownstone2:disqus Bike racks have the potential to slow down service, as the bus has to wait for cyclists to mount and dismount their bikes. Advocates for bike racks often claim that the mount/dismount process will take place while the bus is waiting for people to pay fares anyway, but if you accept that argument, then SBS is an especially bad place for bike racks, since the bus doesn’t wait for people to pay fares.

    Bike racks also encourage people to stand near the front of the bus to keep an eye on their bikes, which clogs up the aisle.

    Rather than looking at other U.S. bus systems, which play a much smaller role in their regions’ transportation networks than our bus system plays in ours, it makes more sense to look at other large bus systems around the world. Which of them have bike racks, and what have their experiences been?

  • Bolwerk

    Vacca really just seems to have the mores and intellect of a suburban Republican in New Jersey or Connecticut.  He probably isn’t an especially hostile person, but I doubt he has a lot of empathy for the poor and transit-dependent.  His kneejerk autocentricism is so out of line with the needs of his constituents and NYC in general that it’s hard for anyone with an iota of street savvy not to find him a bit ludicrous.  So I agree with @jooltman:disqus, and I am very skeptical.

    @5433edacca71fb9f662f177e56ac1187:disqus: bikes are a serious option for a tiny subset of commuters, and most of them are not poor.  Poor people live further away from the cushy, bourgeois digs of Manhattan and need serious transit, not fair weather options.

     @Brownstone2:disqus  bike racks on buses are really pretty inappropriate.  And, frankly, bikes beat many buses anyway.

    @kevdflb:disqus : I know buses can be electric, but why bother?  You basically lose the advantages of buses and the advantages of trains if you go that route.  Buses at least make sense for some low-traffic routes that don’t warrant serious infrastructure investment and maintenance. And not that BRT is an entirely inappropriate mode in some cases, but New York could use more capacity than it can provide in many cases.

  • J

    @kevdflb:disqus I agree that 2nd Ave needs a subway. No question there. I also think there are a number of other corridors that probably have (or could develop) the ridership to justify the expense. My overal point was that the cost SAS was enormous, and the % time savings per customer per dollar spent will be fairly small, and you’d get way more bang for your buck with SBS. Politically, though, SBS can be tricky.

    Regarding Vacca, I like what I’m hearing, but I remain skeptical of his true intentions.

  • J

    @bkabak:disqus I also wondering how you feel about Toronto’s mayor, who scrapped a large-scale plan for light rail, in favor of a subways-only plan. It is a long, and seemingly unending saga, where most people who actually use transit favor the light rail plan, as it more much more service to more places. I agree that rapid transit is everyone’s goal, but I think Select Bus Service can and does fill that role. Vacca was very clear that he was talking about SBS, not simply more buses.
    This is just the latest news about the Toronto saga, but it gives you an idea:–mayor-rob-ford-hurts-the-ttc-by-unjustly-firing-gary-webster-as-general-manager?bn=1 

  • Bolwerk, my Upper Manhattan neighborhood has a median income of about $35k and I see every day, even in winter, a fair number of people either biking to work or biking for work. I’ve even seen folks with their kids riding on the handlebars. I don’t think they’re going to work at Open Plans Project or a similar cushy nonprofit, but they are on bikes, and have jobs. Why don’t they deserve a safe ride to work?

  • Voter

    @3a9cb377ae68ba7b489d30e5eb859747:disqus sets up a fallacy: that poor people who live far away from the Midtown or downtown Manhattan can’t bike there because it’s too far.  But that assumes a) that everyone who lives in, say, the Bronx or the outer reaches of Queens and Brooklyn commutes to Manhattans CBD and that b) every trip every person makes is to a job. 

    Bikes are a serious option for many low-income people who fill minimum wage jobs all over the city.  They are a serious option for a person running errands or visiting friends.  Yes, they need reliable transit options such as subways and buses, but they also should be given the safe options for saving money that results from bike commuting. 

    As long as we hold bike lanes to the standard that they are only worth it for the commuters going to the CBD from Brownstone Brooklyn or Williamsburg condos, they will never be seen as a success.

  • Joe R.

    “Why don’t they deserve a safe ride to work?”

    I agree 100% with you on this point, but the only truly safe cycling infrastructure is one which completely separates bikes and motor traffic, including at intersections. The protected bike lanes only separate the modes in between intersections. Intersections are where most incidents happen.

    On the larger issue of expanding bicycles as a mode of transport, I have to agree with Bolwerk that at present, this really isn’t an option except for a small minority. The only way it ever will be an option for serious numbers of people, especially those coming from the outer boroughs, would be if we built a bicycle network on which one can travel free from motor traffic for most of the journey. I’m an avid cyclist. I could easily bike the distance from where I live in Eastern Queens to a hypothetical job in Manhattan (I work at home though so this is moot). However, I wouldn’t even consider it unless: 1) I could do 90+% of the trip without stopping or interacting with motor vehicles. 2) I had a safe place to park my bike where it wouldn’t get stolen.

    Note that I didn’t even mention safety here, even though I recognize this is an issue for many would-be bicycle commuters. I didn’t because I feel perfectly safe, even on roads with fast, heavy motor traffic, because of my experience level. However, riding 12 miles each way under typical rush hour conditions is what would put a damper on the idea of bike commuting. Best case the commute would probably take an hour, and then only if I could safely pass the numerous red lights I would certainly encounter. More realistically, it might end up taking 1.5 hours each way. And then you also have the stress of essentially being hyper alert for up to 3 hours per day watching out for every little hazard. If I could do most of the ride without stopping, we’re probably looking at 35 to 40 minutes each way-comparable to taking the subway, and a lot more pleasant. The added safety and lack of stress dealing with motor vehicles on an exclusive bikeway would only be a plus. In a city as large as New York, if we’re ever to expand cycling as transportation beyond a niche mode, we’ll need bicycle “highways”. Current bicycle infrastructure really is mostly suited to those who are only going a mile or two, unless they’re able to use one of the few greenways for most of their commute.

  • Joe R.

    @5433edacca71fb9f662f177e56ac1187:disqus Yes, I agree bikes are a serious option for travel within the outer boroughs. Indeed, three decades ago I used to ride with my younger brother everywhere running errands, including some trips to Green Acres shopping center (40 miles round trip from where I live). That being said, I’d say the single biggest thing preventing more bike use in places like Eastern Queens, where I live, isn’t lack of bike lanes, but lack of safe bicycle parking, preferably inside stores near the security guard. My brother had 3 bikes stolen. That’s why we ended up running errands together-one would stay outside to mind the bikes while the other shopped. If more stores in the outer boroughs recognized that some of their customers bike, you would see a lot more utility cycling here. Most roads in the outer boroughs really have light enough traffic that bike lanes aren’t needed, but safe bike parking sorely is.

  • Bolwerk

    @Voter:disqus : no, voter, I made no such assumption.  Read what I said, and learn the difference between a fallacy and a generalization.  A perfectly legitimate generalization is that poorer people have longer commutes and (in NYC) are often less able to own cars. It’s also a legitimate generalization that they probably have more traffic inflicted on them and live in less walkable communities. It’s also a fair assumption that many have to cross a borough line, which in most cases means a river.

    From The Bronx, someone may be making a crazy cross-borough trip on a crappy bus or stuck going to Queens or Brooklyn. A bike would do such a person almost no good, and inflicting bike dependency on such a person would be every bit as selfish and as inflicting car-dependency on them.  In general, it’s a stupid substitute for the high-capacity rail transit we need to address those people’s needs. 

    Sure, there might be the odd poorer person who can bike to work.  But as a commuting option it’s mostly something people who can afford to live near their workplaces can do, and then only if the conditions are right for it. I agree the option should be there if they want it, but it’s not exactly viable for most people, especially those in jobs where you need to dress up. The major reasons for bike lanes is to allow for non-commuter trips, especially recreational ones – which is itself important in the recreation-starved Bronx.

  • Anonymous

    You worry bike on bus won’t work – too slow to load, and you ask for examples of high density cities where bike on bus works for express service.

    Los Angeles has bike on express bus service.  I specifically gave LA as an example, because LA has worse street traffic than NYC.  LA has one subway route and several LRT routes, all heavily used, but they hardly cover the city.  Express / SBS / BRT bus routes are filling in some of the gaps until rail can be returned to former Pacific Electric routes.  LA is a valid example of bike on bus in high volume – high density operations fully comparable to NYC’s boroughs and probably Manhattan too.

    LA offers anther good comparison, why cyclists want to take the bus even though cycling is a fast way to travel.  LA has a BRT route in a former RR ROW across the length of the San Fernando Valley with a parallel dedicated bike path – that runs some 10 miles or more.  One can see many cyclists on the path and many on the buses.  They use the bus to go all the way into downtown LA or just part of the way along the corridor.  Because this bus runs on an exclusive ROW, it can move faster than a bike and faster than traffic on parallel roads, particularly during rush hours.  It makes sense for cyclists to use the bus for long distance line haul, also to pass through heavy downtown traffic areas, then use the bike as the feeder at each end.  I am repeating what I said in my first posting, the facts have not changed.  There is great value to cyclists to have transit for the longest portion of the trip, with great time savings in not having to make a bus transfer at each end just to go 1-2 miles – a 5 to 10 minute bike ride.  We all have waited 10-20 minutes for that transfer bus and know we couldn’t walk quite that fast, but certainly could bike long before the bus arrived.

    As to bike loading delays, the fact that the racks can only hold up to 3 bikes is good and bad news.  There can never be more than 3 cyclists (6 max if 3 on and 3 off at the same stop) fussing with bikes.  Sure, off-board fare collection speeds boarding, but it still takes some time for passenger to walk onto the bus.  Bike loading is smooth and fast on these racks, there is no delay comparable to deploying a wheelchair ramp or lift.  The bad news about the 3 bike limit is that sometimes bike demand exceeds capacity.  This would be likely for a Verrazano Bridge bike bus, especially on weekends.  Overall, loading-unloading bikes is a non-issue.  As to cyclists waiting near the front, probably yes, but again, no more than 3 cyclists will be on the bus at a time.

    The Transit Authority has one interesting complaint about racks.  They have limited depot space to park buses, and the extra 8 to 12 inches that a folded rack takes up on each bus will loose a parking spot in each row.  Possibly.  If the SBS routes use articulated buses, then an extra 12 inches per 60 foot bus has a smaller impact than on 40 foot buses.  They probably won’t loose a space on each row of buses.

    As to traffic operations, nearly every other transit system in the US and Europe have installed bus bike racks.  As noted, NYU is running bike racks on it’s full size shuttle buses running around Manhattan.  They are there on our streets, now.

    The examples are there for you to see. 

  • dporpentine

    @3a9cb377ae68ba7b489d30e5eb859747:disqus Generalizations of those sort are meaningless, not least because there’s data out there about all of those that. Look into it. I doubt you’ll see a picture that’s anything as neat as the one you’re painting.

  • What dporpentine said. It’s quite possible also that the causation goes at least partly in reverse: some percentage of poor people are poor because they live far from their jobs and spend lots of money to get to work.

  • Bolwerk

    Jesus, you can’t make up this type of stupidity even for a comedy routine. @c661ddb94bcffdc2c6124e349eafdc77:disqus : you need a study to tell you that fire is hot? Look how the poor in New York City are distributed. They aren’t in Greenwich Village; they’re in the South Bronx, East New York, Bed Stuy, etc.  This is all pretty obvious based on ZIP code- or community board-level data.  Whether they have longer commutes now or not, even whether they have access to jobs now in their own neighborhoods or not, the access they have to jobs and other economic opportunities is improved drastically by access to better transit options – the same kind something like the 2% of commuters who ride bikes (actually, I’m wildly inflating that number, aren’t I?) get to enjoy to augment their bike commuting on rainy days.

    And, no, it’s not a neat picture, which is probably exactly why people like Voter are making such dubious presumptions to begin with, and then hiding behind the fact that everything is a generalization here. Why, poor people can bike to work just fine.  They aren’t expected to dress up when they go to their fry cooking jobs, and, well, they smell funny anyway, so no problem if they’re sweating. Those slackers should tough it up, enjoy the rain and snow, lift ’emselves up by the bootstraps! 

    @jrab:disqus : that’s almost certainly true, and is about completely supportive of what I said below. All the more reason why they should have access to proper transit options. Again, bike lanes are a great idea, but people are deluding themselves by trying to present them as meaningful commuting options. They are great for recreation, local transport, offering exercise, street safety, etc..  Not commuting. And, what is worse, by deliberately presenting bikes as a meaningful commuting option, some bike advocates are making themselves look stupid, which in turn actually undermines sane advocates’ ability to get more bike lanes by giving authoritarian cretins like Jimmy Vacca and Steve Cuozzi the opportunity to lump us all together. 

  • dporpentine

    A list of your assertions and attendant support:
    Assertion: “poorer people have longer commutes (in NYC)”
    Support: Apparently no poor people live in Greenwich Village and most people commute to Greenwich Village. No one, however, commutes from Westchester or Connecticut.
    Assertion: “poorer people . . . often less able to own cars”
    Support: Uh, presumably, the idea is something like “poor people are poor, duh.” But I bet car ownership and income level aren’t nearly as neatly aligned in NYC as that would suggest.
    Assertion: “poorer people . . . probably have more traffic inflicted on them”
    Support: Chewbacca lives on Endor.
    Assertion: “poorer people . . . live in less walkable communities”
    Support: Chewbacca lives on Endor. But not in Connecticut, which is very walkable.
    I could go on like this all day and still not understand why you think you’ve made one reasonable point.

  • Voter

     @3a9cb377ae68ba7b489d30e5eb859747:disqus when you make the assumption that riding to work makes one smelly, it is you who is speaking in generalizations. 

    When you say with the utmost certainty that bike lanes are great for recreation and not commuting, what information or data do you have to support that position?  Are the thousands of people crossing the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Queensboro bridges every morning between 8 and 9 and crossing back every evening between 5 and 6 commuting or simply enjoying some recreation?  Yes, it’s a small percentage of ALL commuters, but for you to say that cycling is not good for commuting is laughable and undermines any other points you want to make.

    No one except you is saying that it’s either/or, that either the poor ride bikes or they take trains.  What I have said is that low-income neighborhoods need multiple options just like the ones enjoyed by residents of more gentrified areas of the city: reliable and convenient transit, streets safe enough to bike on, and roads that are safe to cross on foot.  A bike lane may not help someone get all the way from the Bronx to downtown, but it may make a ten or fifteen minute walk to the nearest subway station a heck of a lot closer.  Even if someone can’t do that every day due to weather or personal circumstances, there are certainly people who would choose that option if it was made safe.

    There are also major businesses and institutions scattered across the boroughs.  Fresh Direct is building a giant HQ in the Bronx.  Hospitals and universities abound in places like Midwood, Jamaica, or Upper Manhattan.  Did anyone say that the poor live in Greenwich Village?  Just you.

    No one is lecturing the poor.  “Hey, just get on a bike!”  We are advocating for politicians like Vacca to see the big picture.  Allowing for multi-modal commutes is paramount towards providing opportunities for all New Yorkers and a piecemeal approach may, in the end, be cheaper and more efficient for the city than building expensive new trains and SBS lines.

  • kevd

    “Jesus, you can’t make up this type of stupidity even for a comedy routine.”
    Wow, you are completely obnoxious.

  • Bolwerk

    Wow, now the illiteracy is coming out.  So, now it’s clear that @c661ddb94bcffdc2c6124e349eafdc77:disqus  doesn’t know the difference between a generalization and a particulars and anecdotes. And @2bfb12fffc1d4e46777ff51060893bb4:disqus is obviously misinterpreting what I said below, but probably wouldn’t understand if it was explained to him anyway. I’ll try to avoid verbal irony, since it obviously requires too much nuance.

    Let me say it again, because obviously it wasn’t clear the first times: I’m not saying nobody bikes to work.  I’m not saying people shouldn’t bike to work.  I’m not saying it’s never a good idea.  I’m not saying it isn’t laudable. I’M SAYING IT’S IMPRACTICAL AND MOST PEOPLE WON’T DO IT. And if you people would at least look at the world outside of Park Slope or wherever you live, you’d see that too.  I can even say, it’s so close to useless for most people that almost nobody does it now (has it broken 1% in NYC since 2009?), and I don’t see a scenario where that changes no matter how many bike lanes get installed.

    And, Voter is even supporting what I say when he tries to defend himself quantitively. Let’s go with his number (“thousands”).  There are millions of people not doing it.  Even a number like “tens of thousands” means no more than 4% of the working population is bike commuting in NYC.  And we know it’s not that anywhere near high.

    So, please, please, please, I’m imploring you: read for comprehension.  You’ve scarcely addressed anything I even said, and in many cases you’re actually addressing the exact opposite of my point.

    There are also major businesses and institutions scattered across the
    boroughs.  Fresh Direct is building a giant HQ in the Bronx.  Hospitals
    and universities abound in places like Midwood, Jamaica, or Upper

    Would you care to tell me the point of this seeming non-sequitur?

    We are advocating for politicians like Vacca to see the big picture. 
    Allowing for multi-modal commutes is paramount towards providing
    opportunities for all New Yorkers and a piecemeal approach may, in the
    end, be cheaper and more efficient for the city than building expensive
    new trains and SBS lines.

    That is all true, of course, but you are also missing the big picture, whether you share Vacca’s chauvinist contempt for the poor or not. People need those expensive new trains and SBSLRT lines.

    Bike lanes are very good, affordable, positive developments, and absolutely should be provided, but for reasons that are almost entirely separate from why good transit is vital.  They are complements, not substitutes. People aren’t going to be able to bike commute because you want them to. 

  • dporpentine

    @3a9cb377ae68ba7b489d30e5eb859747:disqus  You made a series of claims about reality. Calling those claims “generalizations” does not somehow absolve you of having those claims tied to reality.

  • Bolwerk

    @kevd: Sorry, but you really can’t. I don’t have a problem if they sincerely disagree with me, but I have every right not to have my words misconstrued, and I have a hard time seeing how these two are responding to me in good faith at this point.

  • Calling other commenters stupid and illiterate violates Streetsblog’s comment policy. This thread is closed.


Introducing “Vacca Watch”

When Streetsblog interviewed City Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca a year ago, he was fresh off a press appearance with AARP calling for complete streets legislation in Albany. The Ninth Avenue protected bike lane was the backdrop. During our conversation a few weeks later he came across as someone who took street safety seriously […]

Vacca Looks to Squeeze $ From Bikes, But Won’t Touch the Price of Parking

The headline from today’s City Council transportation committee oversight hearing was Janette Sadik-Khan’s announcement that the official launch date for Citi Bike is Memorial Day. Meanwhile, for Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca, it was another occasion to flail at bikes and defend cheap parking under the guise of holding a budget hearing. Sadik-Khan kicked off the hearing […]

Vacca Staffer, Running for Council, Bucks His Boss on Complete Streets

In a City Council district in the heart of the Bronx, where the overwhelming majority of households are car-free, an aide to Council Member James Vacca distinguished himself last night by vocally supporting congestion pricing, on-street parking reform, and protected bike lanes. The District 15 seat, representing Bathgate, Belmont, Crotona, Fordham, East Tremont, Van Nest, […]

4 More City Council Members Weigh in on Parking Reform

Last week, City Hall’s proposal to reduce parking minimums for subsidized housing near transit got a hearing in the City Council, and for the most part it wasn’t pretty. Council members may say they want more affordable housing, but for many of them, that support gets shaky if it means requiring less parking in residential development. The parking reforms are part […]

James Vacca, Welcome to Sweeneyland

With his skeptical reaction to the latest poll showing majority support for cycling infrastructure, James Vacca has established himself as the city’s most authoritative voice for anti-bike nonsense. This week Transportation Alternatives released the results of a telephone survey of 603 likely New York City voters, conducted by the firm Penn Schoen Berland. Along with […]