City Council Progressive Caucus Calls for BRT, Road Pricing, Livable Streets

Via Dana Rubinstein at Capital New York, the City Council Progressive Caucus has come out with a 13-point platform heading into the 2013 election season [PDF], and it includes some good planks on transit and street safety policy. All 51 council seats are up for a vote this year, with most of the important action coming on primary day, September 10.

The Progressive Caucus formed in 2010, shortly after the last citywide election. It currently has 10 members and is looking to gain strength: The caucus has so far endorsed seven candidates seeking election to the City Council for the first time, a number that will probably grow in the next few months. Turnover in the City Council figures to be higher than after the last election, since 20 council members are term-limited.

Progressive Caucus candidates will be running on a platform that calls for prioritizing buses, biking, and pedestrian safety on city streets, as well as road pricing reform that resembles Gridlock Sam Schwartz’s “Fair Plan.” While the council can’t enact road pricing (that’s up to Albany) or directly control how the city allocates street space (that’s the mayor), we’ve seen several Progressive Caucus members use their influence to fight for surface transit improvements, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian plazas over the last few years. Progressive Caucus members were also instrumental in pushing the NYPD to improve its crash investigation protocol.

This is part of the plank addressing climate change:

Invest in significant public transportation improvements that facilitate sustainable growth, preserve affordability, and improve access for underserved communities and people with disabilities.

  • Create NYC’s next high-capacity public transit option through a city-wide network of bus rapid transit lines that connect the boroughs.
  • Build an inclusive consensus for implementing fairer toll pricing that reduces car trips and environmental impacts on neighborhoods, makes driving between the outer boroughs less burdensome, and shores up funding for the city’s transit system.
  • Support “livable streets” policies city-wide that proactively engage communities in the planning process to bring well-planned bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and traffic calming measures to all neighborhoods.

And this comes under the section on public safety and police accountability:

Improve the NYPD’s inadequate traffic safety enforcement and crash investigation, and expand neighborhood “slow zones” to save the lives of New Yorkers lost to dangerous driving.

  • Joe R.

    There’s one thing the City Council can do which would greatly decrease car ownership and car usage. That something is to phase out curbside parking. Start by not allowing overnight parking. Eventually don’t allow curbside parking at all in residential areas other than for deliveries, and have metered parking with high hourly rates in commercial areas. Once car use declines significantly, prohibit curbside parking (except for deliveries) even in commercial areas. In all cases use the extra space to either widen the sidewalk, or install exclusive bike or bus lanes. Make the changes as permanent as possible so it will be very costly for future administrations to reverse. Easy access to parking is the biggest generator of both car trips and car ownership. If businesses really feel parking is important for their business model, they’ll pay the full cost of off-street parking facilities.

  • Mark Walker

    I’m saddened to see the original 12 members have dwindled to 10. I certainly wish my council member would get on board. I’m talking to you, Inez Dickens.

  • boof

    Joe: It’s unrealistic fantasy posts like this that make me wonder if you’re not just making fun of us all.

    “Just start by eliminating overnight parking.” I’m sure the council will pass that first thing Monday now that you’ve given them the idea….

  • Anonymous

    Would someone please tell the Progressive Caucus (aka “The Academic Freedom Squelchers–Until the Winds Started Blowing the Other Way”) that “bold ideas” don’t require boldface fonts. The document they produced is the visual equivalent of a subway rant.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Maybe. But I’ve surprised to seem some people calling themselves progressive advocating something worthy of the original meaning of the word. That’s a good thing.

  • Anonymous

    Why aren’t more businesses and tradespeople demanding loading zones free of curbside parking? I’d like to see FREE or low cost short term parking for commercial vehicles only on every block. Private cars can park there nights and weekends with a paid permit.

  • Anonymous

    Eliminating all street parking is going too far. Read Walkable City by Jeff Speck. I’m all for widening sidewalks, using curb-side parking as bike lane buffers, market-pricing of curbside spots (like SFpark), etc.

    Eliminating parking minimums and instituting parking maximums for off street parking is a must. Congestion pricing of cities much like London is a must. Instituting road diets – must do. Traffic light and speed cameras are necessary. All of the above need to happen, now

  • zach

    Right on, Squid. The streets are full of double-parked cars and trucks trying to pick up and deliver. There should be one or two spots on most residential blocks with a meter that only goes to 20 minutes.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, I know eliminating curbside parking won’t pass in today’s climate. That doesn’t mean it won’t in 5 or 10 years time. Don’t forget the people who own cars in the city are a diminishing minority. Eventually they’ll lose their grip on power. Frankly, it’s an unrealistic fantasy that we shoehorned so many cars into urban areas in the first place. Large numbers of motor vehicles are incompatible with urban environments.

  • Joe R.

    I didn’t say eliminate curbside parking totally. Leave it in place for delivery vehicles, eliminate it for private cars. It seems based on your post that your goal is the same as mine-namely to reduce traffic volumes. The best way to discourage driving is to eliminate parking. Unlike congestion pricing, or speed cameras, you don’t need to get curbside parking elimination through Albany. If you’re worried about not having parked cars to use as bike lane buffers, the solution is to install bollards or fences next to the bike lane. The fact is in much of NYC driving is purely an optional activity. In the places where it currently isn’t you don’t take the draconian measures I mentioned until you significantly improve mass transit. The non-car driving majority has been held hostage to the whims of the car-driving minority for way too long.

  • Joe R.

    It’s a great idea but don’t forget the city makes a lot of money ticketing those double-parked delivery trucks. That’s probably the biggest reason we don’t already have more loading zones.

  • Danny G

    I think it’s idealistic to eliminate it entirely. Sometimes the older auto-dependent generations would like to visit my branch of the family, and I don’t mind them choosing to drive here (they’re grown adults, they can make their own choices), so long as they pay for the externalities of their choices, in cash. Giving away free curbside space is silly in a place where space is valuable.

    Giving away free curbside parking for carshare vehicles on the other hand…

  • Joe R.

    That’s where off-street parking facilities come in. The problems with curbside parking, even if we charged fairly for it, are numerous. Cars entering and exiting parking spots virtually everywhere are a hazard to both bikes and other cars. With off-street parking the exit/entry is reduced to one known point. Curbside parking uses valuable land which can be better put to other uses (bus lane, bike lane, widened sidewalk, etc). Rows of parked cars are ugly, giving the aesthetics of a used car lot. And parked cars often cause delivery vehicles to double-park, further increasing traffic congestion. Curbside parking, other than temporarily to make deliveries, is just an awful idea which never should have been allowed in the first place. Tokyo is similar in population to NYC, and yet there if you wish to own a car you need to have an off-street place to keep it. We would do well to have a similar requirement in NYC.

  • Driver

    “The fact is in much of NYC driving is purely an optional activity.”
    It’s as optional as working or traveling between and within some of the outer boroughs in a reasonable amount of time, or traveling to just about anywhere outside the city limits. Sure you don’t HAVE to do any of it, but many reasonable people expect to be able to so they can make a living, and visit friends and family, go to schools, shop, run errands, etc. without these travels taking up a significant portion of their day.

    Joe, if I remember correctly, you passed up jobs and possible career opportunities because you were unable or unwilling to drive up to jobs in Westchester. While it is fine that you decided live with your parents with little money (please correct me if I am wrong, I am summarizing some of your past statements from memory), that is not an option that most people want to take. It seems to me, again based on my recollection, that your life has been significantly affected by your inability to do something that you consider to be an “optional activity”.

    This city and surrounding region is a massive economic engine, and not all of this economic activity takes place in Manhattan or DT Brooklyn, during the day, when taking transit is an excellent and highly utilized option. Driving is an important part of the lives of many people throughout this city and metropolitan area, and to ignore that fact is in my opinion viewing the issue with a narrow perspective.

  • Joe R.

    I never had any job offers in Westchester or Long Island or anywhere else so you’re wrong there. In fact, if you’re curious in 1985 I sent out 200+ resumes and didn’t get a single interview, much less a job offer. Even if I had been offered a job in Westchester, I would have taken Metro North. It’s about 25 minutes from GCT, and I can get to GCT in about 40 minutes by subway. Unless I worked off-peak hours, I couldn’t imagine driving being any faster. Eventually I would have tried to find work closer.

    Incidentally, traveling to work by car for me wouldn’t have been an option in any case because I get severely car sick. In heavy traffic this can happen within 15 minutes. Best case maybe I’ll last 1.5 to 2 hours with no traffic in the winter. It’s not motion sickness but allergy to aromatic hydrocarbons (of which car exhaust is a subset). For the same reason I avoid biking or walking in areas where traffic is heavy. While others don’t have as extreme a reaction as me to car exhaust, there’s little denying that it causes health problems for everyone, including those who drive. That alone is a good reason to take steps to reduce car use, even if people may be inconvenienced. If enough people don’t drive, don’t you think eventually the economy will readjust and the jobs/shopping will move to more transit friendly areas? Of course it will. The exact opposite happened once enough people starting driving.

    Finally, I realize driving isn’t optional in some parts of the outer boroughs which is why I don’t support taking draconian measures to reduce car use in those areas until we significantly increase transit options. I’m primarily thinking of places like Manhattan which have multiple transit options and plenty of stores within walking distance. It’s in places like this where driving is purely optional, and yet it’s in these places where will seem to encounter so much resistance any time anyone so much as mentions removing parking.

  • Anonymous

    I would think that the increased economic activity and decreased congestion would more than make up for the lost ticketing revenue. Put those traffic cops to work enforcing TRAFFIC laws.

  • Joe R.

    I think so too but try convincing the City Council of that. Every time you so much as suggest eliminating parking all the zealots come out the woodwork.

  • Joe R.

    Another thing I neglected to mention is even if I play Devil’s advocate and assume we really need to have such huge numbers of motorized vehicles on the streets, is there any good reason they all need to be 1 to 3 tons, with hundreds of horsepower? Why not something similar to a velomobile, perhaps a tad larger, which seats two and has enough cargo space for week’s worth of groceries? It might only weigh a few hundred pounds. With good aerodynamics it can cruise at 80 mph using only a few horsepower. Because the power requirements are so low you can get decent range with batteries, not a gas engine. Considering most of the time autos are carrying only the driver, why not use more vehicles like this? The rare times you might travel with your entire family you rent a regular size car. Yes, it’s a radical change to do something like this, but to me it’s sheer lunacy that you need to haul 2 tons of metal along to get a few groceries. The fact is personal transportation based on heavy, overpowered vehicles is unsustainable in the long haul. The sooner those in power wrap their heads around this, and do something to plan for a different future, the better.

  • Eric McClure

    I enthusiastically applaud the Council’s Progressive Caucus for their work, and for embracing smart transportation policy.

    But I do find it a tad disappointing that in New York City, loathed by the Right as a cesspool of leftyism, fewer than one in five of our City Councilmembers self-identify as a Progressive.

  • Guest

    My personal experience is that the conflicts with pedestrians are much worse for off-street parking, due to crossing the sidewalk. With cars parked on-street, there may be friction with traffic, but as a pedestrian I could care less.

    On-street parking is often a problem for cyclists… but that is easily solved with parking-protected bike lanes.

  • Joe R.

    It all depends upon how many curb cuts, how many cars are coming/going, etc. A viable solution to the problem you mentioned is access ramps where cars enter the garage from the street and pass above the sidewalk. This is especially viable for multistory garages of the type often seen in cities because you need to build ramps anyway to access all levels of the garage.

    As far as parking-protected bike lanes, those are only suitable on streets with few intersections, such as along parks or waterfronts or superblocks. They’re death traps if you put them on streets with intersections every 250′ because the row of parked cars blocks bikes from the view of turning cars.

  • Guest

    Or simply limit the intersections where the vehicles are allowed to make conflict turns?

  • But when so much traffic is generated by people looking for free parking, curbside parking does a lot to contribute to traffic, which I do care about as pedestrian.

  • I’d say eliminating free and underpriced parking is the way to go. Start with a low “resident fee” for parking. Right off the bat you reduce all the people who register their car out of state and keep in in the city. Then, increase the fee over time until it’s at market rate. That way, the city can make money, reduce car use and congestion, and ultimately re-purpose a lot of the curbside parking for sidewalks, bike lanes, and bus lanes. (Also another good reason NOT to privatize parking meters.)


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