Today’s Headlines

  • NYT, Post, Metro Have Their Own Takes on de Blasio’s Backsliding on Pedestrian Space
  • State DOT Reduces Spending on Bike-Ped Safety (MTR); Related: Drivers Kill Two Suffolk Peds (WNBC)
  • Cuomo Trying to “Tamp Down Expectations” on How Much Feds Will Give With TZB TIFIA Loan (TU)
  • CapNY Looks at the Long Past and Fuzzy Future of the Second Avenue Subway
  • Teamsters Balk at de Blasio’s Suggestion of Replacing Horse Carriages With Cars (CapNY)
  • Turns Out There Are Better Uses for Precious Manhattan Real Estate Than Gas Pumps (NYT)
  • Staten Island Resident Calls WPIX Because Daylighting Plan Removed Parking in Front of His House
  • City Will Replace All 250,000 Street Lights With LED Fixtures by 2017 (Post)
  • Jackson Heights BID Spruces Up Triangle With Plaza Chairs (Brownstoner Queens)
  • Making It Easy: Alleged Drunk Driver Smashes Into NYPD Cruiser (News)
  • The Day NYPD Stopped Manhattan Traffic for a Cat to Cross the Street (Ephemeral NY)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Anonymous

    Are people so shortsighted to forget that Times Square was not some motoring paradise when it was full of gridlocked traffic? Where does this notion come from that pre-pedestrian times square was a quick and easy throughfare? It was a complete cluster*!

  • Everyone knows this. They’re just being disingenuous. They want full control of the hellhole, there’s no room for sharing even if no one loses anything in the end.

  • Anonymous

    Carriages/cars: the following is mostly copied and pasted from something I wrote to NYCLASS, the group behind the electric cars: To hell with those electric cars. THERE IS NO naturally occurring demand for
    faux-1909 experiences of Central Park. Demand for the carriages is
    purely induced by their presence there, and the same would be true for
    these ridiculous cars. The fact that they’re battery-powered does not
    make them “eco-friendly.” One of the only good things about the horse
    carriages is that they generally DON’T keep up with traffic when
    they’re on the open road, and that slows traffic, making those streets
    more “safe” and “livable,” which are qualities that NYCLASS purports to care
    about. If these cars can move at traffic speed on the streets (http://www.nyclass.org/horseless_carriages), then
    don’t kid yourself that their drivers will stick to 5mph inside the
    park! NYCLASS could and should re-channel the tremendous amounts of time, energy, and
    resources they’ve poured into this car idea back into their main,
    worthy goal, of getting rid of the horse carriages. Yes, get rid of the
    horse carriages, but don’t replace them with something similar.

  • Anonymous

    From the article in the NYT: “Manhattan seems comparatively underserved. Its 117 stations represent about 9 percent of the New York total, similar to Staten Island, which has less than a third of Manhattan’s population.”

    It’s hard to make a simple comparison just based on population. On one hand, the car ownership rate is much higher in Staten Island, and the car driving rate is probable even higher. On the other hand, there’s much more commercial traffic in Manhattan (e.g. taxis).

  • Joe R.

    I’m thrilled to see the city will finally be replacing all its streetlights with LEDs. It’s long overdue. Those yellow sodium lights are not only disgusting, but seriously impact safety because the spectrum kills peripheral vision and depth perception. Nice white LED lighting will greatly enhance both safety and aesthetics.

  • Anonymous

    A couple of thoughts, in no particular order.

    To some extent, pedicabs serve the same traffic calming function as horse carriages.

    I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with inducing demand for something “unnecessary”. It generates jobs out of nowhere, and it entertains some tourists. It can be good for the local economy. The question of course is whether the “side effects” of this artificial demand outweigh the benefits.

  • Anonymous

    Very good points. I would indeed support the replacement of the carriages with human-powered vehicles including but not limited to pedicabs.

  • Candidate contradicts own policy goals in inane fashion, NYT and poli sci prof hail his quest for “nuance.”

    Mainly sycophantic media.

  • J

    It’s good to see pretty much all the tabloids printing accurate info on the success of Times Square and ped plazas. I think much of the credit for that goes to StreetsPAC. Hopefully, the message reaches De Blasio loud and clear: ped plazas are neither problematic nor controversial, and you can’t be serious about improving traffic safety if you are still unsure about one of the most successful tools in that endeavor.

  • Voter

    You say potato, I say potahto. You say nuance, I say pandering.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, it may create jobs but does it create wealth? There’s a difference. If you build a railroad or building or some tangible item, you’re increasing the net wealth of society. If you’re simply performing a service, which is really what the horse carriages are, you’re not. Nevertheless, if the service is something needed for society to function properly then it still has value. On the other hand, if it’s a “make work” service just to create jobs, then it really doesn’t. Just because people will pay for something doesn’t mean it has value (other than to the people selling it). Anyone remember the Pet Rock from the 1970s?

    The problem is a large part of our economy nowadays is based on providing services, and discretionary services at that. I say if we’re going to employ people, put them to work making tangible assets which are needed now or will be needed. That also includes repairing existing assets which are in serious need of repair. There’s no shortage of work which needs to be done. We just need to set our priorities straight so we’re willing to pay people to do this work.

    I say just let the entire horse carriage industry die. At best is creates a small number of jobs so it’s not even helping much with the unemployment problem.

  • Mark Walker

    Lhota delivered an unintentionally great quote in the top-link Metro story. He was talking about pedestrian plazas when he said “I don’t see why they need to be there 24 hours a day.” But what if he had been talking about streets being open to cars 24 hours a day? What if certain streets were open to cars only on weekdays? Or only during the rush hour? Or only during very limited hours for truck deliveries to businesses and garbage collection? Without meaning to, Lhota has come up with a fantastic concept for civilizing our streets. Perhaps Green Party candidate Tony Gronowicz would like to discuss it in more detail. It might be a good issue to mobilize NYC’s car-free majority and especially Manhattan’s car-free super-majority.

  • Anonymous

    We already have a concept of limited hours for cars in Central Park and Prospect Park. Now imagine if it were extended to “regular streets”!

  • Anonymous

    Manhattan VMT is 17% of NYC total, so an argument can be made that the borough is under-represented for gas stations (boy, that’s a weird concept!). OTOH, most of that driving is by vehicles that “reside” in other counties, where drivers can easily gas up anyway.

    BTW, my VMT data is from 2002. I’ve been unable to get more recent data, though I don’t think there’s been much change.

  • Joe R.

    Hey, great idea! Make the streets car-free during the times when the most pedestrians are out. Let cars and delivery vehicles use the streets during off-peak hours only (say 10 PM to 6 AM). I love it!

  • Anonymous

    It looks like politics, along with democracy, is making a comeback in the post-Bloomberg era. StreetsPAC will have it’s work cut out for them.

  • Anonymous

    It may not create tangible wealth, but it “steals” it from elsewhere, which is good for the city even it seems greedy. Also, it makes tourists happy and I see nothing wrong with that. Should we get rid of amusement parks and the entire entertainment industry too? This is not “make work” like paying someone to dig a hole and then fill it back up; this is one person paying another to render a service that the first person finds valuable, even if it seems silly to you.

  • Joe R.

    It’s a lot more complicated than that. You actually made a good counterpoint that the city might be gaining money from elsewhere, putting it ahead. Of course, that means someone else is behind. Actually, that’s the problem with tourism. The places which aren’t great places to visit lose tourism dollars while those that are gain those dollars.

    Anyway, here’s the added complexity since you mentioned amusement parks and other types of entertainment-you need to look at the big picture. OK, you have an amusement park. Now how do people get there? More often than not it’s by car. I think you see where I’m going with this. Yes, the amusement park provides all types of jobs. It even arguable creates wealth because raw materials are needed to build it (and those raw materials can ultimately be recycled for other uses). The problem is will the travel and other negative externalities of people entertaining themselves offset any gains? So really, my answer boils down to this-if we need roads and cars to get to entertainment, then it’s probably not worth building even if it creates jobs. You end up using more societal wealth to clean up the mess left by cars than you’re gaining. On the flip side, if it’s something people can walk to, like a street fair or a local amusement park, then it might be worthwhile. As you can tell, I’m no fan of the tourism industry where people need to fly thousands of miles to be entertained. I don’t see the value in it for society, and frankly I don’t see the value in it for most individuals. I tell people who travel a lot that they’ll still be the same person with the same problems when they get back, only they’ll have one new problem-paying for their vacation. And in the spirit of full disclosure, the furthest I’ve traveled in my life from where I was born was 400 miles (a family trip to Montreal in 1973). Other than that, it’s rare I venture further than about 100 miles from home. Most times I never go further from home than Manhattan.

  • Ari

    Yes, that may be the most significant news item on the list. But it’s not super sexy or controversial, so most people won’t care.

  • Joe R.

    And yet it’s the one thing which will matter most to me personally as it’ll make the streets much more pleasant to me during the times I usually use them. To me this is a bigger thing than if we got a bunch of new bike lanes here. Seeing potholes better, and also no longer having ugly yellowish which puts me to sleep, are huge improvements. People may not care or notice now, but I guarantee when the lights are installed they will.

  • Anonymous

    MTR: “New York [State] plans to spend only 0.98 percent of its transportation dollars” on pedestrian and cycling safety.

    Expect ped and cyclist deaths to continue to rise.

  • Ian Turner

    What is “along with democracy” supposed to mean? Plazas and bike lanes are highly popular.

  • Anonymous

    I hadn’t known anything about that. Any links you can post for those of us looking for more info?

  • Bolwerk

    You’re right, of course, but it’s not really about that. It’s mostly about possession and keeping unwanteds out of public. If drivers valued their own time, they’d support things like the ped plazas, tolls, and CP.

    BTW, a not insignificant proportion of the driving public probably gets paid the same whether it sits in traffic or not. :-

  • Anonymous

    Nothing substantial to add here except to say that I have my doubts about whether it really does make tourists happy!

  • Joe R.

    http://e3tnw.org/ItemDetail.aspx?id=25

    http://www.lighting.philips.com/pwc_li/us_en/application_areas/assets/p-6059.pdf

    http://www.lightinglab.fi/publications/files/report30.pdf

    There are a lot more studies out there but the basic idea is that light which is less yellow results in better reaction time and improved peripheral vision.

  • Clarke

    If they are still solely “street” lights, without directly illuminating the sidewalk, doesn’t seem like it’ll make much difference.

  • JamesR

    That’s just dumb. Travel changes you, broadens you, and keeps you from turning into a narrow-minded townie. If you did it right, you aren’t the same person you were before you returned. That’s the whole point.

  • Anonymous

    When someone can get elected by pulling money out of his deep pockets to the tune of $100+ per vote it’s questionable whether democracy is being served. You are right that plazas and bike lanes are popular and I hope we have many more of them in our future. There is something to be said for benevolent dictatorship, but there is no guarantee that the next rich daddy we elect will take the public interest to heart to that extent.

    As you can see my opinion of Bloomberg is VERY mixed, and I’m not so naive not to realize that there is still money in politics that creates backhanded deals and slants policy in a direction away from the public good by allowing some factions to be heard better than some that may be larger or more worthy. I know it’s crappy democracy, but it’s what we’ve got.

    For better or worse, de Blasio and Lhota are traditional pols, who by necessity must be more in tune with what they hear from the crowd. In the future we will likely need to yell louder than we are used to. I’m glad that we have a StreetsPAC, and I hope it’s ready and waiting. That’s all I’m saying.

  • Bolwerk

    The only overarching good-ish quality about Bloomberg was independence, but it did little good given that he has a neoliberal ideology that pretty much fits neatly with George W. Bush’s. It’s only tempered by a slightly better grasp on reality.

    Democrats screw things up by internecine squabbling, and Republikans are just authoritarian thugs to the core. If you want something approximating democracy back, we’ll need proportional representation again.

  • Bolwerk

    Planes aren’t a horrible affront to sustainability. Really, no mode is except automobiles, and 8/10 of the problem with automobiles is the wasteful lifestyles they promote, not the emissions from the cars themselves.

    In any event, most trade is not a zero-sum game. Both parties gain something valuable by trading. And tourism is a very important part of 21st century trade.

  • Joe R.

    Except most people don’t do it right. Also, most people sad to say are utterly incapable of being broadened. They go to tourist traps or tropical islands and end up spending most of their vacation shopping or eating. And most vacations are hurried simply due to the limited time most people have off. I can maybe see the value of going elsewhere to experience something different, but you don’t get that by running through everything in a week. Maybe if travel meant going some place, then staying there six months, it might make sense from the perspective you mention. From where I stand, it seems a lot of travel is just for the sake of saying you’ve been there. I once heard someone comment along the lines of “Why must everyone be Magellan nowadays?” I think that’s a question we should be asking ourselves. How much does all this travel really benefit us? The lack of progress on many fronts in society these days is exactly because the vast majority of people are close-minded. Evidently travel didn’t waken them up or broaden them.

  • Joe R.

    Planes are a horrible affront to liveability for the millions who live under their glidepaths. That’s the problem here. Someone else’s desire to travel for business or pleasure seriously affects my day-to-day existence when I can’t open the window to get air from 6 AM through 10 PM. I recall in the days after 9/11 how nice and quiet things were when we shut down air travel. I wish it could have stayed that way. It’s time we started thinking up and building a replacement for airplanes if tourism is to remain a part of the economy.

  • Driver

    Joe, if you actually went somewhere different, you would know that a different culture or style of living can be experienced in a very short time. Even if you spent one day in a foreign city (assuming it’s not in the airport or a hotel room), you have experienced something different.

  • Joe R.

    In the end though is one day of experiencing something different really going to make my life or anyone’s life so much better? I can gather enough about a place by looking at pictures or videos without physically going there. I feel too strongly about the environment to do any traveling, especially the type where you’re only there a few days. And frankly I couldn’t afford it anyway. Make the means to travel a lot cheaper and more benign to the planet then maybe I might see the value in more people doing it.

  • Joe R.

    They’ll make a lot of difference because motorists will be able to see cyclists and pedestrians crossing the street a lot better. It’ll also improve the aesthetics of an area. Some of those studies I linked to mention how crime goes down when whiter light creates a more pleasant atmosphere at night, encouraging more people to go out. Night for me is the best time to be out but the sodium lights totally kill it by casting a depressing yellow-orange cast over everything. Even the old mercury vapor lights were better although they still stunk at rendering colors. LEDs are whiter, render colors better, plus save energy. It’s a win all around.

  • Bolwerk

    That may be a legitimate issue, but it’s not about to lessen the need for planes.

    Of course, anti-urban and anti-rail elements won this battle too. Airports could be further away from where people live and accessible by HSR.

  • Guest

    What share of Manhattan’s VMT is taxicabs? Has to be significant. Any thoughts on the taxicab fleet? Will fewer gas stations send them to outer boroughs on empty trips, resulting in a lower level of service? Can they just gas up when they return to the garage for shift change?

  • Anonymous

    Around 40% of VMT in the Manhattan CBD is yellow cabs.

    Yellows do enough airport trips that gassing up in Queens should fit into a typical shift.

    Even if not, a typical shift has ~30 fares, avg length 2.8 miles, plus 1.0-1.2 for cruising between fares, so ~ 120 miles per shift. Dunno how big their fuel tanks are. Obv’ly, the higher the mpg, the greater the likelihood that the full tank at the start of the shift will be sufficient.

  • Bronxite

    These these lights will significantly illuminate the sidewalk. Another benefit is that the new LED lamps have a wider beam. That will improve visibility which should positively effect safety.

    Of course, the city will also save money in the long run too.

  • JamesR

    Putting your body in a far-away location is VASTLY different than watching it on a screen. It can’t even begin to compare.

    You need to travel more. And worrying about the environmental impact of your travel to such a degree is a fool’s game. That’s a macro, systems-level issue that must also be solved on a macro, systems level, and your abstention from leaving your neighborhood and experiencing the world is a feel-good exercise that ultimately makes not iota of difference.

  • Joe is right about this. The act of frequent travelling is not the broadening experience that some people like to claim it is; it is in fact by its nature superficial. A person cannot say that he or she has experienced a culture by being there for X number of days. As Joe mentioned, an immersion of, let’s say, six months *might* start giving you some insight into the nature of the place. But, a typical vacation stay gives you nothing but surface glimpses. If you’re truly interested in actually learning about a place, you’d be better off spending your time reading books.

    (I am reminded of an episode of the great sitcom “NewsRadio”, in which Matthew (Andy Dick’s character) came back from a week’s vacation, and told everyone that he had been to Japan. He eventually revealed that he hadn’t actually gone, but had spent the week in the library reading about Japan. I remember thinking that I’d much rather spend the week in the library — and I’d come out knowing more about Japan that way!)

    I’d add that, for a New Yorker in particular, travelling here and there for a week at a time has a cost — an opportunity cost. It’s that much less time that you can get to know your own great City.

    A former co-worker of mine, like me a life-long New Yorker, is someone who frequently jets off for a week to this or that country. One day she was telling me about having been to the Great Wall of China; later that day I happened to mention Bryant Park — and she asked me where that was! There is something seriously askew when a New Yorker has been to the Great Wall of China but doesn’t know where Bryant Park is.

    I am not having a go at her for not knowing about Bryant park; there are many places in New York that I don’t know about. That’s the point, really: New York is a whole planet unto itself. In fact, I have made the following vow concerning travel: as soon as I have seen everything there is to see in New York, I will immediately start on the rest of the world. (Of course, one could live ten lifetimes and never see everything there is to see in New York.)

    The calculus surely is different for residents of jerkwater towns and nowheresvilles; if I lived somewhere else, I’m sure I’d be keen to travel. But a New Yorker has the good fortune of already being in the Centre of the Universe. So the value of superficial country-hopping is, for us, that much less.

  • Anonymous

    Forget about experiencing cultures for a moment: there is a whole natural world out there that you can’t experience in NYC, and reading or watching videos is a terrible substitute. You haven’t really seen an aurora borealis, a glacier, a jungle, a total solar eclipse (OK, that one might come to NYC if you wait long enough) until you do.

    Yes, there are costs to doing some of these things, unfortunately. Not only the travel, but in some cases your presence might actually harm the destination. There is no “right” to see these things, and not everyone can do it (for an extreme example, consider a trip to the moon). But there is some reasonable balance to be found. In the end, I’m very glad that I’ve seen some of these things.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, here I can agree somewhat and seeing nature’s glories might be one of the reasons I might wish to travel in the future. As crazy as it sounds, I’ve always wanted to go to Antarctica. It’s once of the few places left on Earth largely unspoiled by humans.

  • Joe R.

    Thank you, Ferdinand! We think alike here. NYC really is a world unto itself. In my years of riding, some of my best memories are where I’ll just randomly ride off in some direction I’ve never gone before. Same thing with my walks around Manhattan. There’s so much here to see that I’m puzzled myself when I see people hurrying to get out of NYC every time they have a few days off. I’ve lived here all of my nearly 51 years except for 3 semesters of college but I have yet to see many parts of the city. Just last year I rode to visit a friend who lives in Coney Island. I had never ridden there before so it was a new experience for me.

    And I absolutely agree you can learn a lot more reading about a place than seeing surface glimpses from the perspective of a tourist.

  • Anonymous

    Theyve been coming down for years now, not rising.

  • Driver

    Well at least you have something in common with the people from jerkwater towns and nowheresvilles; you all think you live in the center of the universe.