Today’s Headlines

  • In Daily News Op-Ed, Parents of Allison Liao Ask de Blasio to Stop Preventable Deaths Like Hers
  • De Blasio Might Have a Clear Inequality Message, But on Transpo He’s All Noise, No Signal (CapNY)
  • Speaker’s Race Heats Up; de Blasio Reportedly Pulling for Mark-Viverito (C&S, Observer, CapNY)
  • WSJ Guesses Who Might Get Promoted From Within for DOT Commissioner
  • Upstate Transit Systems Look to Swap in Sales Tax Revenue for More Stable Budgets (CapNY)
  • Thruway Tolls Won’t Rise to Cover TZB Until After 2014; Finance Task Force Still MIA (LoHud)
  • News Finds “Little Controversy” at CB Meeting OK’ing DOT’s Plan for Community-Suggested Bike Lanes
  • EDC Unveils Renderings for East River Greenway Gap, With 2025 Completion Date (Curbed, DNA)
  • Watch Out, Citi Bike: Chicago’s Divvy Has Plans to Become Nation’s Largest Bike-Share (WNYC)
  • Want to Demagogue Against Something Happening on 125th Street? Bill Perkins Is Your Guy (News)
  • NYC HS Students Have Little Sympathy for de Blasios About a 60-Minute Commute to School (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • A very curious thing about comments in the Liao op-ed in the DN:

    When I first logged in this morning, the article had a crank comment from a bike hater, talking about how cyclists needed licensing and what not. I responded to this with a fact-based (but slightly condescending, oops) response.

    I’m logging on now and both comments are gone.

    Did they actually moderate someone’s irrelevant bike-hate comment this time? I’m totally okay with mine getting deleted in the process!

  • Anonymous

    I have seen them moderate comments in the past. A couple of months ago, someone posted hateful personal attacks (even by the standards of Daily News comments!), which I did flag as “inappropriate”, and a couple of hours later, they were gone.

  • Mike

    WSJ article about commissioner picks is paywalled, and the usual tricks don’t work. Can anyone summarize?

  • Jonathan R

    First, mandatory licensing for all motor vehicle operators.

  • Anonymous

    The usual trick of clicking on the link from a Google search results page worked for me. Google “Open Field for Top Jobs”.

    “Two possibilities from within the DOT include Lori Ardito, currently the first deputy commissioner, and Margaret Forgione, the Manhattan borough commissioner, one expert following the DOT search said.”


  • Jonathan R

    Put Margaret Forgione in charge and we can wait until Blaz’ second term for another meter of bike lane. I am unimpressed by her accomplishments in Upper Manhattan.

  • Reader

    From the Times story on Dante’s potential school commute, wisdom from a 17-year-old”

    “If it’s a problem commuting,” she suggested, then the mayor-to-be “should fix that up for every student.”

    Perhaps she read Ben’s excellent post-election take on how Mayor de Blasio can change the streets to address social inequality.

  • Anonymous

    Chicago’s bikeshare would be bigger than NYC’s by number of stations, but not by number of bikes, and especially not by number of users.

  • guest

    So JSK definitely won’t be kept? That woman’s amazing work increased my life quality about 100% in the last few years 🙁

  • Safetygal

    I was very moved by the bravery and eloquence of the piece by the grieving parents who lost their three-year-old last month. That they articulated hope in the work that the DOT and advocates are doing is amazing given their unimaginable loss. This is the time to tell the new administration to keep moving forward and they overcame their grief to speak up for all of us. I am grateful for their words.

  • Bolwerk

    The “liberal” (using the term loosely) ideal for fixing inequality is trying to make everyone live like them: in a house with a car, preferably with a lawn.

    Re Greenway gap: four years to build four blocks of bike/walk lane? The original IRT subway was built in four years. Our construction system is just broken.

  • Anonymous

    Any post-JSK commish will have big shoes to fill. And we run the risk of them trying to move the pendulum the other way.

    The good thing about any internal person is that s/he would be less likely to shake things up, which is good.

    I hope.

  • Joe R.

    You’re right about the construction. Back in the good old days when we actually knew how to build things that entire Greenway gap would be filled by next year, not by 2025. We really need a study as to why construction here in the US takes so long and costs so much. The entire IRT was built at a cost equivalent in today’s dollars to what the 2nd Avenue stubway is costing. You can’t even use the “building around existing stuff” as much of an excuse because it’s deep enough to use a TBM, and hence well under any existing subsurface construction (except for access points). Until we get a handle on this problem, the US will continue its inexorable slide to a third-world country. In many respects we’re already there going by the street conditions in much of NYC.

  • The answer to that is very simple: unions and safety regulations. Back in the day if a dozen people died building a bridge it was seen as just a cost of doing business. Not to mention they were paid very low wages for risking their lives.

  • Joe R.

    I have next to zero sympathy for de Blasio’s son’s potentially lengthened commute. Back when I went to Bronx Science I left around 6:30 AM to get to classes which started at 8:20 AM. School was out at 3:20 PM but I rarely got home before 4:50 PM. Many times the trip took much longer due to delays or trains being pulled out of service for mechanical issues (common back in the late 1970s). When I commuted to Princeton for the last 5 semesters (1982-1985) it took at least 1:50 each way, often more than 2 hours. At least today you have pretty reliable trip times on the subway. I’ll agree in general trip times on the subways are too long given the distances, but in many cases sharp curves prohibit running trains much faster. We also neutered the trains after the 1995 Williamsburg Bridge incident. In my opinion we overreacted. Most signaling could deal with the train acceleration rates and top speeds as is, but we neutered all the trains on all the lines. This easily added 15% or 20% to trip times, if not more. We need to look for ways to run trains as rapidly as possible. Maybe if de Blasio’s son has to deal with the same things as everyone else we might finally get some action in that area.

  • Bolwerkb

    That’s not the answer. Unions and safety regulations are the norm in the developed world, and most of the rest of the developed world manages reasonable construction timeframes. These are not competing values.

  • Jonathan R

    According to the DOT website, “Ms. Forgione was appointed Manhattan Borough Commissioner in February 2002. In that position, she is the agency advocate for the delivery of transportation services in the borough.”

    “She monitors and expedites service requests directed to the Department….She coordinates the delivery of essential traffic safety services (engineering, enforcement and education) in the borough.”

    And most important to Streetsblog readers like me, “She works with the Police Department to obtain appropriate response at locations identified as accident-prone locations.”

    Question for you: how do you grade the performance of DOT in Manhattan north of Canal Street in the past 11 years in these subjects? Bear in mind that these job-description bullets come from the DOT’s own website.

  • Joe R.

    She may well want to move on to other things at this point anyway. I’d like to see her in a national role where her ideas can filter down to the states as a set of standards for street design.

  • Nathanael

    The first problem is studies! In the US, far too many projects go through study hell, spending money on dozens of studies over many years, which rachets up the costs. There are some other national problems….

    But in NYC you have additional problems, problems which are not present in the rest of the US. Here in Ithaca, the reconstruction of the Ithaca Commons spent at least five years in study hell, but once it got going it’s been on-time and under budget. And this involves the coordinated reconstruction of multiple poorly-documented utilities. This sort of thing is fairly common.

    In NYC, you’ve got the building owners scamming off the city (refusing to repair their buildings, then complaining when the buildings collapsed), you’ve got the utility companies (ConEd mostly) refusing to show up on time and delaying everything, you’ve got the construction companies racking up hours without really getting started… I don’t know what all is going on, but NYC gets particularly poor results from construction — heavy construction in NYC much more expensive and much slower and lower quality than in the rest of the state, let alone the rest of the country.

    Solving the national problems is going to be really hard, but maybe you can solve the NYC-specific problems?!?

  • Nathanael

    I’d settle for a blacklist of people who have a history of dangerous driving. It seems like the state will let anyone have a drivers’ license these days.

  • Joe R.

    The largest NYC-specific problem is that there is little oversight because of the sheer volume of construction citiwide. We need to have local agencies which award and oversee local contracts so they can’t be padded or delayed to the extent they are.

    We also need to change how we pay for things, especially street repair. Right now contractors get paid for each repair, giving them all the incentive in the world to make shoddy, frequent repairs. Indeed, I’ve seen locations where the same pothole is filled every six months without correcting the underlying condition causing it. A better model is to pay a contractor to keep a section of street in good repair. If that section fails to meet minimum, stringent standards they don’t get paid until they fix it. This gives an incentive to rebuild the street to the highest standards possible right at the start of the contract so maintenance for the next 40 or 50 years will be minimal. You’re totally correct about the quality of construction. Street repairs are awful these days. New pavement is often wavy, manhole covers aren’t flush with the street, new potholes open up months, even weeks later. ConEd doesn’t help matters either when they break up streets right after they’re paved. Maybe we should put in a utility trench whenever streets are rebuilt so we no longer need to break up the streets to access utility lines.

    Regarding studies, we let far too many groups have a say in every project. That needs to stop. I’m tired of reading how some major project is delayed because some group wants to save the lime-green spotted tubeworm or some other species nobody heard of. I’m a big fan of conservation up to a point but lately it seems these conservation groups make up crises solely to justify their existence. In the case of NYC it’s not like we’re destroying the wilderness to build a subway or greenway.

  • Bolwerk

    There could probably be a mix of carrots and sticks (or carrots and riding crops) to solve such problems. Utility companies and their unions can be fined for fucking up. Dragging out work is rewarded rather than punished. Getting things done soon should be rewarded.

    @disqus_dlP91vGbzC:disqus: the conditions in NYC notwithstanding, in a sense we have had third world transportation for decades. NYC to Buffalo should be a 3hr train trip, not a 9 hour drive. We’ve literally gone back as other countries have moved forward.

  • Zero sympathy from me, too. I endured trip times of over 1 hour each way when I went to Stuyvesant. I knew plenty of kids from the far reaches of Queens with commutes nearly 2 hours each way. It was not unusual and was considered well worth it to be able to attend an elite school. Besides, riding the subway every day starting at age 14 builds character.

  • Construction costs have ballooned while times to completion have exploded all over the world. I am explaining what is different about today’s NY vs. the days the IRT was built. Granted, it may be a bit better in some other cities, notably cities like Singapore that value public servants and require very high standards of bureaucrats. The standards required to become a city employee desperately need to be lifted. If that ends up also requiring higher salaries, then so be it, but I am absolutely opposed to offering higher salaries without higher standards.

  • The answer to government incompetence is not more government.

  • Bolwerk

    It speaks bigger issues like, why the hell should kids spend 2 hours commuting? It’s cruel. Repeated studies have shown kids need to sleep later and starting classes later is good for kids. They also need recreational time. All de Blasio wants to do to fix the situation is add more buses, and hope someday poor people will be affluent enough to buy cars. (Hey, the buses’ drivers will be!)

    Then, there is the whole matter that many schools are so shitty that kids have to travel long distances to get to a good one. Given how many schools we have, every neighborhood should have an adequate one (certainly within a half hour walk or transit trip) for your average student. De Blasio is probably affluent enough that he could just move wherever he needs to or (what he seems to have settled on) drive his kids. Most people don’t have that option.

    I really don’t expect de Blasio to address either of these issues, and they don’t keenly affect him anyway.

  • Bolwerk

    That “difference” may be a problem somewhere, and there are even regulatory problems with planning, but that doesn’t explain retarded construction costs and the timeframes that cause them, which are largely outsourced to the private sector anyway.

    The reality is there are probably too many public employees in something like the MTA. Token booth clerks are largely useless, conductors are largely useless, and busier bus lines can have their staffing needs cut back by railstitution. But…that’s a mostly unrelated issue.

  • Guest

    I’ve seen Margaret deal with community meetings and local groups for years. She seems honest and good at her function: community relations.

    I have little background with Lori, and much of what I’ve heard from her tenure in Brooklyn wasn’t glowing.

    Ultimately, the problem with both of them is the same: they’re just community relations front people. They convey information and try to manage participation. While that’s important, I would much rather have somebody who really has some expertise in transportation as DOT commissioner.

    Given the way our new mayor has waffled on issues, I want somebody who completely understands and can defend efforts to improve our streets. Appointing a PR person would only accentuate the flip-floppiness that seems to be coming.

  • Bolwerk

    It’s not a bad thing to rotate people heading executive departments. These roles are intense, and often shield people from seeing the problems they need to respond to. As such, three terms of the same person often means new people with good ideas are left out.

    Look at someone like Robert Moses. If he died in an auto accident after his parks and bureaucratic reforms were implemented under Al Smith, he’d probably deserve some reverence. Instead he hung around to do decades of damage after a few years of decency. I think even Ray Kelly started out as a reformer, and look at what a useless farce he has become.

  • Joe R.

    I’m obviously not a fan of automobiles, but you could make the argument that NYC was deficient in infrastructure prior to Robert Moses. He fast-tracked some essential infrastructure, especially bridges, which were sorely needed for the outer boroughs to thrive. The problems came later on when he went overboard on the expressways which divided neighborhoods and prevented expansion of the subway system. Even then, had common sense prevailed enough for him to put the expressways completely underground, he might have been seen in a much better light. Automobiles aren’t objectionable at all if you don’t have to see them, hear them, or smell them.

    In the end some of this automobile infrastructure might be a blessing in disguise if we find the political will to repurpose it for BRT, rail, or bikes. Just the fact that it’s there saves decades of red tape.

  • Bolwerk

    I agree, but Moses was a net step backward. His parks and dams were useful, his bridges at least beneficial depending how we use them. His rural parkways were badly designed and cruel to small landowners, his urban parkways/expressways were destructive. NYC is still suffering the loss of streetcars and els. Yeah, some of it might be salvageable, but I suspect not much.

    I’m not for mandatory term limits because I see them as limiting democracy, and there are exceptions to what I said, but in general I don’t see it as a horrible thing to rotate bureaucrats. That shouldn’t even preclude rotating them back eventually, or even sending them to a new department (JSK as parks commissioner?) but time out from a high-level executive role is is generally healthy for democracy.

    For that matter, I’d love to see Bloomberg head the MTA. I have a lot of disagreements with his politics, but I think that would be a great role for him.

  • Seriously?

    Great. We have a choice between two people who have perfected the excuse of “federal regulations won’t let us…”

  • Joe R.

    Most of what we’ve done nationally since the Reagan era has been a net step backwards. Maybe Moses’ biggest harm was his long-term influence on policy makers which persists to this day. We looked to be on track for a while after the first energy crisis in the early 1970s and then we lost our way. The tipping point came in the early 1990s when SUVs took over the roads and air travel mushroomed. At the same time other countries were building high-speed rail while taking steps to decrease automotive dominance.

    I don’t know what the best long-term solutions are, but I suspect limiting the influence of big corporations and wealthy individuals on politics would be a good first step. What might be good for the bottom line of big oil or auto companies isn’t necessarily what’s good for the majority of citizens.