Eric Ulrich Flip-Flops on Woodhaven Boulevard Redesign

After coming out strong for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard, City Council Member Eric Ulrich has done a 180.

Eric Ulrich
Eric Ulrich

“The plan that they proposed, it stinks,” Ulrich told the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, according to the Queens Chronicle. “I don’t think it’s good. I think we have to go back to the drawing board.”

The Woodhaven redesign, which calls for dedicated bus lanes and pedestrian safety infrastructure, enjoys widespread support from elected officials — a roster that once included Eric Ulrich. In April 2014 Ulrich and Joan Byron co-authored an op-ed for the Daily News that called for “world-class” bus rapid transit on Woodhaven, with dedicated lanes and signal priority:

Taking this opportunity to incorporate even more advanced Bus Rapid Transit features will benefit not only those who ride the Q52/Q53, but everyone who drives, walks or rides on this congested and dangerous artery.

Later that year Ulrich told Streetsblog that something has to be done on Woodhaven to prevent traffic deaths and injuries, because “whatever we’re doing now obviously isn’t working.”

So what happened?

Well, the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, which Ulrich was addressing, has been raising a stink about the project for all the usual reasons — that it will slow down traffic and divert motorists to side streets.

According to the Queens Chronicle, Ulrich said he became disillusioned with the plan in part because it would eliminate left turns at Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue. But the left-turn ban helps achieve two goals Ulrich said he supported: faster buses and fewer injuries. It lets buses proceed without waiting for left-turning drivers, and it prevents conflicts between turning drivers and people crossing the street.

At the intersection with Jamaica, 38 traffic crashes resulted in 52 injuries and two fatalities from July 2012 to December 2014, according to Transportation Alternatives.

TA found that more people lost their lives on Woodhaven from 2011 to 2013 than on any other Queens street. A major benefit of the Woodhaven SBS will be physical improvements, like pedestrian islands, to prevent injuries and save lives.

Instead of helping his constituents understand how the redesign will improve transit and pedestrian safety, Ulrich is folding under the pressure and pointing fingers at DOT. Per the Chronicle:

“Now they’re under attack in all the newspapers and they’re coming to me and I said, ‘Why are you calling me? I told you about these things a year ago and you didn’t listen to me,’” he said. “It doesn’t happen from the top down, it has to happen from the bottom up. I think they’re starting to realize that now, which is why they delayed the implementation of the SBS.”

Back to that op-ed, which lauded DOT and plugged an upcoming workshop:

DOT’s planners have learned to listen to local concerns, problem-solve alongside stakeholders, and come up with customized solutions that respect each neighborhood’s unique challenges and character.

Years’ of engagement with residents, community boards and elected officials in the Congested Corridors Study has laid the foundation for the bold approach that the agencies now need to bring to bus planning. The April 23 workshop is an opportunity for everyone who cares about safety, mobility, and our community’s quality of life to demand the world-class Bus Rapid Transit system we need.

Back then, Ulrich said it was “imperative” to “improve [bus] speed, safety and the riding experience.” But now it seems what he’s really interested in is preserving the status quo.

  • Maggie
  • ahwr

    >Most of the dead cyclists and pedestrians weren’t passing red lights.

    True.

    > The majority of pedestrians killed in NYC were crossing in the crosswalk with the walk signal.

    Nope, less than 20% were, and a bit more than 20% were crossing against the light, according to DOTs pedestrian safety study from a few years ago.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    llucky your wife was hit by a bike and not a driver. A driver would have killed her

  • Alexander Vucelic

    the 20% number excludes every single killed pedestrian whose lifeless body was flung into the air 30 feet beyond the crosswalk it’s a utterly bogus statistic

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Vision Zero is excessive and extreme ?

    so 50,000 killed or maimed New Yoriers every single year by cars is A-ok with you ?

  • Philip McManus

    That’s silly. When did I say that? You guys are getting very defensive. I must have hit a nerve. Thanks for your interest. Any of you guys support the QueensRail or would you rather have a bike trail? We need trains to unite and transport everyone else. You guys already ride your bikes everywhere else especially through red lights. That’s about 10 people in Queens right? Lol. Please support the QueensRail and more services for commuters.

  • Philip McManus

    That’s a lot of people maimed and killed. That’s why we need more transit options like the QueensRail.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    So you support removing all subsidies for private cars in the 5 boros ?

    1) charging market clearing prices for car storage on public property ?
    2) charging bridge and highway tolls that reflect full ecomonic cost of this infrastructure ?!
    3) increasing the gas tax to fully pay for the maintence of the 6,300 miles of city streets ? No more street maintence paid from general fund ?
    4) increasing the gas tax to fully pay for the health costs due to noise, pollution, and other lnegative externalities ?
    5) charging a fee to cover restitution for the 50,000 New Yorkers killed or maimed every year by cars
    6) paying my housekeeper to dust twice a week because of the car generated soot and dirt that comes into my home. ditto for every single property in the city
    7) charging a fee to cover the costs of the entire battery of Givernment that is required to support various aspects of mass motor ting, Ambulance, Police, Etc etc etc.
    8) eliminating all car storage placards

    It is so pleasing to see your commitment to a fair and equitable transportation policy respecting all modes of mobility.,

  • Alexander Vucelic

    approx. 300,000 bike trips taken every day in city growing at low double digit rates. lavishly subsidized killer mass motorting is declining

  • Philip McManus

    Most of the City maybe under water so everything we said recently might be a moot point. We will need to use more electric cars, buses, trains and especially ferries around NYC.
    Thank you Maggie.

  • Philip McManus

    My wife was looking at oncoming traffic when she was struck by a cyclist going the wrong way. He left quickly after the collision to avoid paying for her injuries. Alexander, are you kidding me? Do you really believe everyone hit by a car dies? That’s not true. It’s a bit over the top. Nobody believes that. Do believe everything you read from the City?

  • Philip McManus

    Please send me a link to your statistics.

  • Philip McManus

    I guess you don’t believe in everything you read.

  • Joe R.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nyc_ped_safety_study_action_plan.pdf

    See page 25-26:

    36% caused by driver inattention
    27% caused by driver failure to yield
    21% are caused by speeding
    20% caused by crossing against the signal
    8% are caused by driver intoxication

    The totals add up to more than 100% because in some cases two or more factors are involved. Note that the 20% killed crossing against the signal could easily have been close to 0% if drivers weren’t speeding. Speeding is still partially responsible for those 20% of crashes. In any case, the statistics speak for themselves. In at least 80% of deaths, the pedestrian is completely blameless. In the other 20% they’re only partly to blame. As much as you harp on obeying pedestrian signals, remember you have children is this city who won’t even if all adults did. It’s therefore incumbent to drive in such a manner that you can avoid killing someone who suddenly darts out in front of you.

  • Joe R.

    That doesn’t change the general conclusions most people here are coming to, namely that we need fewer private autos and more of other types of vehicles, including bicycles. Bicycles work just great underwater if it turns out rising sea levels come to pass:

  • Miles Bader

    Well, start pushing for decent outer-borough rail lines…. New and decent (that is, frequent service, not crappy American-style commuter rail) rail lines outside of the city core could dramatically increase the viability of many areas for dense new housing and commercial development, and that would help both inner and outer areas of the city.

  • ahwr

    In at least 80% of deaths, the pedestrian is completely blameless.

    You would be wrong to reach that conclusion based on what you posted. Those figures refer to reported ‘apparent contributing factors’ which aren’t the right source for pedestrian behavior. Without considering pedestrian behavior it’s hard to conclude that a pedestrian is blameless. From the technical supplement of the report you linked.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nyc_ped_safety_study_action_plan_technical_supplement.pdf

    Pedestrian error/confusion is reported in 21.5% of cases, and is typically reported in crossing-against-the-signal and midblock-crossing crashes. However, pedestrian action data is a more reliable source for understanding pedestrian behavior as relates to crashes.

    You can get pedestrian behavior for fatal crashes and serious injury crashes beginning on page 23.

  • I’m not calling people who disagree with me nutty, I’m calling you nutty, because you’re acting nutty. You’re accusing me of a whole lot of things which I’ve never said, and obviously disagree with. That is nutty. You’re arguing for giving choice in commuting options, but you’re arguing against safe biking. That’s also nutty.

  • Joe R.

    I don’t think Mr. McManus considers bikes as transportation. For example, he wrote in another comment:

    We need trains to unite and transport everyone else. You guys already ride your bikes everywhere else especially through red lights. That’s about 10 people in Queens right?

  • Miles Bader

    To be fair, I don’t think Philip is actually being nutty, he’s being disingenuous, and when backed into a corner, throwing up random flack is often an effective strategy…

  • Alexander Vucelic

    McManus Is the new Allan Rosen “Sooner or later people are going to stop Visiion Zero. “

  • Philip McManus

    Dear Alexander,

    What else would you do to remove cars from our roads? What group or books do you suggest? This is all new to me. Do you support reactivating unused train tracks like the QueensRail?

  • Philip McManus

    What exactly am I accusing you of? Be specific. For your information I’m responding to numerous comments from people who have a pro bike only car hating agenda. I’m speaking to you and this agenda. I don’t think I’m nutty. Lol.

  • Maggie

    Keep in mind, 33% of electricity in the US is generated from coal. So shifting from a gasoline-powered car to an electric car is one baby step. Having the option – right away, not billions of dollars down the road – to get out of the car and into a bus or train or bike lane is infinitely better.

    Complacency and obfuscation -a starve-it-to-death attitude towards near term transit – are dangerous. We can’t kick the can down the road without a cost. In a presidential election year, I keep thinking of George W Bush energy policies, how expensive they were, and watching a major US city get nearly wiped off the map.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    citylab.com is a start

    scroll through old streetsblog articles

    Transportation Alternatives is also a good Source of NYC data. Useful to look at Their topic specific reports.

    Streetfilms is tremendous – Link at top of page

    Generally, American Drivers are subsidized about $4,000 each. This is commonly accepted. The subsidy for NYC drivers runs higher from $6,000 to $20,000 annually depending on use of free East River Bridges and free Car stiorage. This Number is still in discussion.

    We streetsbloggers readily accept the benefits of motor vehicles as useful machines in very soecific contexts. We believe in a diversity of mobility options. We also generally Agree that using private Automobiles in a dense Urban Context should be Priced to reflect Their full cost.

  • Joe R.

    Besides that, even electric cars still need roads. Road construction/maintenance is a pretty big use of fossil fuels. And then you also have the cost to make 50 or 100 smaller vehicles instead of one larger one carrying the same number of people, plus the extra space those vehicles occupy. In a city, trains, buses, and bikes are way better than any kind of car, even an electric car.

  • Joe R.

    It has nothing to do with being pro-bike or anti-car. Cars are wonderful—in places where they make sense. That’s primarily rural areas. I was also going to say outer ring suburbs but for a whole host of reasons outer ring suburbs really shouldn’t exist, indeed wouldn’t exist without huge subsidies from their core cities.

    Cars are extremely poorly suited for cities. They take up many multiples of space compared to more efficient vehicles. They pollute. That even includes electric cars because electrics still need roads, and road construction or maintenance puts lots of pollution into the air. Cars are also typically driven by operators held to very lax licensing standards compared to train or bus operators. As such, they are much more dangerous to everyone around them, particularly when you factor in their sheer numbers. Too many cars also end up requiring traffic signals which are extremely detrimental to buses, bikes, and pedestrians. And then you also have ubiquitous curbside parking which makes every block look like a used car lot. Cars parked near crosswalks interfere with lines of sight, making intersections much more dangerous.

    Transportation is about using the right tool for the job. If the group you’re part of wants to be taken seriously as pro-transit group then it needs to stop considering cars as a serious commuting option in NYC. You claim to want buses not stuck in gridlock, and at the same time oppose bus lanes or measures to discourage car use. You can’t have it both ways. The buses will be stuck in traffic until they get enforced bus lanes, traffic light preemption, and measures are taken to reduce car use in general.

  • Joe R.

    I especially like #6. The amount of dirt which settles on our home outside from motor vehicle exhaust is incredible.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    the negative externalities of mass Motoring are extensive

  • Frank Kotter

    Yes, I read your cut and paste texts the first time.

    My point is this: You are using heated language of ‘stealing’ to signify subsidies you don’t agree with while defending the existing subsidies for the private automobile. If you were really interested in making the QueensRail a viable project, then you have to get people who are relying on their private automobile in queens to seek alternatives in great numbers to fill their transportation needs. As long as we continue to heavily subsidize private car ownership in the city, this will never happen. Therefore, unless you include this in your platform, the implementation of alternatives developing will never be realized. Bike lanes have NOTHING to do with this…

    The funny part of your responses to those who challenge you is to fall back on ‘theft from car drivers’. The fact is the most coddled population in NYC is the car driving minority as they receive massive allocations of tax revenue for which they have not paid in. It’s a subsidy, or ‘stealing’ as you call it.

    Tone down the rhetoric, look at these challenges in a realistic light and possibly you will be one step closer to getting the QueesnRail you claim to so strongly support.

  • Philip McManus

    Thou Shall Not Steal. The inner borough gets everything while the outer boroughs get shafted. The QueensRail was taken from us so the rest of LIRR and City could keep their services. You call it consolidation. I call it stealing services from the outer boroughs and forcing people to take their cars. If you really believe we need to reduce cars in our City let’s work to together to bring railways to the outer boroughs that connect all five boroughs with a faster and safer transit service. Let Transportation Alternatives support alternatives that help people and not punish people. I love cycling but we need more trains, buses, ferries and open roadways. The City is creating gridlock, accidents, pollution, poverty, and crime with their separating policies. Be careful and stay safe. Never assume the other guy sees you. Wait until cars stop before crossing the street. That will reduce more accidents than anything else.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    induced demand is approx. 30% of motor traffic, your concern about gridlock is misplaced. Plus eveb the tiny minority of NYrs who drive private cars often are steadily declining as active transportation gains mode share.,

  • Alexander Vucelic

    “..Wait until cars stop before crossing the street. That will reduce more accidents than anything else…”

    Phil, You gotta meet Allan Rosen and his buddy Cuzzo.,You get along famously

  • Maybe that’s the case, I don’t think its really worth my time to sort it out though lol

  • That could be. Ironic for someone demanding choices for commuting.

  • Lol, people rarely think they’re nutty. I replied to a comment where you said quote: “You want to divide and punish people who don’t have options”. I am doing nothing of the sort, and your confusing rant against people who seem to be for improving transit, and cycling, on account of you don’t like biking, yet still claiming to support options for commuters is what I’m calling nutty. Certainly some people here seem to be in favor of restricting automobiles, and some, I’m sure also hate them, but you’re just as flagrant about your dislike of cyclists.

  • Frank Kotter

    Totally agree on all your points. However, I feel you are missing the biggest key to making this work. The massive subsidy provided to ownership and operation of the automobile makes it impossible to 1. find the financial means and will to finance other projects 2. make drivers cover the true cost of their actions which will force them to look for alternatives.

    That’s why I was so perplexed about your reaction of protecting the private automobile. I have no problem with them and I am also a daily driver. However, I do so with the full knowledge that my activity is supported by massive taxpayer expenditures well above what I pay into the system.

  • Joe R.

    One of the keys to reducing car use/ownership in this city is to stop the direct and indirect subsidies for private automobiles. That includes free curbside parking, untolled river crossings, lack of high enough gas taxes to cover the costs of air pollution, and so forth. The hard fact, which you seem unwilling to accept, it that quite a few people who drive already have viable transit alternatives.. They just refuse to use them. When you ask them why, they’ll give all sorts of silly reasons like “I hate public transportation” or “I prefer being alone in my car” or “the bus is too slow”. The last one is really a hoot. If not for them and all the other idiots who drive the buses wouldn’t be slow. Often people will insist on driving even if public transit costs less and is faster. Reasoning won’t work with these people. Making it too expensive and inconvenient for them to drive will.

    Lack of viable alternatives in NYC rarely “forces people to take their cars”. Rather, they choose to take their cars because we massively subsidize them to do so. That especially includes public workers with parking placards.

  • Philip McManus

    Denial.

  • Lincoln

    Nobody is talking about stealing outside of yourself.

  • Lincoln

    IINM they are already well acquainted.

  • Lincoln

    To Phil, allocating resources in such a way that favors anybody but automobile drivers is stealing, dividing, and punishing.

  • Oscar Madison

    WHY aren’t there any dedicated bike lanes being planned, like on Queens Blvd? Queens Blvd protected bicycle lane is the model to use … great for runners as well.

  • Oscar Madison

    I DRIVE a CAR … but obviously you don’t really ride a bicycle … LOOK at Queens Blvd dedicated bike/pedestrian travel lane … FINALLY … a safe place to move by your own power. BRING THESE LANES TO WOODHAVEN BLVD as well!

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