Join us: Port Authority Plans for a New Bus Terminal Threatens our Community

The Hell’s Kitchen South Community will hold a critical Town Hall meeting to learn more about the recently announced expansion and redevelopment of the Port Authority Bus Terminal

Port Authority Bus Terminal Design - Town Hall
Monday, April 18, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
410 West 40th Street (9/10)

All of the current proposals will have a major impact on the fabric of the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Community.  The Port Authority proposes to demolish 3 block-fronts on 9th Avenue, in the heart of the neighborhood, wiping out hundreds of apartments, small businesses, community organizations and houses of worship. The plans also propose to move the bus terminal to the residential portion of our neighborhood, between 9th and 10th Avenues, in order to maximize their real estate assets on the commercial corridor of 8th Avenue, thus hurting both commuters and residents.

Port Authority FINAL

 

Join your neighbors to demand that Port Authority preserve our neighborhood and respect our community!  It has been 6 months since the Port Authority Board announced a design competition and capacity study, guaranteeing a strong community involvement! It is time for the community to speak up and for the Port Authority staff to listen and take notice.

For an in-depth look at the competition , click Here.

Whether you attend the meeting or not, it is critical you fill out the survey, which asks about “property acquisition”, the process by which the buildings would be destroyed.

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Another Death in Hell’s Kitchen – Pedestrian Crossings still not safe

Last week another woman was killed in Hell’s Kitchen , in the pedestrian crossing, with the walk sign, by a turning truck. The week before, a person was hit at the corner of 38th and 9th in the same circumstances , in the crossing, with the walk sign, by a turning vehicle. This is tragic. This is also infuriating because this is avoidable.

37and 11This is not new – this is the 8th person to be killed  in the last 10 years in Hell’s Kitchen , while in a pedestrian crossings , with the walk sign and the second by a dump truck –  and it  reminds us that in spite of years of advocacy and success,  our job is far from done:

The people interviewed said “she had a hood over her head, she did not see the truck” .. implying that  the pedestrian was somehow at fault, that it was her duty to look over her shoulder when she has the walk sign.  NO! it is NOT. If the government tells them to WALK, It is reasonable for the pedestrians to expect the authorities have done everything possible for them to be safe. They also expect the driver will yield to pedestrians as required by the law.

And then officials said ” the driver did not see her” as if this was sufficient to exonerate the driver! WRONG AGAIN !As a driver your main job is to watch and to yield at pedestrian crossings.

Why would signals be deliberately designed to put cars and pedestrians in conflict? As early as 1922, people had figured that it was not safe to let cars conflict with other cars at intersection, so the green and red signals were invented.  100 years later because of our culture of unjustifiable tolerance towards drivers and their needs, DOT is still reluctant to admit that it is not safe to let cars conflict with pedestrians.

Now that speeding has ben tackled , turning vehicles are the next pervasive menace to pedestrians: 27% of pedestrian deaths and injuries occur in the crosswalk with the walk sign . DOT needs to focus its energy and resources on eliminating conflicts with turning vehicles and making pedestrian crossings 100% safe. Without that, Vision Zero will never be achieved.

 

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Why is Vision Zero progress so slow in NYC?

The third edition of the NYC DOT’s Street Design Manual was recently released and  I could not wait to read it. Why? This book reveals the DNA of the Department of Transportation, the hard-wired code the engineers follow and gives a glimpse into its evolution.

Up to page 31, warm words, good marketing pitch, clear process description etc.. at page 32,  it all goes awry:

STreetdesignmanual 2016

BIG LETTERS tell us what we suspected all along: avoiding a 1 minute delay for a driver  is a priority while LOS of pedestrians or bicyclists are not even referenced in the analysis required to modify a street.

Words have power: This reveals a fundamental dissonance  between the speeches that  Mayor De Blasio and Commissioner Trottenberg make on Vision Zero and the actions of the engineers in charge of implementing : their focus continues to be on vehicular flow and use of 1970 car centric measurements to make decisions on the design of our streets.

A sentence that actually reflect the Mayor’s policy would have been: “After safety, Levels of Service for all street users are a major consideration in developing a project. DOT therefore will use city-appropriate measurements to ensure such goals”.

The National  Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)’s  Urban Street Design Guide says” LOS measures impacts, but inadequately captures a project’s potential benefits. As a metric, it is mono-modal, measuring streets not by their economic and social vibrancy, but by their ability to process motor vehicles” .The guide is “A blueprint for designing 21st century streets… .”

Even the Federal Government is working on replacing LOS after California has replaced it in its environment reviews. ”Barbara McCann of the Policy office of the Secretary at U.S. DOT told Streetsblog that her agency has been charged with reviewing internal policies that are an obstacle to better biking and walking. “LOS is something that has come up with that,” she said. Despite what you may have been told, “there is no federal mandate for Level of Service,” she said. The federal government has never compelled state and local governments to emphasize LOS above all. But Level of Service is a deeply ingrained engineering convention. Transportation planners might not be attuned to the value judgments inherent to LOS, or to its flaws.”Angie Schmidt. Streetsblog

New York city DOT is using 1970 car centric measurements to preserve flow and reduce car delays while other cities are rushing ahead using 21st Century models to improve safety and livability. New York is falling behind.

In 2013, speaking at a NACTO conference on the relation between community and DOT during major projects. I suggested to the attendees (Senior personnel in DOTS of various cities) to retrain their engineers, which I thought were the major obstacle to increased safety and livability.  It is disheartening that New York is still in this category in 2016.

This is a bad omen for Vision Zero which depends heavily on street re-engineering, to achieve its goals. It looks like New York  revolution is only superficial.  Not good enough for the 1800 additional persons that will be killed if the pace does not accelerate.

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Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen win Safer Bike Lanes

Under significant pressure from the community and its elected representatives, DOT agreed to add 33 real pedestrian refuges to the proposed 6th Avenue bike lane between 8th and 33rd Street. Community Board 4 will vote to approve the revised proposal in February.

cylist signalYou know this picture of 9th Avenue bike lanes that DOT uses in many  presentations? Wide median, turn lanes, cute little bike signals, red arrow signals, flexible bollards?  Just like a presidential campaign, very little of it remains true. If you get a bike lane today, it is not going to look like this at all.  Unlike the bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues in south Chelsea, the DOT has now stripped its bike lanes proposals from all pedestrian safety features: gone are the true pedestrian refuges that allow shorter avenue crossing and gone are the split phase left turns that  provide exclusive time for pedestrian to cross the side streets and for bicyclists to cross the intersections.

DOT analysis in 2014 demonstrated that such features yield 80% more safety than other types bike lanes. Still DOT engineers steeped in years of car focus deny the obvious and advocate for as little safety as possible. To proof, the DOT presenter still talked about “accidents” instead of crashes and denied the validity of their own studies.

9th bike lane

It has been difficult to endure the wrath of our bicyclists friends during these past two months. But we did the right thing and we won big for all. The refuges will be built with plantings inside.

Unfortunately we were not successful in our bid to win more split phase signals; the DOT plan for only 2 of them will leave 9 intersections  unprotected where 65% of injuries took place in the past. A real shame. What is the point of redoing corridors in Vision Zero if DOT does not intend to make the whole corridor safe? This becomes a bike lane installation instead of a complete street or a Vision zero project. More marketing.

IMG_3199For Vision Zero to succeed, we need more safety – not as little as possible. If the life of your children, family or friends depended on it, would n’t you ask the doctors to do “everything possible ” to save them? This is certainly the standard car drivers and government ask of car manufacturers. There is no reason why we should not ask the same from street designers.

Chekpeds will continue to make the point that Vision Zero is more than press conferences and power points presentations: it needs to permeate deep into the agencies and their projects and bring as much safety as possible to the pedestrians and cyclists.

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A Fun Thing To Do During The Blizzard

The Hudson Yards / Hell’s Kitchen Alliance (a Business Improvement District) is naming your new park and they want your help!

See the pictures and suggest a name by clicking HERE!

Block1smallThis will be the first time in New York city that a park name is crowdsourced! Spread the word .

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2015 was a good year for Street Safety!

Thanks to the DOT administration and the advocates of various groups ( most notably Transportation Alternatives ) we made great strides in 2015:

Safety: CHEKPEDS’s push on fully protected phases for pedestrian crossings was embraced by the DOT in their Vision Zero report by Borough. And sure enough, the DOT installed a number of them on 8th and 9th Avenues, bringing to 48 the number of intersections protected by either fully protected phases or Lead Pedestrian Intervals. This is a huge progress that makes us proud!  In addition Public Advocate Letitia James introduced legislation that would require the DOT to install 100 of such devices every year at the most dangerous intersections.

Rised

Thanks to your advocacy, we were also awarded a $ 250,000 grant by Council Member Corey Johnson , as part of the participatory budget democratic process, to install Raised Pedestrian Crossings at various intersections, to slow down cars and improve the crossing conditions for Disabled Residents and Seniors. Full Story 

Congestion: In its 8th Year the Hells Kitchen Traffic Study yielded a huge breakthrough. 120 buses daily were redirected away from turning at the intersection of 9th Avenue and 42nd Street where the congestion was backing the north section of 9th avenue   to turn at Dyer Avenue and 42nd street where they enter directly in the Lincoln tunnel. It also avoids turning movements at 41st Street and 9th Avenue, a deadly intersection. Full Story

Through our work with Manhattan Community Board 4, DOT  and Inspector Pilecki of the NYPD, we enjoined jitney buses that were illegally stopping on 42nd Street to apply for a permit. As a result, half of the buses were relocated to 40th street at 8th Avenue to drop off passengers and the pickup were regrouped in three stops on the North side of the 42nd street. While this is not ideal, a 50% reduction in jitney traffic is significant.

Option3The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey continued to discuss how to modernize the Bus Terminal. Through our advocacy, we obtained that a robust Community Consultation process be formally included in the Port Authority resolution that approved two studies in order to make a final decision in September 2016. Full Story

 

In our continuing quest for more pedestrian space, we officially submitted to DOiTT the list of 75 phone booths we want to be relocated as part of the LINKNYC roll out.

Traffic JusticecrasnoaccidentAll along the year, we continued to advocate for safety along Families For Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives: we rallied to change the language “Crash No Accident”,  ( Click on image to take the pledge); we went to a vigil for the massive number of victims of vehicuar violence,  we marched at the World March for traffic victims – a first in New York city – where DiBlasio reaffirmed his commitment to Vision zero, we protested the call for MTA bus drivers to be exempt from responsibility in 8 deals crashes, we advocated for more $ in the budget to be spent on street design interventions.

IMG_3762

 

Greening: We installed and replaced a few tree guards for new trees on 9th Avenue. Thanks to our friends of the Hudson Yards/Hell’s Kitchen Alliance the Canoe, the Triangle as well as the tree beds on the 9th Avenue were planted with beautiful and diverse plants . A welcome improvement.

 

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24 Intersections now SAFER in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen

8 years into the DOT Traffic study of Hell’s Kitchen, DOT is adding six (6) Split phases and 18 Lead Pedestrian Intervals in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, a  welcome news for the residents of these neighborhoods overwhelmed by the horrendous thru traffic.

Combined with those already installed as part of other projects ( bike lane, crash remediations etc..)  this brings the total to 24 Split Phases and 24 Lead Pedestrian Intervals. Protecting crossings is beneficial to pedestrians, to bicyclists who can get a head start and to people with disabilities who cannot move as fast as others.

We are grateful to DOT for these installations and look forward to the next phase of improvements.

Slide1

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Join Us to remember the victims: 373,377 lives lost to traffic in US in last 10 years

dayofremembrance

 

November 15, @ 12 Noon, City Hall Park Fountain.

There are no words to describe this epidemic and the condoning silence that surrounds it . The costs to society are staggering, and the cost in pain to families indescribable.  Why is this not registering in the news more than say a Russian plane with 225 person killed – (a horrific crash in itself )?  We cannot stay silent . Join us to remember and speak up.

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Bus Terminal Master Planning should include Community Input


Option3The Port Authority Board voted on October 22nd to initiate two studies in advance of finalizing a location and a design for a new bus terminal by September 2016.

  • Performing a “Trans-Hudson Commuting Capacity Study” including other modes like rail and ferry capacity, existing and anticipated patterns and preferences of bus commuter travel after arrival in Manhattan, strategies to reduce bus congestion in neighborhood streets adjacent to the proposed new bus terminal and in the Lincoln Tunnel and its approaches.
  • Conducting an international design competition (the “Bus Terminal Design Competition” or “Design Competition”) soliciting conceptual designs for a new bus terminal on the site recommended by the Working Group, one block west of the current structure, between Ninth and Eleventh Avenues; and appropriate pedestrian connections to mass transit in the vicinity of the new terminal; suggest alternative sites for a new Port Authority bus terminal should their analysis determine that the proposed site west of 9th Avenue is not optimal.

A very interesting part of the board’s recommendation was to “solicit substantial public and stakeholder input in this ongoing process” a part that has been sorely missing to date. Consider that the proposed bus location west of 9th avenue , would increase commuting time by 7 minutes everyday  and would require the condemnation of two 9th Avenue blocks, In short, the  $ 10 billion project would yield a slower commute, and a disfigured neighborhood.  Community Board 4 responded accordingly in its letter to the Port Authority: 

CB4 is appalled at the idea of condemning two blocks in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen-south, on 9th Avenue, our main retail corridor, in order to free up investment properties and make space for ramps and pedestrian passageways, when the existing underground passageways between Dyer and 8th Avenues could easily be used instead.  This would require the eviction of many affordable housing tenants, a church and food pantry, a nursery school, a farm, the only affordable food supermarket and a number of other retail stores essential to the character of our neighborhood. Robert Moses technique of razing our neighborhood is no longer acceptable. You can and must do better than that. “

As such projects will take eons to get completed , the Community Board also recommended that the Port Authority use unallocated funds to perform short term system – wide improvements that could relieve commuters and communities. Read the full letter here. 

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Tell the Feds: City Streets Are Not Highways

It doesn’t make much sense to design a street that passes through the center of a community’s downtown the same way we would the 50 mph highway that carries commuters from that city to another.

Currently, local communities and states must adhere to a long list of federal design criteria, or face an arduous and costly process of requesting exceptions to do simple things like line a downtown street with trees or use design cues to slow traffic to the community’s desired design speed and make streets safer for people in cars and on foot.

In a proposed rule, FHWA decided after a thorough review to scrap 11 of 13 current design criteriafor most roads and streets with speed limits under 50 mph. Many of the streets that fit this description often serve as a town’s main street or are where a large share of pedestrian fatalities occur. According to the proposed rule, these criteria have “minimal influence on the safety or operation on our urban streets” and are more useful for designing freeways, highways and higher speed urban arterials.

We agree — do you?  FHWA needs to hear that they have strong support. Can you take just one minute to generate a letter that we’ll personally deliver to FHWA for you?

Sign this letter endorsing this proposed rule  and thanking FHWA for their great work

This  move will liberate local communities that have been working hard to make their roads safer for everyone that uses them, and rid them of the need to petition FHWA for exceptions to do exactly that. We need to make sure FHWA moves forward with this proposed rule.

 

 

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