Wednesday, November 25, 2009

#1 Problem For Cabbies: Bathroom Breaks

#1 Problem For Cabbies: Bathroom Breaks: "

1109cabrelief.jpg Are city cabbies making 'sun tea' in their vehicles? Of the 44,000 TLC drivers on the streets, most working 12 hour days, you can imagine how difficult it is for them to find a place they can relieve themselves. So many allegedly 'resort to going in the street or peeing in bottles stowed under their seats.'

The problem is a big one for the drivers, and amNewYork reports that their "hunt for a toilet is getting harder as new bike lanes and MUNI meters make it harder to jump out without getting ticketed." There are 55 relief stands in the city, where drivers are able to park for an hour — but that number goes down with construction projects popping up; even the Times Square pedestrian plaza took two away.

The city is allegedly creating new stands, and a GPS device detecting public bathrooms could be ready in, oh, two years or so. But until then, others are trying to help out where they can. After receiving workers comp claims for kidney problems, one taxi garage owner in Brooklyn opened his doors to all drivers.

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A Reason to Give Thanks: State DOT Won’t Widen the Deegan

A Reason to Give Thanks: State DOT Won’t Widen the Deegan: "

This just in: The State DOT will not widen exit ramps from the Major Deegan Expressway, the Mott Haven Herald reports. NYSDOT Region 11 spokesperson Adam Levine confirmed to Streetsblog that the agency will also refrain from adding "auxiliary lanes" as part of its plan to fix a segment of the Deegan along the Harlem River. Instead, the agency has opted to rehab but not expand the 50-year-old roadway.

Opposition to expanding the highway was widespread. Community activists, city officials, and electeds -- including Congressman Jose Serrano -- condemned the proposal as a threat to redevelopment planned for the Harlem River waterfront. Transportation advocates warned that the project would attract more traffic, negating the promised reductions in congestion.

By choosing the rehab-only option, the agency will save somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million. NYSDOT had previously set aside $266 million for the expansion
option in its five-year capital plan. And the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which collected dozens
of public comments opposing the proposed ramps and lanes, reported yesterday that NYSDOT had pegged the full cost of the expansion project at $343 million. The rehab-only project, by comparison, will cost an estimated $170 to $200 million, said Levine.

Here's one suggestion for where to invest some of that savings: Tear down the Sheridan.


City Planning Preserves Sidewalks, But Reinforces Parking Minimums

City Planning Preserves Sidewalks, But Reinforces Parking Minimums: "

The Department of City Planning proposed new rules last week that should keep sidewalks safer and reduce conflicts between pedestrians and cars. The zoning regs, if approved, would also cut down on the proliferation of "parking pads" -- off-street spaces paved over front yards -- in some parts of the city. Overall, the amendment includes some much-needed measures to keep the pedestrian environment from deteriorating. But not all the news is good: The amendment also creates a new rule, reinforcing parking requirements for
residential buildings.

dyker_heights_curb_cut.jpgFreshly cut curb in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Photo: Department of City Planning.
The "Residential Streetscape Preservation Text Amendment" prohibits paving over front yards to create curb-cutting driveways, keeping sidewalks safer and more intact for pedestrians. The amendment also places several restrictions on where property owners can build curb cuts. (You can see all the proposed rules in this presentation.) Basically, it's an attempt to keep space for cars from destroying the quality of space for pedestrians.

The ban on parking pads should put a halt to the proliferation of curb-cuts in certain neighborhoods. "To the extent that this text amendment is effective, that will be a boon," said Rachel Weinberger, a planning professor at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of Suburbanizing the City, the 2008 report that examined New York City's decidedly unsustainable off-street parking policies [PDF]. "When people are paving over their front yards, that implies they're
driving across the sidewalk, which is an incredibly dangerous thing."

The new rules would also create important protections in addition to the parking pad ban. One requirement sets out to prevent the addition of off-street parking in parts of Manhattan and western Queens if the new curb-cut "adversely affects" pedestrian movement. "DCP's proposed change appears to be a real shift in that policy," said Lindsey Lusher-Shute of Transportation Alternatives. "Of course, the effectiveness of this measure will be determined by the definition of 'adverse effects,' but this is a step in the right direction."

As City Room reported last week, much of the impetus for the new rules appears to have come from community boards in neighborhoods like Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge, where paved yards have rapidly spread as homeowners race to secure their own personal space for car storage. While the zoning amendment would put a stop to that particular turf war, it also gives in to the territorial instinct by creating new parking requirements.

"Unfortunately, these regulations perpetuate the now 50-year-old practice of requiring developers to build parking when they add units to existing housing," said Lusher-Shute. "In neighborhoods with excellent access to public transportation, requiring parking is costly, unnecessary and will cause more traffic congestion over the long term."

The zoning amendment is now proceeding through the public review process, including stops at all 59 community boards, the borough presidents' offices, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Law Raises Age for Children to Remain in Safety Restraints

Law Raises Age for Children to Remain in Safety Restraints: "A deadline means older children need to stay in booster seats."

Google Maps Navigation arrives for Android 1.6

Google Maps Navigation arrives for Android 1.6: "Google expands the availability of its Google Maps Navigation app to Android 1.6 smartphones, including the T-Mobile G1 and MyTouch 3G.

Originally posted at Android Atlas


Monday, November 23, 2009

Reporter Checks Out Muni-Meter "Grace Periods"

Reporter Checks Out Muni-Meter "Grace Periods": "

Earlier this week, the City Council passed a bill to add a five-minute grace period for drivers in certain no parking zones, such as alternate side parking regulations and expired Muni-Meters. Amid debate about the bill's worthiness, Mayor Bloomberg vowed to veto the legislation, saying 'The five-minute grace period is only going to lead to chaos and enormous increases in the number of contested tickets, and in argument. Whose watch are you going to use?' Well, based on one Daily News reporter's experience, maybe it doesn't matter at all!

Reporter Kate Nocera parked her 'battered Honda Civic' in six different locations across the city: 'My first stop was Atlantic Ave. in downtown Brooklyn, where I imagined ticket agents would swoop down like pigeons on a discarded sandwich. My muni-meter expired at 1:48. It wasn't until an hour later that I got a ticket. Dumb luck, I thought - until it kept happening.'

Indeed—Nocera managed to escape without tickets for 30 minutes to an hour in Bushwick and downtown Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. Only the traffic enforcement agent in the Bronx ticketed her 4 minutes after the Muni-Meter expired. She decided after this assignment, "I'm going to be extra vigilant about feeding meters and switching sides. After this run of luck, I'm pretty sure my parking karma has totally run out."

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Google Navigation is a Total GPS Replacement—As Long As You're Connected

Google Navigation is a Total GPS Replacement—As Long As You're Connected: "

My wife bought me a Garmin GPS for Christmas last year. After showing her Google Navigation on my G1, she asked if her gift is obsolete. Sorry to say but, for anything but long-distance treks, Google's Navigation is good enough.

I've been using Google Maps Navigation on an HTC G1, which is not the higher-powered, bigger-screened Droid it was designed for. That said, Navigation has delivered that "I'm living in the future" feeling that makes you start mentally marking down the margin you paid for your gadgets. It combines a slew of services Google has recently refined—overhead maps and street-level images, voice recognition, local searches with plain English queries, and traffic data from real drivers—and presents them in an interface that's surprisingly inviting and useful, given Google's tendency for the Hey It Works school of design. More than anything, though, it's free, the data it serves up is free, and it'll always remain up to date for free.

That's not to say that my Garmin, a Nuvi 350 model bought for about $100, doesn't do its primary job, and do it well once it's working. But Google's free offering has made my phone the go-to gadget for navigating across the city or on same-day car trips. For long drives across regions without great cellular coverage, you might still want a stand-alone GPS unit. Navigation downloads all the map data over your phone's data connection, while most GPS devices store gigabytes worth of map data locally.

Update: A Google rep wrote to us, stating that while Navigation requires a data connection to plot its routes, search, and make detours and re-routes. But, once you've been driving a while, 'as long as you don't stray from the route, you will continue to get voice guidance even without a data connection.'

Assuming Google intends to make Navigation available on any future Android phone, and maybe iPhones as well, GPS navigation devices are going to have to develop features that add cleverness and value to compete for the crowd that's just looking for the local Marriott.

Using Google Maps Navigation

From the video tour Google offered up with the Droid launch, it's easy to assume that Navigation offers a turn-by-turn experience inside its Street View images—kind of like driving through a first-person shooter game with a thick blue line. It's disappointing when you realize it doesn't do live turn-by-turn in Street View; instead it only gives you the handy view when you click to see an upcoming turn or intersection. Still, Navigation's driving view is just as good as a GPS unit's, and at times even a little better.

The big advantages Google pushes have to do with local information. Inside the app itself, that means putting Google's 'Layers' on top of your standard three-quarter view of the streets. You can have live traffic indicators overlaid on your streets, see your maps in satellite pictures, or have nearby restaurants, gas stations, banks, ATMs, and hotels show up. While you're navigating, you can also tap the voice search button and find something nearby that you're looking for. High-end GPS models likely offer similar voice-activated search, but likely not at the speed and with the range of results Google provides.

What really impressed me, though, was the actual turn-by-turn experience. The map automatically zooms in and out as your speed fluctuates, giving you a tight, precise view of where you're supposed to turn when you're slowing down for an off-ramp or intersection, but pulling back when you're cruising the highway and looking for the bigger road changes. The digital voice reading your directions is ever-so-slightly distorted compared to others I've heard, but you can understand it without problems. If you can't live without your digitized British female tour guides, well, I understand.

Data pulling, road refreshes, and GPS location awareness were definitely at par with my stand-alone unit, even on an EDGE connection, beneath a city's taller buildings. This will vary from city to city, and from phone to phone, of course—but I'd consider using a hacked G1 in Buffalo, NY a fairly good test of both location and lag-ridden hardware. Since Navigation runs as a background process, you can take phone calls over your speaker or through a Bluetooth headset, and Navigation will cut in (on your audio only) when it's time to make a turn. You can also switch out of Navigation's view to perform other tasks, if you feel like callously endangering the lives of everybody on the road around you with certain distraction and delayed response time.

Navigation does warn you about that distraction danger, by the way, when you first launch it, but only that one time. Whether that's an advantage over GPS units' regular reminders depends on your point of view. Actually, let's go ahead and assume you like fewer nag screens.

If you're driving somewhere without EDGE or 3G data coverage on your carrier, Maps Navigation will eventually run out of maps to show you. There might be local maps packs to pull down in the future, and wireless data coverage might eventually bridge its gaps over the last mile. If rural coverage is a non-starter for you, you weren't likely to buy a smartphone anyways. Otherwise, Navigation probably does everything your stand-alone GPS unit does.

Using a GPS device

The GPS device I'd been using for the better part of a year, a Garmin Nuvi 350, is far from the top of the line. Most readers will be familiar with how one works, even if they haven't owned one, so I'll just say what's different and unique.

The obvious advantages are that you're not draining, or at least continually charging, your main cellphone's battery, and that a GPS unit can dish out directions almost anywhere, without any need for a wireless data connection. Depending on your phone, the screen on a GPS unit may be bigger, and, on my Nuvi, at least, the 'Night Mode' that pops on at a dynamic sunset time is certainly very helpful. GPS units also come with all the hardware they need to mount to your window or dashboard, and for those afraid of their own distractions, don't ping you when new email or text messages come in.

The chart

Enough jibber-jabber from one geeky tester. Here's the head-on comparison between my GPS and my hacked G1 Navigation system. Click to enlarge, unless you've got Superman eyes.

For an alternate take on Google Maps Navigation by the (admittedly more GPS-savvy) Gizmodo crew, read Wilson Rothman's Maps Navigation feature review.

I have far from the perfect phone or GPS unit to make my judgments in the ideal realm, but I also consider myself a regular old consumer (as opposed to a latest-and-greatest gadget guy). Could you abandon your stand-alone GPS unit, or take it off your wish list, for Google's Navigation? Give us your take in the comments."

City Council Parking Giveaway Will Bring More Gridlock

City Council Parking Giveaway Will Bring More Gridlock: "

New Yorkers could spend a third of a million more hours a
year stuck in traffic if the “grace period” for parking violations voted
by the City Council
this week becomes law.

3672447574_f6f7a69255.jpgPhoto: @10/Flickr
That’s what the Balanced Transportation
traffic-pricing model calculates, based on an assumed 10 percent drop in
issuance of parking tickets. While no one knows just how many fewer tickets
will be issued (none of the 47 council members voting aye on Intro
offered a guess), the manifold repercussions for enforcement — a narrower time window,
greater complexity, general undermining of traffic agents — suggest that a one-tenth
drop isn’t unreasonable.

Worsened gridlock follows automatically from making curbside
parking cheaper. The lessened likelihood of being served a parking ticket can
be expected to draw more auto trips into Manhattan
and around town as well. The added congestion isn’t huge; most car trips not made are on account of other
factors, and only a tenth of all parking tickets are being assumed away. But the
impact will be visible.

Most of the estimated 334,000 hours lost, around 85 percent, will come from drivers outside the Manhattan Central Business District, putting an ironic stamp on
Council Member Tish James’ reminder to
the mayor
that his narrow re-election was “a call from average New Yorkers
for relief.”

Note: Readers who want
to check the analysis in the BTA should head to the Parking worksheet, a dozen tabs from the back.


New York Now Has Toughest Drunk Driving Law

New York Now Has Toughest Drunk Driving Law: "

Something crazy happened in Albany this week: The Assembly passed a bill, then the Senate passed their version of the bill, and then Governor David Paterson signed it into law—all in two days! Yesterday New York instituted the nation's toughest drunk driving law, making it a felony to drive intoxicated with a passenger 15 years old or under. The bill, "Leandra's Law,' was named for the 11-year-old New York girl killed in a DWI crash on the West Side Highway last month. At the signing yesterday, Leandra's father Lenny Rosado vowed to take his crusade to Washington and pass the law on the federal level:
From here on, those that think it’s OK to drink and drive - with children in the car or not - will pay the price...This is not going to be where I stop. I'm going to go out there to as many people as I can and educate them about this terrible disease we have out there...and hopefully we can take it all the way up straight to the White House.

Senate President Malcolm Smith told Rosado, "I don’t know how you stand it. I’m not sure, as a father of a 16-year-old, that I could be standing here if I had befallen the challenge that you have… We stand behind you. If you move this to be a national crusade, know that under leader Sampson and myself we stand to move with you.' Leandra died October 11th when an allegedly drunk adult crashed a van full of children, killing her and injuring her six friends. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told reporters, 'It is tragic that it had to take the loss of Leandra Rosado's life in order for this to come to our attention and for action to be taken.'

Both houses also passed the Authorities Reform Bill Wednesday, which is meant to bring increased transparency to the state's authorities, NY1 reports. But there is still no deal to close the state's $3.2 billion budget deficit. A frustrated Paterson said yesterday, 'I don't know how people are walking around here saying we are close to a deal. I don't know people think they are leaving here and I don't know why it is so difficult to understand we have a fiduciary responsibility to the state of New York... and the only way to reduce this deficit are real, recurring cuts.'

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iPhone online GPS navigators: MapQuest vs. Gokivo

iPhone online GPS navigators: MapQuest vs. Gokivo: "We look at the performance and features of the MapQuest Navigator and Gokivo Navigator applications for GPS iPhones.

Originally posted at iPhone Atlas


TomTom Car Kit for iPhone goes for a spin

TomTom Car Kit for iPhone goes for a spin: "The TomTom Car Kit for iPhone lets you consolidate the number of devices carried around by elevating iPhone navigation to a standalone navigation device level. It's pricey, but TomTom gives users a fair amount of functionality for the money."

Friday, November 20, 2009

193 vehicles returned under GM's 60-day satisfaction guarantee

193 vehicles returned under GM's 60-day satisfaction guarantee: "

Filed under: ,

Last month, General Motors raised some eye brows when it announced its 60-day satisfaction guarantee program giving customers the ability to drive their vehicles for 60 days and return them with zero minimal risk. A month ago, we told you that only one vehicle had been returned under the program, and that guy simply traded his manual tranny Corvette for one with a six-speed slush box. Now, a little more than two months into the promotion, the General has a still fairly insignificant 193 (out of 220,000 sales) customers who have returned their vehicle under the program, and GM says some of those customers decided to purchase different or better equipped GM models.

But while 193 appears to be fairly insignificant when compared to overall sales, it also represents 30 percent of the 653 people who actually opted for the 60-day option in lieu of a $500 discount. While some would say that the 30% number is very bad for GM, we'd say that it isn't much of a surprise given the fact that those 653 customers obviously weren't very sure about their purchase decision to begin with.

GM appears to be pretty pleased with the fact that so few vehicles have been returned during the program, but the automaker also plans to learn from those who were dissatisfied with their product. Vice President of Global Product Engineering Mark Reuss told the Associated Press that he and other executives plan to call customers who turned in their vehicles under the program, calling it 'about the best unfiltered consumer feedback we've had' and according to the report, Chairman Ed Whitacre came up with the idea to make the calls. GM's 60-day guarantee promotion is scheduled to end on January 4, 2010.

[Source: AP | Image Source: Joe Raedle/Getty]

193 vehicles returned under GM's 60-day satisfaction guarantee originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 20 Nov 2009 16:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage: "

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle mayhem
across the metro region. For more on the origins and purpose of this
column, please read About the Weekly Carnage.

carnage_janine_brawer_news.jpgThe teen driver of this Saturn rear-ended another car, which lurched into 17-year-old Janine Brawer of Staten Island, pinning her beneath. She died from her injuries. Brawer was one of seven city pedestrians killed in the past week. Of the 10 motorists involved, four fled. No charges were reported against those who remained at the scene, while one of the hit-and-run drivers escaped criminal charges for killing an as-yet unidentified pedestrian in Brooklyn. Photo: Daily News

Fatal Crashes (13 Killed This Week, 268 This Year*, 25 Drivers Charged**)

  • SI: Teen's Crash Pushes Car Into Fellow Student; No Charges (Advance, News, Post, WINS)  

  • Bronx: Hit-and-Run Driver Mows Down 28-Year-Old Woman; CT Man Killed in Separate Crash (News)

  • Brooklyn: 78-Year-Old Grandmother Killed by Driver on Her Birthday (Post)

  • Brooklyn: Hit-and-Run Driver Strikes Ped, Bus; Charged Only With Leaving Scene (Post)

  • Queens: Pedestrian Hit by Three Drivers; One Flees Scene (NY1)

  • Queens: Unidentified Ped Death Brings No Charges, Scant Media Coverage (Streetsblog)

  • Queens: Two-Car Collision Leaves 67-Year-Old Passenger Dead (Qns Courier)

  • Farmingdale, LI: 14-Year-Old Cyclist Killed; No Charges Filed (Newsday 1, 2, AP)

  • Continental Village, LI: Trucker Killed After Oncoming Driver Crosses Center Line (LoHud)

  • Stratford, CT: Driver Exits Car After Crash, Killed When Another Driver Plows Into It (AP)

  • Sayreville, NJ: Pedestrian, 28, Dies of Injuries From Early Morning Crash; No Charges (S-L)

  • Montville, NJ: Tractor Trailer-Car Collision Kills 1 (S-L)

Injuries, Arrests and Property Damage

  • Gothamist Newsmap: 4 Unidentified Pedestrians Hit in Last Seven Days (1, 2, 3, 4)

  • Manhattan: Joe Biden's NYPD Escort Rammed by Livery Cab Driver (HuffPo, NYT)

  • Related: Biden Security in Two Other Recent Crashes; 1 Leaves DC Pedestrian Dead (UPI, WaPo)

  • Manhattan: West Side Crash Backs Traffic Into Jersey, Westchester (Streetsblog, City Room)

  • Brooklyn: 9 Hospitalized After Crash Involving 4 Cars, School Bus (AP)

  • Brooklyn: Wrong-Way Hit-and-Run Driver Injures 1 in Pulaski Bridge Collision (Post)

  • SI: Teen Rams Police Car After Reckless Driving Stop (Advance)

  • Larchmont, NY: Pedestrian Hit, Hospitalized With Head Injuries; No Charges (LoHud)

  • White Plains: Road Rager Assaults Fellow Motorist After Minor Crash (LoHud)

  • Brightwaters, LI: 4 Elderly Pedestrians Hit, 2 Seriously Injured; Driver, 73, Didn't See Them (Newsday)

  • Bay Shore, LI: Toddler Seriously Injured When Mom Spins Into Another Car (Newsday)

  • Wantagh, LI: Crumbling Overpass Drops Debris on Parkway, Causing 10-Car Crash (AP)

  • Wyandach, LI: Man With Suspended License Arrested for DWI, Had Kids in Car (AP

  • Bayonne: Driver Critically Injures 77-Year-Old Ped, Ticketed for Failure to Yield (Jersey Jrnl)

  • Newtown, CT: 17-Year-Old Driving 4 Other Teens Arrested for DWI After One-Car Crash (CT Post)

  • Newtown, CT: State Legislator Can't Resist Violating Cell Phone Law (AP

Following Up

  • Manhattan: Truck Driver Auvryn Scarlett Gets 20-to-Life for Killing Tourist Couple (Post, News, TWC)

  • Brooklyn: Ped Killer Complains That Vic's Prosecutor Mom Is Taking His Case Too Personally (News)

  • Bronx: R'dale Press Has Thorough Coverage of Drana Nikac Crash, Profile of Det. Kevin Spellman

  • Milford, CT: Police Release Harrowing Video of Cop Crash That Killed 2 Teens (HuffPo/AP)

  • Related: Officers Accused of Drag Racing as Department Blames Dead Kids (CT Post 1, 2, 3)

  • Suffolk Co.: Driver Ducks Community Service "Sentence" After 2006 Fatal Crash (Newsday)

  • Carmel, NY: Slap on the Wrist for DWI Mom Who Wrecked Car Full of Terrified Children (LoHud)

  • Diane Schuler Crash Featured in New York Mag

  • Roselle Park, NJ: Driver Surrenders in Fatal Hit-and-Run (S-L)

carnage_VAN_ap.JPGPhoto: AP
Out of Town

  • Orlando, FL: Noted Boston Cardiologist, Triathlete Killed Taking a Run; No Charges Expected (Globe)

  • Medford, NJ: Driver Hits Cyclist While Texting Drug Dealer (AP)

  • Baker City, OR: Church Van Crash on Icy Road Kills 2, Injures 11 (AP)

  • Minneapolis: Tour Bus Driver Suffers Aneurysm; 2 Dead, 21 Injured (AP)

  • Cleveland, OH: Cellphone-Using Bus Driver Gets Six Months for Fatally Striking Pedestrian (AP)

  • Columbus, OH: Driver Fails to Stop for School Buses, Kills Woman on Crutches; No Charges (WCMH)

  • Asheville, NC: Death of 4-Year-Old Leads to Call for Pedestrian Improvements (Citizen-Times)

  • Morganton, NC, Population 17,000, Sees 4 Pedestrians Hit, 1 Fatally, in One Week (News Herald)

  • Chattanooga, TN: Man Killed Trying to Aid Injured Pedestrian; No Charges for Either Driver (Times FP)

  • McLean, VA: Wife of Sen. Dick Lugar Arrested for DWI, Hit-and-Run After Hitting Parked Car (AP)

Trends and Other News

  • "Leandra's Law" Clears Albany; City Enforcers Streamline DWI Protocols (Sblog, News, NYT, NY1)

  • Suburban NY Lawmakers to Introduce 3-Foot Cyclist Buffer Law (LoHud)

  • Teen Drivers Killing Themselves, and Others, for the Privilege of TWD (WaPo)

  • Obama Admin Wants Seatbelts for Long-Distance Buses (AP)

  • Tom Vanderbilt Debunks the Myth of the Daredevil "Jaywalker" (Slate)

  • NHTSA Says Hybrid Drivers Hit More People; Treehugger Has Doubts; Car Blog Finds the Funny

  • This Just In: Drivers With Severe Visual Impairment Have Trouble Seeing Pedestrians (PRN, MedPage)

  • In Macon, GA, Pedestrians Account for Over Half of 2009 Traffic Deaths (Telegraph

  • Philly Launches Cyclist Crackdown as Drivers Flout the Law With Abandon (Inquirer, I-911)

  • Letter From Highway Safety Director Makes You Glad You Don't Live in Louisiana (Daily Comet)

* Since the week of June 8
** Drivers charged for deaths since the week of June 8, based on latest available reports


City Announces 2009 Gridlock Alert Days

City Announces 2009 Gridlock Alert Days: "

2009_11_holtraffic.jpg If it's almost Thanksgiving, it means the city is gearing up the influx of visitors to the city for the holidays. The Department of Transportation released its calendar of 'Gridlock Alert Days' (PDF) and its 'Holiday Traffic Mitigation Plan' (PDF)—above all, the DOT recommends that people take mass transit. Today is the first Gridlock Alert Day, as is Thanksgiving next week; next month, the Gridlock Alert Days are December 2 (Rockefeller tree lighting), 4, 11, 16, 17, 18 and 23.

TLC Taxi-Share Pilot Program Drops Next Month

TLC Taxi-Share Pilot Program Drops Next Month: "

You might remember back in May when the Taxi & Limousine Commission threatened the public with three new pilot programs that would reduce congestion by packing more fares into fewer cars. Well, unlike most pilot programs, it appears this one is actually happening, and as soon as next month. TLC announced Thursday that they will be setting up three locations where two or more riders and/or strangers can hop into a single cab for a discounted fare—and possibly a missed connection.

The planned locations where strangers would board the same taxi are 57th Stret and Eighth Avenue, 72nd Street and Third Avenue, and 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue, with all routes will proceeding down Park Avenue to 42nd Street. And the Post reports: 'From 10:30 to 11:30 p.m., a taxi stand on West 44th Street will send showgoers off to a yet-to-be-determined area rife with restaurants and bars. And for a $20 flat fee, one will be able to ride from the Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia to Midtown.'

According to the Daily News: 'Passengers will be allowed to exit cabs at any point along the way. Prices will be $3 for the 57th St. stand and $4 for the uptown locations - up to 50% less than meter fares.' Plans are now being finalized and will be officially voted on at TLC's December meeting. Upper East Siders have already taken to this cab sharing concept, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out when strangers from different neighborhoods squeeze in together.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fast Bus-Only Lanes Headed To 1st And 2nd Avenues

Fast Bus-Only Lanes Headed To 1st And 2nd Avenues: "


The MTA is considering rolling out bus-only lanes on First and Second avenues that the agency says might shorten commutes between Houston Street and 125th Street. The 'East Side speedway' could be laid down by September 2010, and the agency is planning to stock up on 'dozens of super-stretch buses for the new service,' the Daily News reports.

The new 62-foot-long buses will have three doors instead of two, potentially allowing faster passenger loading and unloading. In a move the paper claims might end 'the torturously slow one-by-one shuffle of passengers past the onboard farebox,' commuters will swipe their MetroCards at curbside machines before they board the bus and receive printed slips proving they've paid the fare. The city is also planning to equip the buses with wireless technology that will change red lights to green lights when they approach, and in some places, the city might separate the bus lanes from other traffic with physical barriers.

But the biking and mass transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives says the proposed high-speed bus route — which would be the city's second following the apparently successful Bx12 in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx — doesn't do enough, arguing instead for two bus lanes on each avenue, as well as barriers along the entire route, and new cycling lanes. "First and Second avenues need a game-changer," spokesman Wiley Norvell told the paper. "With 58,000 bus riders, 3,500 cyclists and hundreds of thousands of pedestrians using this corridor, it's high time we designed a true 21st century street that serves everybody."

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If a New Car Can Demolish an Old One, How Is a Human Expected to Fare?

If a New Car Can Demolish an Old One, How Is a Human Expected to Fare?: "

To mark its 50th anniversary, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently pitted a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air against its contemporary counterpart, a 2009 Malibu, in a 40 mph crash test. As you can see in the video, the Malibu destroys its predecessor.

The results were intended to demonstrate how much safer cars are now than a half-decade ago, but my first thought was that the new vehicle is the same make and model that NYPD Detective Kevin Spellman drove into Drana Nikac at an estimated 30 mph -- a speed that carries a pedestrian fatality rate of up to 45 percent.

So while modern-day engineering may be better at protecting drivers and passengers, the auto industry and the IIHS -- whose "bigger is better" philosophy ignores those outside of vehicles -- have a long, long way to go before they can crow too loudly about overall safety.


Debate Rages Over New Parking Ticket Grace Period

Debate Rages Over New Parking Ticket Grace Period: "

On Monday the City Council passed a bill that would give motorists a five minute grace period on parking tickets issued at Muni-Meters or when a vehicle is in violation of alternate side parking regulations. Mayor Bloomberg has vowed to veto it, but the Council approved it 47 to 2, and they only need a two-thirds vote to override a veto, meaning the law could very well take effect in 90 days. Will 'chaos' reign, as Bloomberg predicts, or will motorists receive a welcome relief from 'parking enforcement officers hiding behind the bushes, waiting for the meter to run out,' as one parking commissioner in White Plains puts it?

Critics say the grace period will only inflame the already heated arguments between traffic agents and car owners, but the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, tells the Times, "They’re issuing tickets now and no one is confused about the time, right? If they say it’s 9:01 and a taxpayer says it’s 8:59, the taxpayer is still getting the ticket, so whatever you do now you’ll continue doing." And one traffic agent, who gave an anonymous quote to the Times, believes the grace period "will make people more happy" and "will make my job easier."

White Plains and Miami have had grace periods for years, and there used to be an informal grace period when traffic enforcement was controlled by the DOT. When the NYPD took over, traffic agents were instruct to ticket immediately, and a recent study found that many agents issued tickets at the exact moment the time expires. Bloomberg has thirty days to veto the bill, but Bay Ridge Councilman Vincent Gentile tells the Brooklyn Eagle, "We’re confident that we have enough votes to override his veto."

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