THE COMMUTE: Last winter, I reported about the hazards of potholes, how they cause cars to become disabled, tie up traffic and pose a general safety hazard. A car swerving in order to avoid hitting a deep pothole can easily swerve into the path of a pedestrian crossing the street if both are not careful. Also, a pedestrian can trip while crossing the street because of a pothole, possibly causing him or her to be struck by an automobile.
I stated that the best way to minimize the number of potholes is by resurfacing streets on a more frequent schedule. However, instead of taking this action, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed budget slashes the resurfacing budget in half. This will result in an even greater need to fill potholes in the future. At least one councilman agrees with me, that this is a foolish temporary cost savings.
This is not the only instance in which the mayor is showing his hypocrisy. While campaigning under his “Tale of Two Cities” narrative, de Blasio frequently cited the previous mayor’s favoritism of the city’s elite because he greatly increased taxes for the middle class. Real estate tax rates for one and two family homes nearly doubled since 2001, while tax rates for large apartment buildings barely changed. Bloomberg also increased water and sewer rates by 78 percent since 2005.
Citizens elected de Blasio with the expectation of tax rollbacks. Instead, he announced that he will raise water taxes only by another 3.35 percent this year. Additional real estate tax rate hikes are likely to follow. Also, the promises of lower taxes for homes whose values have diminished because of Superstorm Sandy have resulted in higher, not lower, taxes, except perhaps for homes that were nearly destroyed.
So what happened? The new mayor is desperately trying to balance the budget in preparation for difficult upcoming labor negotiations for city workers, a task left to him by his predecessor who took the easy way out by delaying contract talks. Why isn’t government waste or inefficiencies being reduced instead? Knowing the unpopularity of higher taxes, and inability to find increased efficiencies, there is only one other way to raise needed funds, and that is through higher fines and more summonses. After all, someone breaking the law needs to be punished. Correct?
What if not enough people are breaking the law and Albany will not permit higher fines? Then we have to change the laws to collect additional revenue or fine innocent citizens. Lower the speed limit to an unrealistic 25 MPH on the city’s major arterial roadways and eventually install speed cameras so everyone can be fined at least $100 for each violation. Do this in the name of safety while your budget cuts reduce safety. Vigorously fight for home rule to eliminate limits imposed by Albany for taxes and fines, so you can raise them at will. Declare speed the villain and the chief culprit for all pedestrian injuries and make that a primary focus. However, buried in the technical supplement on Page 25 of your safety report is a statistic, which states that speed by itself is responsible only for eight percent of all pedestrian fatalities/serious injuries and together with other factors such as a slippery roadway still accounts for only 21 percent.
Do nothing about the unfair justice system whereby the innocent are still found guilty for violating laws such as non-existing parking regulations (7th letter). Do nothing about the appeals system that merely rubber stamps guilty verdicts, or reinstitute evening hours so that a working person can plead a summons without losing a day’s pay.
Don’t punish sanitation agents who drag trash onto your property and then write you a summons for trash blocking your sidewalk or meter maids who write a parking summons while your car is still moving, which I have personally witnessed. Write double parking tickets for someone who is momentarily waiting for a parking space as another car is pulling out while not cracking down on permit parking abuse or continuing to allow police officers to break the law every single day by parking on sidewalks outside every police precinct in the city.
Ignore the long term economic effects that lower speed limits on major arterials will have, or the effects on safety by slashing the budget for street resurfacing. Continue the dictatorship of the previous mayor by banning horse-driven carriages in Central Park, although polls have shown an overwhelming number of citizens favor their continued operation. Refuse repeated invitations to visit the stables where these horses are kept to witness their humane treatment, but just continue to insist the animals are abused. Allow your policies to be determined by the loudmouths of PETA and Transportation Alternatives instead of doing what the majority of residents want, for example, to get where they need to go within a reasonable amount of time. That is the recipe for a one-term mayor.
More About Select Bus Service (SBS)
Last week I attended a transportation workshop in Queens about bringing SBS to that borough. The presentation began with a statement that Woodhaven Boulevard is the most congested corridor in Queens. It was also stated that that this is the beginning of the process to solicit suggestions to improve the corridor. Fact: The city already has decided that the solution is SBS along Woodhaven Boulevard with an exclusive bus lane and possibly a bicycle lane. These measures will greatly reduce road capacity. How is this the beginning of the process when the major decisions have already been made?
How do you relieve traffic congestion by reducing road capacity for general traffic? That would only be possible if roadway users switch en mass from automobile to bus. A 10-minute shorter bus trip will not produce those results when switching modes would involve multiple buses and multiple fares. It is like telling a starving child that less food will alleviate his hunger. It makes no sense at all.
Pedestrian safety is a serious issue that needs to be adequately addressed. Notice how Vision Zero is a 10-year plan although the mayor’s term, if reelected, is only eight years. That way, upon leaving office, the mayor can claim he is well on his way to achieving an impossible goal. It’s his successor who will have failed. Well Mr. Mayor, the smart citizens see right through you. Just as we see how you have been unfairly burdened by negotiating union contracts that were the job of the previous administration.
We see that your primary objective is finding the funds to balance the budget no matter how unfairly you obtain them. We know that Vision Zero will slightly reduce the number of accidents on the corridors where speed is being reduced and will be declared a success on those roadways. You will ignore the additional accidents on parallel streets due to traffic shifts that increased congestion due to slower speeds will cause.
Speed cameras will become like a drug to the city. When it finds them to be a revenue bonanza, they will want more and more, all in the name of increased safety. The resulting long range negative effects of lower speed limits on major roadways will become the citizens’ burden such as through higher transit fares. That is because slower bus speeds result in higher operational costs, especially for express buses.
SBS, when combined with lower speed limits, will do little to nothing to speed travel without a long range plan for more rail lines or major improvements to local bus routes. We realize that the mayor has little influence over the MTA. However, the mayor is responsible for foolish plans to cut the resurfacing budget and to lower the speed limit on 25 major arterial roads and possibly narrowing some of those roadways where it is not necessary.
First, there was the news story about the mayor and his caravan speeding and blowing past stop signs a few days after formally announcing plans for Vision Zero. Then his police commissioner supported him by saying that the news videos caused him no concern. The mayor will never drive at 25 MPH or receive a summons. That is just for the rest of us.
The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).
Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.