Archive for the tag 'driving'

Source: 24gotham/Flickr

The New York Police Department is cracking down on motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses with flashing lights, police sources told this outlet.

The initiative is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate pedestrian fatalities and was timed to begin on the first day of classes to protect returning students. The goal, say police, is to promote school bus safety through education and enforcement. The operation will last approximately six to eight weeks, beginning Thursday, September 4.

State law requires drivers to stop at least 20 feet away from a bus if it is has red lights flashing. Traffic must stop in both directions, even in front of a school and in school parking lots, and even if the motorist is on the opposite side of a divided highway.

Before a school bus stops to load or discharge students, bus drivers will usually flash yellow warning lights. Before the bus embarks again, the red lights will stop flashing or the bus driver or a traffic officer will tell you to proceed. Drivers should be cautious around buses; most bus-related deaths occur when children cross the street after being discharged, and motorists should look for children along the side of the road.

It’s a heavy penalty for those who violate the law, with fines as high as $1,000 and the possibility of imprisonment.

By Conviction Minimum
Fine
Maximum
Fine
Possible Imprisonment
First Conviction $250.00 $400.00 Up to 30 days
Second Conviction
(within 3 years)
$600.00 $750.00 Up to 180 days
Third or
Subsequent Convictions (within 3 years)
$750.00 $1,000.00 Up to 180 days

 

A similar crackdown, called Operation Safe Stop, occurred statewide in April 2014 at governor’s orders. An estimated 50,000 drivers illegally pass buses on New York state roads every day, according to a website created in conjunction with that initiative.

The NYPD has also put out the following flier to educate drivers on best practices for safely driving near school buses:

school-bus

Click to enlarge

A DOT speed-enforcement camera sits at this location, fining people who fail to slow down after exiting the highway. (Source: Google Maps)

A DOT speed-enforcement camera sits at this location, fining people who fail to slow down after exiting the highway. (Source: Google Maps)

While opponents of a camera-enforced speed trap on a Belt Parkway exit ramp cry foul, the Department of Transportation says “tough luck.”

The agency said it has no plans to move the speed enforcement camera placed on Shore Parkway at the end of the highway’s Ocean Parkway exit ramp, despite complaints from neighbors and a local City Council member that it’s unfair and undermines the program’s credibility.

A spokesperson for DOT would not confirm the placement of the camera, saying it’s the agency’s policy not to disclose camera locations. However, the spokesperson added that there are no plans to relocate any cameras in Southern Brooklyn.

Moreover, the spokesperson disputed the assertion that it’s a “gotcha” location, noting that the ramp is approximately 400 feet long, enough distance to slow down from highway speeds, and that a sign has been placed indicating that the speed limit is 30 miles per hour.

Violations are not issued to motorists going 10 miles or less over the speed limit, the spokesperson added.

That answer isn’t good enough, said Councilman Mark Treyger. The pol’s office has been flooded with complaints from ticket recipients and yesterday he called on the agency to move the camera closer to Ocean Parkway.

“I don’t think that [the DOT] even addressed my concern. No residents asked them to measure the length of the exit ramp,” said Treyger. “We didn’t ask them to measure how long it is. We asked them, in the interest of public safety, to move it where pedestrians are actually using [a crosswalk].”

Treyger said he’s going to appeal to the agency to reconsider the location. His office will also begin notifying residents to be aware of the camera.

The councilman, a former school teacher, said the placement of the camera does little to protect students at nearby Lincoln High School or other pedestrians, since it’s not placed near a pedestrian crosswalk.

“To my knowledge I don’t believe any pedestrians are crossing near exit ramps for highways,” Treyger said. There is no sidewalk on the highway side of Shore Parkway where the camera is placed.

By moving it just a few hundred feet up the block to the Ocean Parkway intersection, they can catch motorists who are speeding through crosswalks. The current placement instead has the appearance of enforcement for revenue-generating purposes, the pol suggested.

“The goal of the speed cameras is to protect public safety and make sure people are abiding by laws. But when you place them in these ‘gotcha’ locations it really threatens to undermine the credibility of this program. We want to save lives, but ‘gotcha’ locations in my opinion don’t accomplish that goal,” he said.

Clarification (3:00 p.m.): The camera itself is in Councilman Chaim Deutsch’s district, not Treyger’s – although many affected by it are in Treyger’s district. We are reaching out to Deutsch’s office as well.

belot

The Department of Transportation announced this morning that the Belt Parkway lane closures set to begin last night have been postponed indefinitely.

Two lanes of the eastbound Belt Parkway at Gerritsen Inlet Bridge were set to be closed for road repairs beginning last night and continuing through the weekend. A representative for the agency could not say what caused the postponement or when would would occur.

These closures are being done to facilitate the replacement of the bridge, which is part of the city’s Seven Bridges project, a large-scale renovation of seven spans on the Belt Parkway that began in 2009.

camera-1

Neighbors are crying foul over what appears to be a high-tech speed trap, after learning that the Department of Transportation placed a speed enforcement camera where they say speeding is unavoidable.

The camera is placed adjacent to Lincoln High School on Shore Parkway, between West Avenue and Ocean Parkway. It’s perched just above where the Belt Parkway exit ramp leads into the service road – catching drivers while they’re still decelerating from highway speeds.

“This camera seems to be conveniently placed so close to the exit ramp that you are almost guaranteed to set off this speed trap,” said neighbor Connie C., who was shocked to find a $50 ticket in the mail for a July 22 drive past the location. “[It's] positioned right in between the exit ramp and the entrance ramp, so basically they have you either way. As you are accelerating to get onto the ramp to enter the highway or coming off the highway at 50mph. I thought is seemed quite fishy.”

(UPDATE [September 4, 2014]: The DOT will not relocate the camera. Read that story here.)

Approximate location of the camera, between the exit and entrance ramps. (Source: Google Maps)

Approximate location of the camera, between the exit and entrance ramps. (Source: Google Maps)

Connie, who said she generally supports the use of speed cameras, isn’t the only neighbor to notice. Councilman Mark Treyger’s office said they’ve received numerous complaints and the pol is outraged at the apparent money grab.

“The role of speed cameras is to reduce speeding and increase safety in appropriate locations around our neighborhood. They should not be placed in locations like the start of an exit ramp because this ‘gotcha’ location plays into fears of many that these cameras are solely revenue generating machines,” said Treyger.

The pol is urging the DOT to move the camera closer to Ocean Parkway, where they’ll have more time to slow down after exiting the highway.

“Speed cameras can have an important role to play in our efforts to eliminate fatalities on city streets, but placing them in highly questionable locations threatens to undermine this program’s credibility,” he said.

Per a report this week, there are 23 active speed cameras operating near school intersections. They’ve issued 183,000 tickets since the first cameras came online in January. That number is about to skyrocket to 140 total speed cameras after Albany approved the expansion earlier this year.

The Department of Transportation did not return a request for comment on this article. The DOT said they will not move the camera, as the 400-foot-long ramp provides enough room to slow down safely.

belot

Two lanes of the eastbound Belt Parkway at Gerritsen Inlet Bridge will be closed for road repairs beginning tonight and lasting through the weekend.

The first lane, between Exit 9 and Exit 11, will close at 10pm tonight, followed by a second lane at 1am. During the closure, one lane will remain open to traffic at all times, and all lanes will reopen at 5am.

Weather permitting, this pattern will continue each night for approximately five nights, according to the Department of Transportation.

These closures are being done to facilitate the replacement of the bridge, which is part of the city’s Seven Bridges project, a large-scale renovation of seven spans on the Belt Parkway that began in 2009.

Avenue Z between E. 7 St and Coney Island Avenue (Source

Source: Allan Shweky

The New York City Department of Transportation on Friday announced 14 new “arterial slow zones,” major corridors that will see speed limits slashed by five miles per hour as part of the Vision Zero initiative. Coney Island Avenue and Flatbush Avenue are both on the list, with implementation to begin this fall.

The first slow zones were implemented yesterday on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx and 7th Avenue in Manhattan, the first phase of the program. The speed limits will be lowered to 25 miles per hour from 30, with new “distinctive” signs with blue-and-white coloring and the name of the corridor to complement the DOT’s existing Neighborhood Slow Zone program. Alongside the signage, the streets will see increased police enforcement and temporary lighted speed boards.

The entirety of Coney Island Avenue will be converted to a slow zone in September, with Flatbush Avenue from Concord Street to Hendrickson Place (near the Belt Parkway) to follow in October.

The program is part of the Vision Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities citywide. Ultimately the agency will create a total of 25 arterial slow zones, according to the Vision Zero website.

Arterial roadways make up only 15 percent of the total road system but account for 60 percent of the fatalities, according to the DOT. These 14 corridors make up only 65 miles of roadway, but account for 83 fatalities.

Coney Island Avenue is 5.5 miles long, and accounted for six fatalities between 2008 and 2012, while Flatbush Avenue is 7.1 miles long and accounts for 11 fatalities.

The speed reduction required approval from Albany, which it received in June. You can find the list of all 14 arterial slow zones here.

Local pols are praising the measure, saying it will help reduce deaths at some of their district’s busiest intersections.

“Coney Island Avenue has long been a dangerous thoroughfare for seniors and others attempting to cross with a constant flow of traffic whizzing by. I’m pleased that the city is implementing these forward-thinking measures that will succeed in calming traffic and, most important, saving lives,” said Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, in a DOT press release.

“Improving safety on our streets benefits all New Yorkers, and anyone who has crossed Coney Island Avenue knows how hectic and dangerous it can be. I am very pleased that pedestrian safety continues to be a priority for our city and that one of southern Brooklyn’s busiest streets is included in this plan,” said Councilman Mark Treyger in the same press release.

“This second phase of Vision Zero being implemented along Coney Island Avenue is an indication that my voice, in advocating for traffic calming measures, was heard,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch, also in the press release. “I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Trottenberg for improving the safety of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists throughout my district.”

Eid a Fitr is also called the Sweet Festival for all the yummy sweets (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Alternate side parking regulations are suspended Monday through Wednesday, July 28 to 30 for Eid al-Fitr, and there will be no street cleaning on those days.

All other regulations, including parking meters, remain in effect.

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and is celebrated by Muslims worldwide. After fasting from dawn to sunset the previous month, Muslims are not permitted to fast during Eid al-Fitr and usually attend large celebrations full of food and gifts. It’s one of the most important festivals on the Islamic calendar.

You can download your own 2014 Alternate Side Parking Suspension calendar from the NYC DOT’s website.

Source: NYCIBO

Source: NYCIBO

While the news that New York City will expand speed camera enforcement across the five boroughs was met with conspiratorial sneering from local drivers, revenue data suggests that the overall amount of funds collected for traffic fines has declined every year for the past four years despite the expansion of camera-enforcement programs.

That’s not to say there’s not money being made: the city pulled in more than $55 million in fiscal year 2014 (which ended on June 30), and 75 percent of that was from camera-based enforcement. The city budget for 2015 already presumes a jump to $62 million in revenue, with an even larger percentage coming from camera enforcement.

The New York City Independent Budget Office released a new infographic yesterday that charts the amount of revenue collected from traffic fines from 1999 to the present, and also shows the share of those collections that came via police-issued violations, red-light cameras, bus-lane cameras and the newest enforcement tool: speed cameras.

Some of the takeaways?

  • The proportion of revenue generated by cameras has grown from just 38 percent in 1999 to 75 percent in 2014.
  • The amount of revenue in 2014 is nearly double that collected in 1999. (Adjusted for inflation, the jump is less stark; the increase is just under $13 million.)
  • Since 2004, actual revenue from police-issued traffic violations has been on a steady decline, marginally offsetting some of the increases from camera enforcement.
  • Red-light camera revenues are the lowest they’ve been since 2007, the year before a massive expansion of the program, suggesting that camera enforcement won’t drive revenues forever.

There are two big spikes in the graph, one in 2008 and another in 2011.

The first coincided with an increase in the number of red light cameras installed around the city. After the increase, there’s a drop again. That’s probably because once drivers figure out where the cameras are, they make sure to abide by the law.

The 2011 spike came as a result of a ruling that unpaid red light summonses can count towards the threshold needed for the city to tow your car for unpaid tickets. Delinquent motorists who saw their cars impounded had to pay back those fines that year to reclaim their vehicles.

The two newest forms of camera revenue are also seeing pretty rapid growth as drivers have yet to adjust to them. Bus-lane cameras were introduced in 2011 as part of the Select Bus Service program. As that program has steadily expanded across the five boroughs, so has the number of cameras, and thus the number of violations.

Speed cameras were introduced in early 2014, with just 20 in school zones around the city. That led to $2.1 million in fines collected. But the program has been approved for massive expansion, with 120 new cameras on the way.

The city is projecting it will put $7.6 million in city coffers, but if the historical spikes from the expansion of red light cameras are any indication, it’ll probably rake in more than that before falling off over a few years.

So is it about money? It’s anybody’s guess. There’s definitely a historical increase in revenues collected but it’s not as staggering as one would think, given the massive expansion of these programs. And the data here suggests the gains appear short-lived as drivers learn to follow the rules of the road.

Here’s the above chart in an interactive format. Hover over each of the bars to see how much actual revenue was received for each method:

Screenshot of the interactive Vision Zero map.

Screenshot of the interactive Vision Zero map.

When we told you last month about the interactive Vision Zero map the Department of Transportation launched, there were just a few user-created bubbles identifying local traffic safety issues in our area. There’s a bunch more now, which we’ll take full credit for, but our neighborhood still pales in comparison to the contributions of northern Brooklyn neighborhoods and Bay Ridge.

C’mon, guys. Are we really going to let Bay Ridge and Fort Greene hog all that DOT attention? No way!

Fortunately, there’s still some time to share our complaints. Neighbors have until July 31 to add intersection-specific concerns.

Overall, the map has received more than 7,500 tips from around the five boroughs. The information will be used for traffic planning to ease congestion and make streets safer for everybody – drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, alike. From a DOT statement:

Input is vital, especially from those familiar with local traffic conditions and people’s behavior. The comments will be used to shape robust borough-specific traffic safety plans that will guide future work as part of Mayor de Blasio’s goal to eliminate traffic fatalities.

To add a complaint to the map, click this link, zoom in to the area, and click on an intersection as identified by white bubbles.  The map will then split to a street view, and in the bottom left there’s a button that says “Share an issue.” Click that, and fill out the form that pops up.

That’s it! The tool lets you share concerns about a host of issues, from speeding and red-light running, to bad biker behavior, and intersections where it just takes too darn long to cross the street.

Remember, as in all things city government-related, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And we like grease. So squeak away.

ezpass

The MTA is warning E-ZPass users of a new e-mail phishing scam that has surfaced, in which digital con artists attempt to get at your private data by warning of phony unpaid tolls.

Phishing scams attempt to dupe users to send the scammer sensitive information, including usernames, passwords or banking information by masquerading as a trustworthy entity.

Scam artists are sending out official looking e-mails carrying the E-ZPass logo, often from an e-mail account that appears to be connected to the service. A screenshot of the e-mail is shown above, stating that the user has not paid for driving on a toll road and that previous invoices have not been responded to. It provides a link to download the invoice.

In reality, the E-ZPass Service Center does not send out e-mail invoices for payments. All bills are sent through the United States Postal Service. The e-mails are not authorized by E-ZPass, MTA Bridges and Tunnels or any other toll agency associated with the service.

The agency is advising customers not to open or respond such e-mail, and instead send them straight to the trash bin. If you think you may have a legitimate e-mail from E-ZPass and want confirmation before opening it, you can call the E-ZPass New York Customer Service Center at (800) 333-8655.

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