Good morning Chairman Liu and members of the Transportation Committee. My name is Noah Budnick, and I am Projects Director for Transportation Alternatives, New York City's advocates for biking, walking and safe and livable streets.
Thank you for convening this hearing.
Truck traffic is an all too familiar sight, sound, smell and fear in every neighborhood across New York City. Right now, our city is reliant on trucks to move goods, and every available projection predicts higher truck volumes in the future, as high as 50% more truck traffic over the next fifteen years. The City must develop stronger controls on the movement of trucks within the city.
Three years ago the DOT launched the "Truck Route Management and Community Impact Reduction Study." During the summer of 2003 and winter of 2003 and 2004, the DOT and its consultant, Edwards and Kelcey, visited communities in every borough to solicit input on truck traffic and trucking problems. In 2003, Edwards and Kelcey also surveyed trucking firms and businesses that use trucks to move goods around the city. This is the first time in an year that the City has updated the public on the study.
Over this time, the DOT and the NYPD have taken discrete measures in a handful of neighborhoods around the city to better management truck traffic. The DOT's July 2004 truck route improvements in Hunts Point, the Bronx have improved street safety and neighborhood quality of life.
The DOT's 2003 decision to allow trucks on part of the Grand Central Parkway adjoining the Triborough Bridge is a positive example of the City re-routing truck traffic from city avenues and streets to the limited-access highway network. It should be followed with more ambitious steps to re-route trucks from streets to highways. Of course, allowing trucks on highways from which they are now prohibited should be done along with imposition of greater truck restrictions on parallel avenues and streets.
Despite the worthwhile ideas in these "Preliminary Recommendations" (February 10, 2006), there is no implementation plan included. City Hall needs to show that it is serious about controlling truck traffic by announcing short, medium and long-term plans today to heighten truck enforcement, make engineering changes and free up curb space to reduce double parking.
The NYPD must immediately crackdown on oversized trucks and trucks driving off route. Trucks longer than 55' are dangerous. In these big rigs, drivers have poor sight distance; they often cannot see over the hood of the truck and, thus, cannot see pedestrians nearby. They can easily mount curbs and drive across the sidewalk when turning. And, because drivers have less control over them, oversize trucks are more deadly than permitted trucks.
What's worse: they're becoming more prevalent on New York City streets. This morning, Transportation Alternatives measured truck length on Canal Street for an one hour, and 37% of the trucks we measured were over length.
Cracking down on oversize trucks must be incorporated into truck route and routine traffic enforcement. Precincts in Brooklyn worked with the Brooklyn Borough President's office to make truck route enforcement a priority. In the normal course of daily patrols, if an officer sees a truck off route, he or she stops it, checks its manifest and tickets to driver if he or she is off route. It would be simple to augment this truck route enforcement with oversize truck enforcement. After stopping the truck, officers need only measure it with a measuring wheel and see if the driver has an "Overdimensional" Permit to determine if the truck is legal or not. It's either less than 55 feet long or it's not. It's simple.
Making truck and oversize truck enforcement routine is essential to keeping trucks on designated routes and reduce the number of illegal, oversize trucks on our streets.
The Preliminary Recommendations developed a "Truck Route Placard" for the NYPD. This should be implemented immediately. Each laminated card contains a precinct-level truck route map, truck route regulations and City and State truck regulations. These cards will greatly improve precinct-level truck enforcement by making all precinct commanders and officers aware of where trucks should and should not be driving, as well as other truck safety violations, such as the legal length of trucks, idling regulations and dangerous driving.
Citywide, the NYPD has made double parking a priority of its traffic enforcement efforts. Double parking endangers all road users and aggravates drivers. While double parking enforcement is important to maintaining public safety, enforcement is a band aide to address the problem of chronic double parking in many New York City commercial districts.
The root problem behind double parking is that curbside parking is under-priced, so turnover is low. This exacerbates truck problems and impacts because drivers parked at the curb have little reason to move the vehicle, and, thus, truck drivers must double park to pick up and drop off deliveries.
Double parking and other congestion problems along truck routes encourages diversion to illegal routes. The City needs to expand parking policies to create adequate turn-over of on-street parking to ensure truck access to the curb along legal truck routes. Truckers stand to gain immensely from this. Elements to be examined should include expansion of the commercial vehicle congestion pricing program beyond Midtown, increasing on-street parking fees in high volume areas like Midtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn and identification of areas where city-issued parking permits cause parking scarcity and promote double parking. A more progressively-priced curbside parking program will increase parking turnover at the curb, free up curb space and reduce double parking.
Strong engineering measures are completely missing from the preliminary recommendations released last week. All intersections with heavy truck traffic should be designed to slow turning trucks to a maximum of five miles per hour. This will save lives by allowing drivers to stop faster if needed and giving pedestrians more time to cross their street.
One way to slow trucks is to widen the radius of turns using curb extensions and install "K-rated" bollards along the sidewalk's edge. The widened corner will force drivers to slow down, and the bollards will protect pedestrians by preventing the truck's wheels from mounting the curb and driving down the sidewalk.
New Yorkers need stronger engineering improvements than the study's recommended "Wide Turn Areas," which simply use signs to tell pedestrians to look out for trucks and get out of the way. How about street designs that force truck drivers to slowdown and yield the right of way to pedestrians? We need physical changes to the street that will stop truck drivers from cutting down neighborhood streets and changes that will force them to turn slowly give a wide berth to walkers and bikers.
Last September, the Daily News reported that a truck driver "…told cops his big rig often hops curbs on tight turns so he never thought he hit anyone." He did. He killed eleven year-old Keontry Rosario, who was kneeling on the sidewalk, tying his shoe on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Kings Highway in Brooklyn. This huge intersection is surrounded by two libraries with two public schools and a third library within walking distance. In the last ten years, two other pedestrians have been killed by drivers at this intersection and fifty walkers and bikers have been injured there. Kings Highway is a truck route. This is an intersection where trucks should be. Is it safe?
These "Preliminary Recommendations" leave out many details and raise many questions:
The recommendations make references to truck crash maps, truck enforcement maps, maps of community truck complaints and adjudication rates of truck summonses. Will the City release these maps and this data to the public? Do the DOT and NYPD regularly share this information to heightened enforcement and develop safety improvements? Is the NYPD using TrafficStat to review truck enforcement and is that review part of this study? All the City and State statistics I just mentioned about Ocean Avenue and Kings Highway I found the internet. The City must publicly release the detailed and data and analysis used in this study. This is critical information for the City, the public and elected officials to use to prioritize improvements.
If negative truck route signs are among the most requested measures by communities, and the City wants to reduce the use of negative signage by identifying the contributing factors that lead to local illegal truck traffic, what, exactly is the process for identifying these factors and, once they are identified, what, exactly, does the City propose to do to continuously mitigate illegal truck traffic?
What does tracking truck crashes, enforcement and summonsing to assist in developing "future route designation" mean (page 5)? Does this mean the DOT may add more truck routes to local streets in New York City in the future? If trucks routinely illegally drive on a certain street, will the DOT decide to make it a truck route by default?
When the consultant recommends increased enforcement at problem areas to decrease illegal truck traffic, what is the proposed duration of the enforcement? Is it to be on-going enforcement or need-based enforcement? If the police do not enforce truck routes everyday, will truckers always obey truck routes? Is a precinct capable of enforcing truck routes everyday?
And finally, how will the City measure the success of the "Truck Route Management and Community Impact Reduction Study"? Will success be measured by the number of signs the DOT installs? The number of tickets the NYPD issues? Or, the number of community complaints? And, the number of truck crashes resulting in injuries and deaths?