Good morning. My name is Kit Hodge, and I am the campaign coordinator for Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s advocates for walking, bicycling and sensible transportation. I am here today to support Ints. No. 250 and 306.
It is no secret that for years big trucks have regularly transgressed New York City’s designated truck routes. In early 2003, the City Council held a hearing on a bill similar to Int. No. 250 as well as a resolution to support state legislation that fines truck drivers $250-$2,000 and adds points on their licenses for violating truck routing rules. Thanks to the public interest that the bills helped create, the City DOT soon after launched the New York City Truck Route Management and Community Impact Reduction Study with the firm of Edwards and Kelcey as its consultant. The study resurrects an earlier effort which sank under harsh community criticism that it was biased in favor of truckers. The focus of the current study is to keep trucks on truck routes through improved signage, enforcement and street engineering.
Int. No. 250 and Int. No. 306 send the message to the City DOT that it must deliver meaningful improvements through the truck study, the release of which has been pushed back by several months. The City DOT has a tremendous opportunity to finally do something to relieve New Yorkers of the intolerable truck burden on our streets. The City Council should use the truck study to work with the Department of Transportation and the police department to develop new laws and policies that make enforcement easier for the police and truck routes clearer for truckers and the general public. For example, without changing the street truck route markings and/or map and manifest requirements, the police will have a difficult time cracking down on truckers straying off truck routes—even with more officers. The police say that, without clear route markings and/or maps, it is more difficult for them to convict truckers in traffic court. This discourages beat cops from vigorously enforcing truck routes.
T.A. strongly supports Intro. 250 and commends the City Council for bringing these bills forward. However, the legislation could be strengthened by including language that compels New York City's Department of Transportation, Police Department and Department of City Planning to create greater transparency and accountability around the issue of truck routes as part of its truck study recommendations.
First, the DOT should be required by the City Council to improve the design of the New York City truck route map. Additionally, this map needs to be made more prominently and easily available for download from City agency Web sites. The current truck route map is difficult to read, it is not useful as an actual city street map and it is not designed in a way that is easy for a truck driver, police officer or citizen to download and print from the Internet. The DOT and the Department of City Planning have done a phenomenal job with the New York City bicycle route map. The truck route map should be of equal quality. Indeed, the DOT has already expressed interest in producing a high-quality map similar to the bicycle route map.
Second, the NYPD should be required by City Council to make statistics on truck route violations available to the public via police Web sites. TrafficStat should be made available online by each precinct in the same way that CrimeStat is. The NYPD has the data and the processes in place for getting it online.
Third, the DOT should be required by City Council to create a complaint-and-response log and put this information online as well. A big part of the problem with illegal truck routes is that when a citizen makes a complaint, it is extremely difficult and time-consuming to figure out how the complaint is being responded to by the DOT. Requiring the DOT to put a complaint-and-response log on their Web site would create greater accountability and transparency in the agency.
Finally, the City Council should require the DOT to include stronger measures beyond education and enforcement in the truck study; to its credit, the DOT has already expressed interest in embracing these larger measures. Transportation Alternatives, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, NY Environmental Justice Alliance and other groups have all recommended the following to the DOT:
- Traffic calming – Refine traffic calming approaches to keeping trucks on legal and appropriate routes, as the DOT has done in some Bronx and Staten Island neighborhoods.
- Use "No Trucks" signs – The DOT says that "negative" signage does not seem effective at discouraging illegal truck traffic, yet many police officials have told us that the signs encourage police enforcement and make summonses easier to uphold in court.
- Assess automated truck enforcement cameras
- Use smart parking policies to reduce truck double parking – The underpricing
of curbside parking causes widespread double parking, especially by trucks
making deliveries to retailers and by commercial service vehicles.
- Expand the commercial vehicle congestion pricing program beyond midtown.
- Increase on-street parking fees where double-parking trucks are a problem.
- Identify locations where government permit parking forces trucks to double park and seek to reduce or relocate permit parking.
- Expand restrictions on the biggest trucks – Current city rules bar trucks over 55-feet long (unless given a special permit by the DOT) at various times of day from three congested areas in Manhattan.
- Keep trucks on highways where possible and appropriate – As much truck traffic as possible should be re-routed from city avenues and streets to the limited-access highway network.
- Non-stop tolls – Non-stop tolls that use E-ZPass or license plate cameras connected to computers like those in London have eliminated the reason for the destructive one-way toll on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge that funnels trucks into lower Manhattan.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Intros. 250 and 306. We commend the City Council for taking action on this issue.