Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How To Document Speeding Vehicles: Citizen Enforcement

SeeClickFix gives a few good examples here: http://seeclickfix.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-to-document-speeding-101-citizens.html. Citizen led traffic enforcement can play an increasingly important role in traffic safety, particularly as public and shared vehicles become an increasingly larger proportion of local traffic.

A similar example, reported earlier here, was a city science fair project in New Haven, which found oil trucks speeding by a local elementary school at 52 miles per hour. Individuals witnessing these types of abuses should document plates, times, driver descriptions and other information and call the city's traffic safety hotline of 946 6956, as well as other local authorities.

Also see Design New Haven's collection of SeeClickFix "issues of the month," which give a more detailed explanation of how this kind of citizen reporting of nonemergency issues can work from an advocacy perspective.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another Collision in Route 34 "Death Zone"

Design New Haven reports here on yesterday's pedestrian injury at College and Frontage Road in Downtown, and also covers which parts of New Haven's multiple traffic safety petitions have and have not been implemented.

[UPDATE: The pedestrian has died from his injuries. New Haven Register coverage here.: "He had worked at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals in Pennsylvania for eight years and last November accepted a job at Kolltan Pharmaceuticals in New Haven. His wife remained in Glenside, Pa., and he commuted between the two cities on weekends. On Monday, he was crossing busy South Frontage Road at College Street when he was struck by the bus."]

The Design New Haven article refers to a piece in the New Haven Register, which is excerpted here:

Pedestrian ‘critical’ after being hit by bus crossing S. Frontage (NH Register, Tuesday, May 5, 2009)

By William Kaempffer, Register Staff

NEW HAVEN — A 56-year-old man suffered serious head injuries Monday after being struck by a bus while crossing South Frontage Road, a roadway that pedestrians say is a nightmare to cross.

Speed didn’t appear to be a factor in the latest accident at the intersection of College Street. A CT Transit bus turning left hit Michael Jaye of Glenside, Pa., in the middle of the street at 8:28 a.m., prompting police to close the road for hours as the accident reconstruction team investigated. Sgt. Chris Kenney described the injuries as potentially life threatening.

The scene has repeated itself along the stretch. Two years ago, a Yale public health student was struck and injured in the same area. Two blocks down, Yale medical student Mila Rainoff was fatally struck last year while crossing at York Street, prompting an outcry for safety upgrades and giving birth to a grassroots New Haven Safe Streets Coalition that promotes issues about pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

People who walk and bike across North and South Frontage roads, which parallel the Route 34 Connector with a series of exit and entrance ramps onto the highway, for years have decried it as hazardous.

“All these people are trying to get on the highway. People are getting off the highway. They’re all trying to accelerate to speeds of 65 mph,” said Aaron Cook, a public health student at Yale. Meanwhile, pedestrians are trying to get to and from the Yale medical district and downtown.

“Think about it. If you put two and two together,” he said. “You have people in a hurry. They’re getting off the highway. They’re getting on the highway at very high speeds. You have students who are trying to get to class at all hours of the day, whether it be dark, snow, rainy, whatever. You put those two things together and make it difficult to see when you should and should not be crossing the street.

“This is a death zone.”

Jaye, who was listed in critical condition Monday night, works as a senior scientist for the biotechnology firm Kolltan Pharmaceuticals Inc., which has an office in New Haven. A company official Monday described him as an “excellent colleague and fine scientist,” but declined further comment out of deference to his family.

A Yale-New Haven Hospital spokeswoman said Jaye was in critical condition.

Phil Fry, of CT Transit, said the company is awaiting police reports so it can initiate its own investigation. As it does in all accidents involving pedestrians, the company will conduct a drug and alcohol screening on the driver.

Following the Rainoff fatality, the city painted zebra-style crosswalks across North and South Frontage roads at York Street as an initial step to improving pedestrian safety.

It was unclear Monday whether Jaye was in a crosswalk or crossing with the light; personal items could be seen a few feet from the crosswalk after the accident.

On a larger scale, there are plans afoot to overhaul 12 intersections along North and South Frontage roads, said Michael Piscitelli, director of the Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking. Intersections from Temple to Orchard streets are slated for full upgrades of traffic control equipment before the end of the year, including the one where the accident occurred Monday. College Street and South Frontage Road do have pedestrian signals, he said. The $3 million project to upgrade the 12 intersections, which is funded by the city and Yale-New Haven Hospital, is being reviewed by the state Traffic Commission and was a result of pedestrian-related accidents.

Speed is a factor on both streets, Piscitelli acknowledged. On South Frontage Road, drivers are accelerating to merge onto the highway, and on North Frontage Road, motorists are coming off a “high-speed environment” he said, “and much of the work we’re doing now is de-escalating that speed.”

Some long-term development plans also could hold some solutions to traffic. The city hopes to rip up and reclaim parts of the Route 34 Connector and has a developer lined up to build a 240,000-square-foot building west of College Street and reconnect the medical district with downtown.

In theory, city officials have said, that development would prompt many of the motorists who clog Route 34 and the frontage roads to seek alternate routes into the city, such as the Church Street bridge off Interstate 95.

Until then, Yale Medical School faculty member Mike Nitabach said the psychology of motorists will continue to put pedestrians at risk.

“You’re in a car and you’re on the highway going 70 miles per hour, and then you suddenly are on a surface street and it’s a whole different mind-set in terms of how you perceive your environment as the operator of a vehicle, and I think that’s part of the reason why Frontage Road is so dangerous for pedestrians,” he said.