Volume 22, Number 23 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 16 - 22, 2009
Dear Transit Sam,
I was walking south on Pearl St. to Frankfort St. under the Brooklyn Bridge. This was on the northeast corner, and I had the green to walk. For some reason, the traffic agent started waving the cars on the off ramp waiting at the red light to go through it. The traffic agent made no attempt to warn the pedestrian (me) on this. If I wasn’t paying attention, I would have walked right into traffic when I had the right of way. I’ve also seen this in the Chatham Square area. Are traffic agents to look out for pedestrians as well as motor vehicles? Who can get this fixed?
Johnny, Brooklyn Bridge
When I was N.Y.C. traffic commissioner, the agents worked for me and they were instructed never to “override” the traffic signals unless they were directed to do so by a supervisor. In that infrequent case, they were told to pay special attention to pedestrians. I’ve observed what you’ve described at numerous locations and I’m convinced that it’s the norm and not the exception — as it should be. I am sending a copy of your letter to the N.Y.C. Dept. of Transportation commissioner and the N.Y.P.D. traffic chief in charge of the agents. I am asking for a well-defined strategy in which traffic signals are rarely overridden. If the N.Y.P.D. thinks they need be overridden on a regular basis, then D.O.T. should consider changing the traffic timing. There are mathematical formulas used by D.O.T. and overriding signals in most cases makes the traffic worse, not better. Thanks for writing.
Dear Transit Sam,
As you know, work has been going on for a city park on Fulton and Gold Sts. A friend of mine (one early Sunday morning) was dropping off his elderly father, who lives on Fulton St. The entire street is under construction. In view of a meter maid, he got out of the driver’s seat (with the motor running) to help his father out of the car on the passenger’s side. Within seconds, a ticket was issued to him. The drop off was on Fulton St. between Cliff and Gold Sts. On that side of the street, there is no other place to drop anyone off. Theoretically every taxi should be given a ticket for picking up or dropping off a passenger. Is there no time frame that allows for pick ups and drop offs, even in a “No Standing” zone? He tried to argue the ticket, but the judge said “No” …$115!
Peter, South Street Seaport
It’s legal to pick up and drop off a passenger in a “No Standing” zone. New York City Traffic Law 4-08 (a) (3) states drivers may stop in a “No Standing” zone “temporarily for the purpose of and while actually engaged in expeditiously receiving or discharging passengers.” The keyword here is “expeditious,” which can be interpreted a variety of different ways. But in the general sense, it usually means no more than one signal cycle, which in that area is 90 seconds.
Parking Violations Bureau judges interpret the law to mean the driver stays behind the wheel. That’s why taxis may pick up and discharge even in bus stops (as long as they are not blocking a bus). Your friend got out of the car, which may have been proper to assist his elderly father, but some judges offer no leeway for exceptions. Your friend may appeal, and hope the judge will reconsider.
Sam Schwartz, a former first deputy commissioner of city transportation, is president and C.E.O. of Sam Schwartz Engineering, a traffic engineering consulting firm to private and public entities including the Port Authority at the World Trade Center site. Email your questions to TransitSam@DowntownExpress.com.