|New York State||Assembly|
December 15, 2002
Honorable Sheldon Silver
Dear Mr. Speaker:
I am pleased to submit to you the 2002 Annual Report of the Assembly Standing Committee on Transportation. The 2002 Legislative Session was a banner year for transportation safety issues, and significant strides were made in instituting measures to improve the health and welfare of pedestrians and motorists, both drivers and passengers.
Chief among this year's accomplishments was the passage of a graduated licensing law in New York State. Culminating a multi-year effort to enact legislation aimed at reducing the incidence of highway crashes involving inexperienced, immature drivers, the new statute contains numerous provisions to phase in driving privileges for drivers under the age of eighteen. These provisions include a mandatory permit holding period, passenger restrictions, a minimum number of hours of supervised driving, seat belt requirements, and suspension or revocation action for serious traffic infractions.
The Assembly also passed a package of related legislation to reduce childhood fatalities and serious injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes. The package included bills to require the use of appropriate child safety restraints for passengers aged 4, 5 and 6 years, to allow the use of booster seats for children under age 4 who have outgrown their child safety seats, to ban the transport of passengers under the age of eighteen in pick-up truck cargo areas under most circumstances, and to require children under age seven to ride in the rear seats of vehicles, with limited exceptions.
New York has an exemplary record of reducing tragedies caused by drunk drivers. Nationwide, New York was third only to the states of Utah and Vermont for the lowest alcohol-related fatality rate in 2001. From 1982 to approximately 1998, traffic fatalities caused by alcohol-impaired driving had been on the decline in New York State. However, for the three year period 1999 to 2001, alcohol-related fatalities began to rise. To help stem this troubling trend, the Assembly in February passed two major pieces of anti-DWI legislation. These bills reduce the intoxication level from .10% to .08%, impose greater penalties on repeat offenders and direct courts to require DWI/DWAI offenders to undergo alcohol abuse screening or assessment, as well as treatment if indicated. During a Special Session, the Senate joined the Assembly in enacting these bills, which were signed into law in December.
In 2000, almost 17,000 pedestrian accidents occurred on New York roadways, resulting in 335 fatalities and more than 17,000 injuries to pedestrians. While approximately 70% of all pedestrian accidents occur in New York City, about 46% of fatal pedestrian accidents occur in upstate New York and Long Island. To combat these numbers and reduce the toll that these accidents take on victims and their families, the law governing the right-of-way in crosswalks was changed to require motorists to yield the right-of-way to all pedestrians in non-signalized crosswalks. Previously, the law required motorists to yield only to those pedestrians in the motorists' half of the roadway.
School children are among the most vulnerable pedestrians and motor vehicle occupants, and legislation was enacted this year to address a variety of school bus-related issues. To slow motorists down in areas around schools and school entrances, the Assembly passed a bill to provide greater flexibility in the establishment of 15 mph school speed limits. The Legislature also enacted a bill increasing the maximum fine for motorists who repeatedly pass stopped school buses. Additionally, beginning in 2003, school bus attendants serving pupils with special needs will have to undergo training in school bus safety as well as instruction relating to the special needs of such pupils.
Highway-railroad grade crossings can pose grave risks to motorists. Numerous private grade crossings exist across the State, many of which lack markings or other warning devices. In an effort to decrease the risk of collisions between motor vehicles and trains, the Legislature enacted a bill to establish guidelines for the establishment of private grade crossings, and to authorize greater oversight of such crossings by the Department of Transportation.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the members of the Committee for their contributions to, and support of, this year's legislative efforts. I also wish to thank the staff for their dedication and hard work.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the members of the Committee, I want to thank you for your encouragement and support of our efforts throughout the 2002 Legislative Session. With your continued leadership, we look forward to a productive Session in 2003.
Assembly Committee on Transportation
2002 ANNUAL REPORT
NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
STANDING COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
David F. Gantt, Chairman
Ivan C. Lafayette
Ronald J. Canestrari
N. Nick Perry
Brian M. McLaughlin
Richard A. Smith
Brian M. Higgins
Ranking Minority Member
James D. Conte
Pat M. Casale
James P. Hayes
William E. Sanford
Sabrina M. Ty, Principal Legislative Coordinator
Julie A. Barney, Principal Analyst
Robert Cook, Counsel to the Chairman
William Thornton, Counsel
Guerlyne Gracia, Committee Assistant
Janet Crist, Committee Clerk
Laura Sawyer, Program & Counsel Executive Secretary
|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
New York State's transportation system consists of a number of different modes and systems to move people and goods. It includes a State and local highway and bridge system of almost 19,500 bridges and approximately 113,000 miles of highways, over which 126.5 billion vehicle miles are driven annually. There are 531 public and private aviation facilities, providing service to at least 60 million people annually, 6 major public ports handling more than 130 million tons of freight each year, including the tonnage from all of the Port of New York and New Jersey, and many smaller private ports within the State's boundary handling more than 4 million tons of freight. Also within the State are 3,700 miles of operated railroads, moving 42 million tons of freight annually, 1.5 million riders using Amtrak's Empire and Adirondack services, over 8 million riders passing through Penn Station using Amtrak service with an origin or destination within New York State, and a public transit and commuter rail system carrying at least 2.5 billion passengers annually.
The Assembly Transportation Committee is charged with the responsibility of advancing policies coordinating the management of these systems and ensuring the employment of measures designed to provide and encourage safe travel. The Committee also is responsible for developing and reviewing legislation covering a wide range of topics affecting the movement of people and goods throughout the State.
The Committee's jurisdiction includes the Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Motor Vehicles (DMV), the New York State Thruway Authority, and various regional transportation authorities and commissions. Committee action primarily affects the following consolidated laws: Vehicle and Traffic; Highway; Transportation; Navigation; and Railroad.
Throughout the 2002 Legislative Session, the Assembly Transportation Committee advanced legislation to protect the health and well-being of young drivers and, by extension, of those with whom they share the road. Beginning September 1, 2003, persons under the age of 18 who apply for a driver's license will be subject to stricter requirements, such as holding the learner's permit for a minimum of six months, and being subject to suspension or revocation action for serious traffic violations. As of November first this year, persons under age 18 who are arrested on a driving while ability impaired (DWAI) charge will be subjected to the pretrial suspension of their driver's license or permit.
The Assembly acted upon a package of bills to improve the travelling safety of some of the most vulnerable members of our society. The measures contained in this package would require children aged 4, 5 and 6 years to be restrained by an appropriate child safety restraint, and to be seated in the rear seat of vehicles; would prohibit children under the age of 18 from riding in the cargo area of vehicles, with limited exceptions; and would allow the use of booster seats for children under age four who have outgrown their child safety seat. The last bill in this package, enacted as Chapter 531 of the Laws of 2002, calls for the creation and implementation of a public education campaign to alert the public of child safety seat, seat belt, and airbag issues.
DWI (driving while intoxicated) repeat offenders will be subjected to harsher penalties, including mandatory jail time, under legislation enacted this year. The State's DWI standard will be reduced to 0.08% (from the current 0.10%) under additional legislation enacted during 2002.
Safety at highway-railroad grade crossings will be improved with the enactment of legislation granting the Commissioner of Transportation greater authority over private grade crossings, including the authority to disapprove the creation of new private crossings, and to require the placement of safety devices at such crossings. In addition, the Legislature enacted a bill to clarify that commercial motor vehicles must stop at all railroad grade crossings, and obey the directions of a police officer with respect to such crossings.
A number of other issues were addressed this year, including clarification of the seat belt law with respect to the use of both lap and shoulder restraints; modifying the guidelines for the establishment of 15 mph school speed limit zones; requiring motorists to yield the right of way to pedestrians in non-signalized crosswalks; requiring applicants for non-driver ID cards to submit their Social Security Numbers; and improving the education of motorists on roadway work zone safety matters.
Graduated Drivers' Licensing
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics indicate that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds. The fatality rate for teenage drivers (16 to 19 years old) is about four times as high as that for drivers aged 25 through 69 years. In an effort to reduce the number of persons injured and killed in crashes involving young drivers, various jurisdictions have enacted forms of "graduated" driver licensing. These systems are designed to phase in the driving privileges of young beginning drivers, with additional privileges granted as young drivers develop their skills.
After passage in the Assembly for the past two years, the Legislature this year enacted Chapter 644 (A.3513-B, Glick). The new law has a number of provisions to better prepare all beginning young drivers in New York State for the driving experience. Effective on September 1, 2003, it requires 16 and 17 year old holders of learners' permits to hold such permits for six months before becoming eligible to take the road test and obtaining their "junior" drivers' licenses. The new law also creates a new license category, the "limited class" junior license, for which young drivers will be eligible prior to the completion of the six month permit holding period. Such limited licenses are valid only for travel to and from school, work, medical appointments, day care and, if accompanied by a parent or guardian, to any destination. The limited licenses would not be valid for operation in New York City or Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam or Rockland Counties unless the holder is accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Chapter 644 also requires DMV to suspend or revoke for 60 days the permit or license of any young driver convicted of a serious traffic infraction, including reckless driving, following too closely, failing to yield the right of way, failure to obey traffic signals or stop/yield signs, speeding more than 10 mph over the posted limit, engaging in a speeding contest, improper passing, failing to stay to the right, leaving the scene of a property damage accident or accident involving certain animals, failing to obey railroad crossing signals or train signals, passing a stopped school bus displaying red flashing lights, and failing to obey the seat belt law with respect to passengers under the age of sixteen. A conviction for any of these violations currently would result in the imposition of at least three points on a defendant's driver's license. Prior to the enactment of Chapter 644, none had been subject to a mandatory driver's license suspension or revocation action.
Additionally, the new law raises the required age of supervisory drivers from 18 to 21 years; requires all passengers in a vehicle driven by a holder of a learner's permit, limited license or junior driver's license to wear seat belts; limits the front seat passengers in vehicles driven by learner's permit holders to the supervising driver; and requires the parent or guardian to certify that an applicant for a junior driver's license had operated a motor vehicle under supervision for at least 20 hours.
Seat Belt Clarification
The proper use of seat belts has proven to be a critical component in protecting motor vehicle occupants. Studies have demonstrated that the use of both a lap belt and a shoulder harness belt affords greater protection to motor vehicle occupants and reduces their chances of injuries and fatalities. For example, in his 1990 study, "Motorized Two-Point Safety Belt Effectiveness in Preventing Fatalities," Leonard Evans of the General Motors Research Laboratories found that the use of both lap and shoulder harness belts was 13% more effective in preventing fatalities than using only the shoulder belt, and 24% more effective than using only the lap belt. Ray Shortridges' 1975 study, "A Comparison of Injury Severity Patterns for Unrestrained, Lap, Belted and Torso Restrained Occupants in Automobile Accidents" for the Highway Safety Research Institute at the University of Michigan, found that shoulder belts exercise a greater injury reduction effect than do lap belts. Thus, the use of both lap and shoulder belts affords the greatest possible protection for motor vehicle occupants.
Recent court decisions have raised significant law enforcement and safety concerns, at least one of which could create confusion in the adjudication of seat belt violations. In one of these cases1, the court held that a passenger who was wearing only a lap belt in a seating position equipped with both lap and shoulder belts was not in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) §1229-c. This decision was followed by another2 which held that a person who uses either the "seat safety belt" or "harness safety belt" would be in compliance with VTL §1229-c.
The use of seat belts is subject to primary enforcement; that is, police officers who observe a violation are authorized to stop a motorist for that violation alone, and do not need to observe any other traffic violation. Concerns have been raised that if motorists are permitted to wear only lap belts, police officers will not be able to detect a violation of the seat belt law because he or she would be unable to readily observe it from a patrol car. DMV has stated that this would be a serious impediment to enforcement of the seat belt law, thereby encouraging motorists to stop wearing all safety belts. This, in turn, would compromise their safety as well as the safety of other occupants.
Furthermore, Article 2-A of the VTL establishes Traffic Violation Bureaus (TVBs) in New York City, Rochester, Buffalo, and part of Suffolk County. The Cucinello decision only has applicability in Kings, Queens and Richmond Counties, but not Bronx and New York Counties. Therefore, TVB judges in New York City cannot apply a uniform interpretation of the seat belt law. There should be a uniform interpretation of this law in order to assist in the equitable and efficient administration of justice. In addition, varying interpretations of the law would lead to confusion for police officers who testify at TVB hearings as to which "seat belt law" is applicable in any given jurisdiction.
Chapter 546 of the Laws of 2002 (A.8853-A, Sweeney) clarifies the seat belt statute, by explicitly stating that whenever a seating position is equipped with both lap and shoulder belts, any occupant thereof to whom the law applies must wear both belts.
1 People v. Cucinello, 183 Misc2d 50 (App. Term, 2d Dept. 1999)
2 People v. Widrick, 185 Misc.2d 765, 713 NYS2d 847 (September 25, 2000).
Pedestrian fatalities are the second-leading cause of motor vehicle-related deaths, following occupant fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Furthermore, the CDC states that pedestrians who are children or older adults are at the greatest risk of suffering death or serious physical injury from an accident involving a motor vehicle. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics indicate that 40% of the population do not have a driver's license, and that this translates to the fact that millions of Americans rely on non-motorized transportation options, which includes walking and bicycling.
In New York State, 335 pedestrians died in accidents involving motor vehicles in the year 2000, while more than 17,000 were injured. This is not a problem in New York City alone; almost half of all fatal accidents involving pedestrians occur in the upstate and Long Island regions. In addition to the terrible personal toll that these accidents take on victims, DOT estimates that pedestrian accidents cost the State more than $2 billion annually.
Under current law, the driver of a motor vehicle is required to yield the right of way to a pedestrian only when traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation and when such pedestrian is in the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is travelling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
For six years, the Assembly passed legislation (A.4300, Glick) to provide pedestrians with greater protection by requiring motor vehicles to yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian who has entered any portion of a marked crosswalk, as well as authorizing the creation of pedestrian "safe zones", and the implementation of a public education campaign. Because DOT objected to the provisions relating to the creation of "safe zones," this year compromise legislation was passed.
Chapter 159 of the Laws of 2002 (A.11500, Glick) requires motorists to yield the right of way to pedestrians in marked or unmarked crosswalks, provided that there are no traffic control signals in place, or such signals are not in operation.
Highway Construction and Maintenance Work Zones
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) statistics on motor vehicle crashes in highway work zones indicate that the number of persons killed in motor vehicle crashes in work zones has increased over the past five years, going from 717 in 1996 to 1,093 in 2000. Of these fatalities, 16% involved pedestrians and bicyclists. Annually, over 40,000 people are injured as a result of motor vehicle crashes in work zones. Data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) shows that in New York State in 2001, 41 people died in work zone motor vehicle crashes; this is a 230% increase from a low of 10 fatalities in 1997.
In an attempt to reduce these deaths and injuries, the Assembly passed two pieces of legislation. First, Chapter 585 of the Laws of 2002 (A.10667, Cymbrowitz) requires DMV to provide a component on work zone safety awareness in the mandatory five-hour pre-licensing course, as well as in the point/insurance reduction courses. The law requires that the curriculum include instruction on the potential hazards of driving through a work zone, and information on the law relating to work zones, including sanctions for violations such as speeding.
The new law also requires DMV to include at least one question regarding driving in highway work zones on the driver's license written test, and to include information on work zone safety in the driver's manual.
Second, Assembly bill 68-C (Gantt) would require DMV to establish, in consultation with DOT, a "Highway Construction and Maintenance Safety Education Program," for the purpose of providing education, advocacy and increased awareness of the laws pertaining to the safety of highway construction workers. The Program would include components such as public service announcements, literature, and public education and awareness campaigns. The Program would be financed through the imposition of a mandatory $30 surcharge on convictions for speeding through highway construction or maintenance work areas.
Bicycle Helmet Accident Data
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute estimates that there are 85 million bicycle riders in the United States, of which 800 die and 550,000 are injured annually in crashes. Two-thirds of the deaths involve traumatic brain injury, and one in eight of those hurt suffer from brain injury. In New York State, in the period between 1997 and 2000, an average of 46 bicyclists were killed and more than 8,000 were injured, and 54% were over the age of 20.
Prior to 1993, State law prohibited anyone under the age of five to operate or ride a bicycle without wearing a bicycle helmet. Chapter 266 of the Laws of 1993 changed the law to prohibit operating or riding a bicycle without a helmet by anyone under the age of 14 years. Common sense would indicate that such safety equipment is helpful in reducing injury occurrence and severity, and that riders of all ages would benefit from the protection afforded by helmets. However, current accident statistics do not include information on whether bicyclists involved in crashes were wearing helmets.
Assembly bill 2162 (E.C. Sullivan) would require DMV, beginning with the report to be made in 2003, to include in its annual summary of motor vehicle accidents information regarding the incidence of bicycle helmet usage by bicyclists involved in bicycle-motor vehicle accidents.
Appropriate Child Restraint Systems
Children outgrow most child safety seats when they weigh about 40 pounds, generally by the age of four or five. Among the parents who continue to use restraints, many do so by buckling their children into adult lap/shoulder belts. However, this type of restraint has been shown to cause serious abdominal and/or spinal injuries to children in a crash, since children under 80 pounds and less than 58 inches tall are too small for them. The lap belt tends to ride up onto the abdomen, allowing the pelvis to slide under the belt, leading to direct pressure on the abdominal organs. The shoulder belt can ride across the neck, rather than the shoulder, of small children, leading to neck and spinal injuries.
Groups ranging from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics, NHTSA, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) recommend the use of belt-positioning booster seats for all children who have outgrown their child safety seats but who are too small for adult lap/shoulder belts.
Accordingly, the Assembly passed A.1262-A (McEneny), which would prohibit the operation of motor vehicles unless all children age four or older but under age seven are restrained in an appropriate child restraint system. The bill would define "child restraint system" as any device used in a motor vehicle in conjunction with safety belts to restrain, seat or position a child, and which meets applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and also define "appropriate child restraint system" to mean any such system for which the occupant meets the manufacturer's size and weight recommendations.
A.1262-A also would provide an affirmative defense that the passenger subject to the requirements weighs more than eighty pounds, measures more than four feet nine inches in height, and was restrained by a safety belt.
Children Under Age Four
Since 1975, child restraint systems have saved more than 4,000 children, according to NHTSA statistics. NHTSA contends that the single most effective way to protect children in the event of a crash is to ensure that all children are buckled up in age-appropriate restraint systems on every trip.
While the VTL requires that all children under the age of four be restrained in a "specially designed seat" that meets federal safety standards and which is affixed to the vehicle, the manufacturers of many of these seats have crash-tested them only for occupants weighing up to forty pounds. Therefore, any child who is under the age of four years, but who weighs more than forty pounds, should ride only in seats rated for passengers over forty pounds.
Very few child safety seats are actually rated for over forty pounds. Fortunately, booster seats fill that void, allowing for the safe transportation of such children. Unfortunately, the law, as currently drafted, does not allow for the use of booster seats for children under age four, and a parent or caregiver attempting to provide safer transportation by buckling a young child into a booster seat could technically be given a ticket for failure to comply with the current law.
Clearly, the law should not encourage the use of child vehicle safety systems which endanger the lives of the children riding in them. Therefore, A.3511-A would allow people transporting children who are not yet four years old but who weigh over forty pounds to use booster seats instead of child safety seats.
Pick-Up Truck Cargo Areas
Increasingly, people have been purchasing trucks for personal use rather than for business or commercial use. Given the limited seating capacity of these vehicles, children sometimes ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks. NHTSA has found that more than 200 people die annually as a result of riding in the cargo area, and more than half of these deaths are of children and teenagers.
Riding in the cargo area of a truck, whether it is covered or not, is very dangerous. Passengers riding there are exposed not only to the possibility of being ejected due to collisions, swerving, braking or rough roads, but also to carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes. No child should be exposed to the dangers of riding unrestrained, compounded by the additional dangers unique to riding in the cargo area of a truck.
Assembly bill A.3512-B (Gantt) is intended to prevent deaths and serious physical injuries to children, by prohibiting the operation of any truck on a public highway, private road open to public motor vehicle traffic, or parking lot while any person under the age of eighteen is in the body or cargo area of the truck. The bill would exempt farm-type tractors used exclusively for agricultural purposes, other farm equipment, and trucks while engaged in use for agricultural purposes, provided that no passengers are under the age of 12 and such vehicles are making only incidental use of a highway. The bill also would exempt trucks participating in a parade pursuant to a municipal permit, provided that at least one person over age eighteen also rides in the body of such truck.
Children Under Twelve to Ride in Rear Seats
The Air Bag Safety Campaign indicates that, in the United States, an average of 8 children are killed and 932 injured every day in motor vehicle-related crashes. Experts ranging from NHTSA to the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that children are safest when buckled up and in the back seat. NHTSA estimates that children are up to 29 percent safer when riding in the rear seat regardless of whether the vehicle is equipped with a front passenger side air bag. Placing children in the back seat provides greater protection from head-on collisions, the most serious type of crash, by getting children farther away from the point of impact.
The VTL requires all front seat passengers to be restrained, regardless of age, and all rear seat passengers up to the age of 16 to be restrained. To build on these safety standards, the Assembly passed A.4106 (Grannis). The bill would prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle with any passengers under the age of seven seated in the front seat of such vehicle. However, such prohibition would not apply under the following circumstances: the motor vehicle is not equipped with rear seats; the rear seat cannot accommodate the proper installation of the child safety or booster seat in which such passenger is being transported; all other seat positions contain other occupants; or the passenger has a medical exemption.
Public Outreach Program
When child safety seats and safety belts are correctly installed and used, injuries can be prevented and lives saved. Unfortunately, approximately 85% of child passengers are placed in child safety seats which are incorrectly installed or improperly used.
Chapter 531 (A.4202, Towns) requires the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) to develop and implement a public outreach campaign to inform the general public of the need to correctly install and properly use child safety seats, of the need to use seat belts, of the potential dangers of air bags, and how to properly protect children and adults from risks associated with airbags. The new law requires that the components of the campaign include, but not be limited to, radio and television public service announcements; the development of printed informational materials; and the distribution of information at State and local DMV offices with driver's license and vehicle registration applications and renewals, at State and local DMV offices, at Department of Health offices, and at auto dealerships and other appropriate locations.
The law also requires that the campaign coordinate the educational efforts with State and local agencies and not-for-profit groups, and to encourage existing traffic safety and driver education programs to include occupant protection information in their curricula.
Transportation of Children in For-Hire Vehicles
Seventy-five percent of all taxi and livery crashes (in New York City) that are reported to DMV involve personal injury to vehicle occupants, pedestrians or bicyclists, as noted in a 2001 report on such crashes. In addition, taxi passengers are far more likely than other vehicle occupants to sustain relatively serious injuries when involved in a crash, because they are unlikely to be wearing seat belts, and possibly because of the presence of partitions.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for American children. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety contend that if all the remaining "gaps" in child occupant protection laws were closed and all children newborn to age 15 were properly restrained 100% of the time, as many as 630 additional children's lives would be saved and 182,000 serious injuries would be prevented every year.
In an effort to close one of these statutory gaps in child occupant protection, the Assembly passed A.6073-A (Weisenberg), which would prohibit the operation of a taxicab or livery vehicle unless all passengers aged 4 to 16 are restrained by seat belts. The bill also would prohibit the operation of such vehicles unless all passengers under the age of 4 are restrained in child safety seats; however, this requirement would not apply unless the transportation is provided on a prearranged basis.
Prompt Suspension -- DWAI and Young Drivers ("Sean's Law")
Prior to this Session, provisions of the Vehicle and Traffic Law required courts to suspend drivers' licenses pending the prosecution of individuals on DWI charges, provided they were a repeat offender or had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10% or higher. In order to prevent alcohol-related crashes by young drivers, the Legislature enacted Chapter 571 of the Laws of 2002 (A.9712-A, Tokasz). This new law requires courts to suspend the driver's license of any person aged 16 or 17 pending their prosecution on charges of driving while ability impaired (DWAI). The law also changes the timing of mandatory court notification to the parents of minors charged with a Vehicle and Traffic Law violation, to require that a notification with respect to DWAI charges occur at the first appearance (or failure to appear) of such minor.
.08% Blood Alcohol Concentration
A federal law enacted on October 23, 2000 requires every state to enact and enforce a law establishing the per se level for driving while intoxicated at .08% BAC. Failure to do so will result in the withholding of federal highway aid which, for New York State, would amount to approximately $12 million in 2004, and could grow to over $49 million by 2007 and after.
Numerous traffic safety and law enforcement professionals have stated that lowering the per se level for intoxication from .10% BAC to .08% BAC will not only save lives and reduce injuries, but also save society the substantial costs in associated health care costs from motor vehicle crashes. Research has shown that the critical driving skills of drivers, even experienced drinkers, is impaired at .08% BAC. These skills include performance in braking, steering, lane changing judgment, and divided attention. Furthermore, some studies have indicated that the risk of being involved in a crash gradually increases at each BAC level, but rises very rapidly after a driver reaches or exceeds .08% BAC compared with drivers who have no alcohol in their systems.
Chapter 3 will help to bring New York State into compliance with the federal requirement, by lowering the BAC level at which a driver is deemed by law to have been intoxicated from the current .10% to .08%.
The federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) Restoration Act requires states to enact certain provisions with respect to repeat drunk driving offenders. Specifically, states at a minimum must enact and enforce laws with provisions applicable to persons convicted of drunk driving more than once in a five year period as follows: a minimum one year suspension of drivers' licenses; an assessment of the individual's degree of alcohol abuse and treatment, as appropriate; for a second offense, ether 30 days community service or 5 days imprisonment; and, for a third or subsequent offense, either 60 days community service or 10 days imprisonment.
States also must enact and enforce at least one of the following three provisions: impoundment of the offenders' vehicles, immobilization of the offenders' vehicles, or installation of an ignition interlock system on each of such motor vehicles.
In order to build upon New York's solid DWI laws, and to help the State avoid the transfer of 1.5% - 3% of a portion of federal aid from highway projects to highway safety programs, the Assembly passed A.8775 (Gantt), which was signed as Chapter 691 of the Laws of 2002. The new law requires that any person convicted of DWI, after having been convicted of DWI within the previous five years, be sentenced to either a minimum five day term of imprisonment or 30 days of community service. The law also requires that any person convicted of DWI, after having been convicted of such offense on two or more occasions within the previous five years, be sentenced to either a minimum ten day term of imprisonment or 60 days of community service.
Additionally, the law requires courts sentencing such persons to require the installation of approved ignition interlock devices on each motor vehicle owned by such persons, to remain installed during any period of license revocation and, upon termination of such revocation period, for an additional period as determined by the court. Finally, the law requires courts to order such persons to receive an assessment of the degree of their alcohol abuse and, where treatment is indicated, authorizes courts to impose treatment as a condition of a sentence.
Boating While Intoxicated / Driving While Intoxicated
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) reports that there were 288 reported boating accidents in New York State during 2001, with 25 deaths (up from 17 in 2000) and 140 injuries. OPRHP's statistics indicate that alcohol involvement as a factor in boating accidents in New York State appears to be low. However, these statistics may be incomplete (for example, there may be under-reporting of accidents), and there are a number of accidents in which alcohol involvement is unknown.
While State and local enforcement efforts have helped to deter boaters from illegally mixing alcohol with the operation of a boat, more remains to be done. Current law does not prohibit an individual whose driver's license is suspended or revoked for a DWI/DWAI conviction from operating a boat, nor a person whose boating privileges are suspended due to BWI/BWAI (boating while intoxicated/boating while ability impaired) from operating a motor vehicle.
Assembly bill 2637 (Schimminger) would require courts to suspend a person's privilege to operate a vessel following a conviction for DWI or DWAI by alcohol or drugs, and give courts the option to suspend a person's driver's license following a conviction for BWI or BWAI.
Distribution of Mandatory Surcharge
In the FY 2000-2001 budget, the Governor proposed and the Legislature enacted a 34% increase in the mandatory surcharge imposed on traffic violations ($40 for a traffic infraction; $120 for a misdemeanor; and $210 for a felony). This could have the unintended consequence of reducing the collection of fines under the STOP-DWI law. Accordingly, the Assembly passed A.3003 (Tokasz), which proposes that the surcharges imposed for all alcohol-related convictions under the VTL and vehicular assault and manslaughter under the Penal Law be returned to the county of conviction, to the credit of the STOP-DWI Program.
The STOP-DWI Program has always had a commitment to maintain fines at a collectible amount. Earmarking the surcharges on alcohol-related convictions for the STOP-DWI Program would be consistent with the underlying intent of the STOP-DWI statute and will have the effect of insulating the local programs from the effects of any reduced fine collection, thereby helping to restore the revenues that are critical to the success of the Program.
DWI Assessment and Treatment
A 1998 report published by the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) shows that alcohol, tobacco and other drug addictions cost the nation an estimated 520,000 lives and $238 billion annually. The cost of untreated addictions amounts to $1,000 for every person in the nation. In contrast, treatment generally pays for itself in two to three years in reduced health care expenses alone. It has been shown that for every $1 spent on treatment, $7 is saved in other costs, such as health care, social services, criminal justice, and lost productivity.
Other recent studies have indicated that a combination of alcohol or drug treatment and probation is more effective at reducing subsequent arrests among repeat DWI offenders than probation alone, and that treatment reduces the rate of recidivism for DWI and DWAI by drugs. For example, the principal finding of the "Services Research Outcomes Study," conducted by the Office of Applied Studies at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, indicated that both drug use and criminal behavior are reduced following inpatient, outpatient and residential treatment for drug abuse.
Another example is the "National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study" (NTIES), the key findings of which indicate that treatment has lasting benefits. Significant reductions in drug and alcohol use were still reported a full year after treatment, and reductions were noted regardless of the amount of time spent in treatment or the amount of treatment received.
Assembly bill 8430 (Rules/Gantt) would require, at the arraignment of a person charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, one of the following:
A.8430 also would require a court, when imposing a sentence of probation or conditional discharge upon a person whose alcohol or substance abuse or dependency assessment indicates the need for treatment, to require such person to participate in and successfully complete treatment as a condition of the sentence. The bill would provide for the confidentiality of the screenings, assessments and treatment.
Vehicles Passing Stopped School Buses
School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation available. In the last 4 years, 35 students were hit in New York State by motorists passing stopped school buses. One student was killed. However, every time a motor vehicle illegally passes a stopped school bus, it creates a situation that could end in tragedy. Operation Safe Stop, a statewide program to educate motorists about the dangers of passing a stopped school bus and to enforce the law prohibiting such passing, estimates that more than 50,000 vehicles pass stopped school buses every day.
To send a strong message to the motoring public that passing stopped school buses will not be tolerated, the Legislature enacted Chapter 254 of the Laws of 2002 (A.614-A, Gromack), which increases the maximum penalty for repeat offenders from the current $850, to $1,000.
School Bus Attendant Training
Currently, school bus attendants receive no training to handle disabled students despite the fact that one of the responsibilities of an attendant is to render assistance in the transportation of these students. To ensure that school bus attendants learn appropriate techniques in handling medical emergencies that might arise, the Legislature enacted Chapter 472 of the Laws of 2002 (A.2786-A, Weisenberg). Chapter 472 requires the Commissioner of Education to promulgate rules and regulations requiring every school bus attendant serving disabled pupils to receive school bus safety training and instruction relating to the special needs of such pupils. The new law also requires that the training include guidance on the proper techniques for assisting such pupils in boarding and exiting school buses, and instruction on CPR and other first aid techniques. Attendants also must demonstrate an ability to perform procedures necessary in emergency situations as deemed appropriate by the Commissioner.
Chapter 472 gives persons employed as school bus attendants on the effective date of the bill a deadline of July 1, 2004 to undergo the necessary training. Persons hired after the effective date would be required to complete training prior to assuming their duties.
Load Securement -- License Endorsements
In response to a number of incidents involving the improper securement of steel coils, which pose a grave risk to the traveling public, the Legislature enacted Chapter 604 of the Laws of 2000. This law, among other provisions, increased fines for failing to properly secure steel coils, and created a new endorsement, "S," for the driver's license of operators of vehicles hauling steel coils. The endorsement requires DMV to test applicants on their knowledge and ability to properly secure loads. Because DMV had, through regulation, already assigned "S" as an endorsement for a different type of license, the Legislature in 2001 changed the endorsement from "S" to "steel coil" (Chapter 260).
Federal regulations establishing general rules of equipment requirements for protection against shifting or falling cargo refer to "metal" articles. In order to avoid confusion for carriers and drivers attempting to comply with the federal equipment requirements and the State licensing requirements with respect to the transport of metal coils, the Legislature enacted Chapter 63 of the Laws of 2002. This new law changes the steel coil endorsement to metal coil endorsement, and modifies the effective date of the law to clarify that the endorsement applies only to applications for new licenses, or for renewals of existing licenses, made on or after June 1, 2002. All licensees are required to be in compliance by June 1, 2006.
Social Security Numbers and Non-Driver ID Cards
Since October 1, 1995, the law has required applicants for drivers' licenses to provide their Social Security numbers (SSNs) to DMV. This requirement has enabled the State to suspend the drivers' licenses of individuals in arrears for child support payments, and it also provides an additional element of verification in the identification process. It assists DMV in verifying that an applicant is, in fact, who he or she purports to be.
This requirement was not extended to non-driver identification (ID) cards, since such cards were not invalidated in child support cases. Much has changed since 1995, and the current demand for more secure documents has created the need to ensure that non-driver ID cards are issued in a proper fashion.
Chapter 235 of the Laws of 2002 requires applicants for non-driver ID cards to provide their SSNs to DMV.
Credit Cards for Payments to DMV
The Vehicle and Traffic Law authorizes DMV to establish a system to allow for the payment of motor vehicle-related fees and fines by credit card. The system has been in effect for thirteen years, and DMV indicates that it has been an important tool for the enhancement of DMV's efficiency and effectiveness. It also has been critical in improving customer service and convenience.
Chapter 108 of the Laws of 2002 extends for four years (until July 7, 2006) the provision of law authorizing DMV to accept credit cards for payment.
Minimum Liability Insurance Clarification
A June 14, 2001 Court of Appeals decision determined that §370 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, which governs the minimum liability insurance coverage required to be maintained on for-hire vehicles, did not specify a minimum coverage for property damage liability. This was contrary to the Legislature's intent, and this decision could have been interpreted to mean that for-hire vehicles could operate without any insurance coverage at all for property damage.
Therefore, to prevent this outcome, Chapter 20 clarifies that for-hire vehicles are required to have a minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability insurance coverage.
Extension of Motor Vehicle Insurance Requirements
The Vehicle and Traffic Law as amended by Chapters 569 of 1981 and 781 of 1983 contains a number of provisions relating to motor vehicle financial security requirements. These provisions impose a number of requirements upon insurers, including the production of proof of insurance upon policy issuance, and notification both to policy holders and to DMV of policy terminations. Also included in these Chapters are the following provisions: directing DMV to suspend a registrant's vehicle registration and driver's license upon receipt of evidence that a vehicle lacks financial security; authorizing DMV to terminate suspension actions upon the imposition of an $8 civil penalty for each day, up to 90 days, that a vehicle lacked financial security; imposing penalties for knowingly buying or selling a stolen license, registration certificate or license plate; and, including the violation of driving with a license suspended for failure to maintain financial security within the offenses constituting aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
The provisions of these Chapters were to expire on June 30, 2002, unless the Legislature acted to extend them. Chapter 6 extends until June 30, 2007 the provisions of Chapters 569 of 1981 and 781 of 1983.
For-Hire Vehicle Insurance Cancellation
Section 370 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law requires vehicles engaged in the transportation of passengers for compensation to file evidence of a corporate surety bond or insurance policy with DMV. Additionally, the law requires insurers and issuers of sureties to file termination notices with DMV upon the expiration of 45 days from the date of such filing.
The 45 day time period was imposed because DMV needed sufficient time to notify registrants, particularly fleets, of the termination notice and the need to either maintain continuing coverage or to turn in the license plates. With the implementation of the Insurance Identification Enforcement System (IIES), insurers send electronic notification to DMV of cancellations which significantly cuts down on the time periods previously necessary for notice. Thus, insurers requested a reduction from 45 to 20 the number of days in which an insurer remains liable for claims on a cancelled policy.
Chapter 613 of the Laws of 2002 reduces such liability period from 45 to 20 days. However, in the event that an insured obtains replacement coverage, the termination of the liability period takes effect as of the date the new coverage commences. Additionally, if a vehicle is a total loss, then such termination would take effect as of the earlier of 20 days or the date the license plates are turned in to DMV.
Parking Space Access Aisle Width
Access aisles that lie adjacent to parking spaces accessible to the disabled are there for the purpose of allowing disabled persons, many times wheelchair users, to get into and out of their vehicles. Since wheelchair-accessible vehicles generally are equipped with ramps or lifts which extend for a distance out the side door of these vehicles, access aisles must be wide enough to accommodate this equipment. Some access aisles, however, are too narrow to accomplish this purpose.
Assembly bill 4625-A (Cahill) would require that both disabled parking spaces and access aisles each be a minimum of eight feet in width. This provision would be required only if a person or entity creates a new off- street parking lot, or repaves or repaints more than fifty percent of the total number of parking spaces within an off-street lot, or repaves or repaints more than fifty percent of the total number of disabled parking spaces within an off-street lot.
Parking Space Access Aisle Signs
Access aisles adjacent to disabled parking spaces are sometimes blocked by the vehicles of drivers parking in such access aisles. Thus, disabled drivers and/or occupants often are prevented from accessing their vehicles. Assembly bill 4626-A (Cahill) would require that each such access aisle be posted with a "NO PARKING ANYTIME" sign, as well as be marked with four-inch wide diagonal stripes at a forty-five degree angle, spaced two feet on the center.
This provision would be required only if a person or entity creates a new off-street parking lot, or repaves or repaints more than fifty percent of the total number of parking spaces within an off-street lot, or repaves or repaints more than fifty percent of the total number of disabled parking spaces within an off-street lot.
Current law requires persons, firms or corporations owning a shopping center or facility with at least five separate retail stores and at least 20 off-street parking spaces for use by the shopping public to designate, for exclusive use by the disabled, a minimum of 5% or ten spaces, whichever is less.
In an effort to further improve access by the disabled, the Assembly passed legislation to increase the number of facilities required to designate parking spaces for disabled use (A.5249-A, Cahill). Under the legislation, facilities with at least three separate retail stores and at least 20 off-street parking spaces for use by the shopping public would have to designate disabled parking spaces by July 1, 2003. This proposal would require facilities with one retail store with at least 20 off-street parking spaces to designate such spaces by July 1, 2005.
Wheelchair Accident Statistics
Certain federal laws require transportation providers to transport disabled students and adults in their own wheelchairs. In the United States, an estimated 4,000 wheelchair occupants were injured in motor vehicle-related accidents while being transported. In New York State, however, there is no way to easily determine the number of wheelchair-bound individuals injured in motor vehicle-related accidents. Since this information is not required to be included on motor vehicle accident report forms, it is not included in DMV's annual summary of motor vehicle accidents.
Assembly bill 5250-A (Cahill) would require DMV to include in its annual summary of motor vehicle accidents, beginning in 2003, information relating to whether a passenger was being transported in a wheelchair, whether such passenger sustained injuries, the position the wheelchair was facing, and whether any components of the wheelchair contributed to the injuries of any person.
Rental Vehicle Access
While several large vehicle rental agencies offer the option of portable, temporarily installed hand controls or other mechanical devices to allow a vehicle's use by the disabled, this option generally is available only on medium and/or high price category vehicles. Assembly bill 5568 (DiNapoli) would require car rental companies with fleets of 100 or more vehicles to offer, at no additional charge, portable hand controls or other mechanical devices for use by disabled persons on all price and size categories of vehicles. If a class of vehicle is requested which cannot accommodate the controls or devices, the rental company would be required to provide a vehicle that could accommodate such controls or devices, at a price equal to that of the vehicle requested. The bill would allow companies to require 48 hours prior notice.
Railroad Crossing and Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety
On September 2, 1999, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) promulgated two new regulations to reduce crashes at railroad crossings. These regulations require states to impose strict sanctions on drivers of certain commercial motor vehicles who fail to stop, exercise due caution, or invoke safety measures when approaching a railroad crossing as required by federal regulation.
In order to comply with federal requirements, and avoid the potential loss of federal highway assistance, the Legislature enacted Chapter 422 of the Laws of 2001. However, further review indicated that Chapter 422 needed clarification to be deemed in full compliance. Chapter 569 of the Laws of 2002 provides this clarification, by ensuring that the applicable sanctions apply to violations whether they occur within or outside of New York State. The new law also requires DMV to suspend licenses for obstructing highway-railroad grade crossings with commercial vehicles. Finally, the new law requires every commercial vehicle operator to obey traffic control devices or police officer directions at such grade crossings.
Private Railroad Grade Crossings (A.11612, Rules/Towns; Chapter 230, Laws of 2002)
DOT has indicated that there are nearly 3,000 private railroad grade crossings in New York State and that, from 1991-2000, approximately 20% of all grade crossing accidents in the State occurred at private grade crossings. During the same period, While the accident trend at public crossings decreased overall, the rate of accidents at private crossings remained relatively steady with the second highest annual total of ten accidents occurring in 2000.
Each year, at least one accident is reported to the Public Transportation Safety Board involving a private crossing on the Long Island Rail Road or Metro North Commuter Railroad. While most private crossings involve very low highway traffic volumes, some have evolved over time to where they serve small residential or other developments, and highway volumes at many private crossings have increased beyond occasional use. These crossings appear to be public thoroughfares in all respects, except DOT notes that there is an inappropriate level of warning to motorists of the hazard at the crossings. In addition, railroad efforts to enhance commuter services in the metropolitan area are resulting in higher speeds and increased train volumes, thus increasing the potential for accidents at these private locations.
Current law did not grant DOT any authority to assure that appropriate safety warnings are placed at these private highway/rail grade crossings. Chapter 230 prohibits the establishment of new private rail crossings in a commuter rail corridor until application is made to DOT and approved. The new law requires DOT to hold hearings on each application submitted, to determine if a new crossing is justified or if an existing crossing could be used as an alternative. Whenever a crossing is approved, DOT also is required to determine the manner of the crossing, whether at-grade or grade-separated, its location, the manner of protection, and the apportionment of responsibilities and costs for construction, inspection and maintenance of such crossing, including warning devices.
Chapter 230 also authorizes DOT to review existing private rail crossings located in a commuter rail corridor and, if deemed appropriate, require alterations. Whenever agreements cannot be reached between the railroad, property owners and DOT, then DOT must conduct a hearing on the need for alterations, whether alternatives to alterations are available, and the apportionment of responsibilities and costs for the alteration, construction, inspection and maintenance of such crossing, including warning devices.
DOT is required to seek public comment on any proposed alteration impacting public access to lands open to the public for recreational use. The closing of any private crossing that provides direct access to public State recreational lands is prohibited unless DOT, in consultation with the applicable State agency, finds that there is a reasonable alternative route to maintain such public access and the public recreational value of such lands.
Finally, the new law creates a new definition of "farm crossing" to limit such crossings to lands used for agricultural purposes.
Recovery Efforts in Lower Manhattan One Year After September 11, 2001
In October, the Assembly began a series of public hearings regarding issues affecting the recovery of Lower Manhattan one year after the events of September 11, 2001. The initial hearing, held October 8, 2002, focused on an examination of the progress on the design of a suitable memorial; the building or restoration of offices, retail outlets, residences, hotels, restaurants and other facilities; and the effectiveness of current economic development efforts. Witnesses commented on transportation-related issues as well.
Witnesses offering testimony included the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), the Goldman Sachs Group, the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce (the "Partnership"), New York Community Board #1, the Chinese-American Planning Council, the Alliance for Downtown New York (the "Alliance"), and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANY/NJ). Following is a brief summary of the transportation-related aspects of the testimony of the aforementioned witnesses.
The LMDC indicated that it worked to help secure $4.5 billion in federal funds towards transportation rebuilding efforts. The list of projects was in progress, and included the creation of a point of grand arrival in Lower Manhattan. LMDC has been and continues to work with the PANY/NJ to finalize more flexible program alternatives. It was anticipated that three new plans will be released to the public by the end of calendar year 2002, followed by extensive public comment and a final plan by spring, 2003.
The Goldman Sachs Group testified that transportation remains a critically important topic in connection with its downtown location. As an employer of over 10,000 people in Lower Manhattan, getting people to and from home and work and being able to get to meetings with clients and customers is very important. Fast, reliable and convenient transit, which is comfortable, manageable and affordable is needed. In particular, Goldman Sachs set forth the following as necessary components of a regional transportation agenda: inter-connectivity between PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) trains, subways and the LIRR (Long Island Railroad); frequent ferry service into and around Manhattan; and easy access to Kennedy and Newark Airports. Additionally, there needs to be substantial investment in eliminating street congestion and providing adequate space for pedestrians.
The Partnership indicated that employers are looking for signals that their key priorities for downtown improvements will be addressed. Decisions about the redesign of traffic patterns, and upgrading the surface transportation and rapid transit infrastructures, must be made as quickly as possible in order to give employers confidence in downtown's viability.
Community Board #1 stated that prompt redevelopment and improvement of the transportation and communications infrastructures are crucial to the survival and future growth of Lower Manhattan. Specifically, the transportation infrastructure should include an intermodal transportation hub; access to New York City and Newark airports via public transit; and a managed street plan to integrate Lower Manhattan neighborhoods.
The Chinese-American Planning Council pointed out that customers and visitors coming to Chinatown need access as well as parking, and recommended the relocation of all special permit parking for police, court officers and other city workers into municipal parking at 1 Police Plaza. The Council also recommended opening Park Row to vehicular traffic.
The Alliance discussed investing in long-term infrastructure improvements in order to attract and retain the world-class headquarters and large firms that supply a much-needed customer base essential for the stabilization of thousands of small businesses. An Alliance survey indicated that transportation is one of the key priorities of businesses deciding whether to remain in, or relocate from, Lower Manhattan. The Alliance's highest priority is the integration of downtown subway and PATH connections into the region's broader transportation network, with direct commuter rail links to the suburbs and airports. The Alliance also supports a major transportation hub, a commuter and tourist bus facility, and the suppression of West Street.
The PANY/NJ reported that construction is well under way on the temporary PATH station, with station completion and service restoration slated for December 2003. The PANY/NJ has been working with the federal government, the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority), and NYCTA (New York City Transit Authority) to develop plans for the integration of the temporary PATH station with subway, ferry and bus service across Lower Manhattan. With respect to a permanent PATH station, its exact dimensions will not be known until decisions have been made regarding a land use and disposition plan for the World Trade Center site. Finally, the PANY/NJ facilitated new ferry services for nearly 70,000 daily passengers, and additionally plans to focus on a transportation hub linking Lower Manhattan with the rest of the region.
The Transportation, Telecommunications and Utilities Infrastructures
in Lower Manhattan One Year After September 11, 2001
The vitality, liveability, viability and future growth of Lower Manhattan depend in large part on the condition of the transportation, telecommunications, and utilities infrastructure. Transportation and telecommunications have a huge impact on the quality of life for residents, and are the lifelines through which businesses both large and small conduct commerce and provide services. The time and cost of traveling from home to work and back again largely affect the decisions of individuals to work in Lower Manhattan, as well as the ability of Lower Manhattan businesses to attract and retain employees. Affordable and reliable utility service also is a critical need of the business and residential communities.
On October 31, 2002, the Assembly Speaker and the Standing Committees on Transportation, on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, and on Energy conducted a joint public hearing to obtain the most current information available on the progress made to date on the rebuilding of transportation, telecommunications and utility facilities in lower Manhattan, as well as the plans and timetable for both the immediate and long-term future needs of these facilities.
Witnesses offering testimony on transportation matters included the LMDC, the PANY/NJ, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), the Chinatown Coalition of Business/Property Owners and Residents, the Alliance for Downtown New York (the "Alliance"), the Regional Plan Association (RPA), and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC). A brief summary of the transportation-related aspects of the testimony presented at the joint hearing follows.
The LMDC, PANY/NJ and the MTA presented testimony as a panel. The LMDC stated that the future of lower Manhattan depends upon transportation, and cited examples of the progress that had been made in restoring critical transportation components including the construction of a temporary roadway on West Street, the restoration of service on the 1/9 subway, the expansion of ferry service, and the start of construction of a temporary PATH terminal. The LMDC also advised the Assembly of the particular projects that will be funded from the $4.55 billion in federal assistance. These projects include the construction of a Fulton Street transit center, a new PATH terminal under the World Trade Center site, the reconfiguration of Route 9A, a bus facility, the renovation of the South Ferry Station, and a study for creating access to regional airports as well as rail access to lower Manhattan.
The PANY/NJ said that the economic future of lower Manhattan depends upon transportation, and that public investment in transportation means economic development and jobs. It is working closely with the MTA on planning initiatives that include a downtown "grand terminal." It anticipates that the temporary PATH station will be open by December 2003, and that work will continue toward a permanent PATH station which will represent an investment of up to $2 billion. This will be the anchor for the new transit hub, which will include underground concourses for transportation connections, and perpendicular concourses to improve pedestrian access to the financial district and north to City Hall and TriBeCa. Other projects include a study of the feasibility of extending PATH service to create a one-seat ride from lower Manhattan to Newark airport, and the construction of a new ferry terminal near Vesey Street.
The MTA updated the Committees on the status of transportation facilities under its jurisdiction. Service was resumed in September 2002 on the 1 & 9 subway lines, enabling approximately 70,000 customers to resume riding. The MTA also set forth the three projects it had proposed for consideration in the rebuilding of the downtown transportation system. These were the construction of a transit center on the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street, at an estimated cost of $750 million; the construction of a three-track terminal at the South Ferry 1 & 9 station to accommodate full-length trains and improve frequency, speed and reliability for the entire line, at an estimated cost of $400 million; and the construction of an underground passageway between the 1 & 9 and N & R Rector Street stations (the "Rector Connector") to provide free transfers, thus granting customers more options, increasing the MTA's service flexibility downtown, and making the stations accessible to the disabled.
The NYCDOT testimony highlighted some of the damage wrought by September 11th, such as the destruction of Con Edison facilities, damage to a critical Verizon building, the loss of the water and sewer system along the perimeter of the World Trade Center on Church Street, debilitating damage to critical transit infrastructure, and the damage or destruction of nearly 100 city blocks closing key arterials. While some of the damage has been repaired, much of the remaining damage will take years to restore. NYCDOT took a number of steps to accommodate the movement of people in and out of the area, including establishing a single occupancy vehicle (SOV) ban on bridges and tunnels to Midtown and Lower Manhattan; creation of new ferry service from Brooklyn and extensive site work to allow for new private services; and rerouting of buses. Many of these steps have been modified, such as restricting the SOV ban to all crossings below 14th Street from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays.
In addition to facilitating mobility, NYCDOT has worked to rebuild the infrastructure of the damaged street network. It has also examined ways to redesign the transportation infrastructure of Lower Manhattan, with possibilities to include the restoration of the street grid; the creation of a downtown transit hub; the increased utilization of the waterways for commuters; and safety and aesthetic improvements to the downtown streetscape.
The Chinatown Coalition of Business/Property Owners and Residents testified about the impact of September 11th on Chinatown, which has led to congested streets, reduction of tourist traffic, difficulty in parking, problems with the ability of businesses to receive necessary goods, and safety concerns regarding the reduced ability of emergency vehicles to travel. The Coalition called for the opening of the Second Avenue Subway, the opening of Park Row, the placement of municipal vehicles in the former municipal parking garage under police headquarters, the implementation of muni-meters, and completion of construction on Canal Street.
The Alliance testified that the key to a strong economic future for Lower Manhattan is improving the transportation infrastructure. The Alliance called for the following: integration of the downtown subway and PATH connections to the region's broader transportation network; development of a direct, one-seat ride from downtown to JFK and Newark airports; construction of a transportation hub in Lower Manhattan; construction of a bus facility under the World Trade Center site to accommodate tourists and commuter buses; suppression of West Street; provision of direct and convenient access and egress from the FDR on the East Side; and improvement of trans-Hudson ferry service.
The RTA testified that there are many important aspects of the transportation program for Lower Manhattan, such as ferry improvements, a transit center complex, the South Ferry station reconstruction, West Street, a permanent PATH station, Lower Manhattan street management, and planning for tourist buses. The RTA also testified on regional transportation issues, putting forward its MetroLink proposal which is a four-borough system based on a full-length Second Avenue Subway to attain the objective of attracting new businesses downtown by making the district more accessible to potential employees.
PCAC praised the MTA and NYC Transit Authority for rebuilding the 1/9 and N/R lines and reopening Rector Street and South Ferry stations in record time. PCAC indicated that two of the MTA's major expansion projects (East Side Access and Second Avenue Subway) should take precedence over any other proposed system expansion projects. It also recommended an in-depth origin/destination study to examine the viability of a one-seat ride for LIRR riders to Lower Manhattan and JFK. Regarding West Street, the PCAC testified that it would not like to see the "battle" over suppressing West Street revisited, because Battery Park City residents have expressed concern that it would cut off their access to local streets, and such a project could take the lion's share of federal funds earmarked for rebuilding downtown. Finally, PCAC urged that those projects that will benefit the largest number of riders move forward expeditiously.
Planning and Design Issues Relating to the Rebuilding of Lower
Manhattan One Year After September 11, 2001
New York's vision for the World Trade Center site, and for an appropriate memorial, will emerge from the planning and design decisions now being made. Because of the critical importance of a full public discussion of, and input into, this process, the Assembly Speaker and Committees on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Transportation, Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry, and Tourism, Arts and Sports Development held a joint public hearing on planning and design issues relating to the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. The purpose of this hearing was to receive comments from the community, planning and design professionals and government officials and to discuss planning and design concepts and principles relating to the rebuilding of Ground Zero and the surrounding area.
A number of witnesses offered testimony on transportation issues, including the LMDC, New York New Visions, the Municipal Art Society, the Architectural League of New York, and Community Board #1. A brief summary of the transportation related aspects of their testimony follows.
LMDC's testimony discussed the process it has established for planning and public input into the planning for the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. Among the guidelines given to six architectural teams selected in response to an LMDC request for qualifications for a design concept study for the World Trade Center site were criteria relating to improving Lower Manhattan's connectivity with the rest of the world, to creating a grand promenade to connect the World Trade Center site with Battery Park City, and to restoring the street grid.
LMDC anticipates that the new concept designs will be available for public review by the end of 2002, at which time LMDC will work with the State Department of Transportation (DOT) to determine whether the designs are compatible with DOT requirements for West Street.
New York New Visions stated that decisions regarding land use have an impact on the locations of transportation links, and that decisions regarding improvements and transit have clear implications on above ground uses. For example, decisions regarding interim transit locations such as the PATH station have profound implications for long range transportation plans.
New York New Visions called for the PANY/NJ and LMDC to relay planning information to the public in a format that is more understandable to the lay person. It also called attention to the need to issue, without delay, the transportation plan for the World Trade Center neighborhood for public scrutiny and debate.
The Municipal Art Society (MAS) created the "Imagine New York Project" to collect ideas from the broadest possible segment of the public about the future of the World Trade Center site. With respect to transportation, the MAS called for improved connections to enhance Lower Manhattan's desirability as a place for business, institutions, residents and visitors as well as to facilitate growth in other centers of the City and region.
Regarding the memorial, the MAS has been in contact with family groups, and testified that the families have some creative ideas about how to integrate transportation with a memorial. As an example, the families had looked at models of Athens and Mexico City, where catacombs underground are somehow integrated with the subway system. Suggestions included a series of plaques in the subway system to show where people were found.
Finally, the MAS called for the creation of a transportation advisory board consisting of the appropriate State and local agencies as well as government officials, citizens, and technical groups.
The Architectural League stated that, if the use of public transportation is critical to economic and environmental well being, then the City needs stations for transit riders worthy of the contribution that they are making to civic life by choosing this way to travel. It also said that the streets and open public spaces should be beautiful and appealing as well as safe.
Community Board #1 said that it has been advocating to get commuter buses off the street, but that residents now have to cope with more tourist buses on the street. To obtain a more livable, pedestrian friendly, public transportation model, Community Board #1 suggested that some of the area under the site should be used for the bus terminal. It also expressed a concern about the effect that moving some development off the site would have on the neighborhoods.
The Committee will continue to focus on driver performance issues such as distraction, drowsiness, DWI/DWAI, fatigue, aggressiveness, medical impairment, and basic driving ability. The Committee also will work on addressing safety and mobility issues for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, transit riders, and others. Additionally, the Committee will track on-going federal issues which affect the State, such as the renewal of the federal transportation multi-year budget, and recent changes to federal mandates with regard to operators of commercial motor vehicles.
As always, the Committee will examine additional issues brought to its attention by legislators, staff, and, most importantly, the people of the State of New York.
|APPENDIX A: 2002 SUMMARY SHEET|
|Bills Reported With or Without Amendment|
|Bills having Committee Reference Changed|
|Senate Bills Substituted or Recalled|
|Bills Defeated in Committee|
|Bills Never Reported, Held in Committee|
|Bills Never Reported, Died in Committee||543||57||600|
|Bills Having Enacting Clauses Stricken||4||0||4|
|Motion to Discharge Lost|
|TOTAL BILLS IN COMMITTEE||682||81||763|
|Total Number of Committee Meetings Held||13|
|APPENDIX B: BILLS WHICH PASSED BOTH HOUSES|
|Authorizes localities to regulate traffic on roadways and driveways within condominium and cooperative complexes.||Chapter 177|
|Increases the penalties for overtaking and passing a stopped school bus.||Chapter 254|
|Prohibits localities from restricting motorcycle access to highways, with exceptions.||Chapter 653|
|Requires school bus attendants serving pupils with special needs to undergo training.||Chapter 472|
|Restricts the use of blue lights only to vehicles operated by volunteer firefighters.||Chapter 12|
|Establishes standards for graduated drivers' licensing.||Chapter 644|
|Requires the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) to implement a public outreach campaign on child safety seats, seat belts and airbags.||Chapter 531|
|Requires DMV to register applicants for drivers' licenses and non-driver ID cards with the Selective Service.||Chapter 533|
|Allows vehicles with farm plates to operate on roadways for the purpose of transport to a repair shop.||Chapter 203|
|Authorizes DOT to increase the maximum speed limit on a portion of Route 531 to 65 mph.||Chapter 44|
|Provides that insurance or financial security on for-hire vehicles shall expire 20 days after notice of cancellation is given to DMV.||Chapter 613|
|Allows motions to dismiss parking violations for illegibility, inaccuracy or other flaws to be made up to one year after entering a default judgment.||Vetoed, Memo 18|
|Increases the wholesale value of a junk vehicle to $1,250, for purposes of vesting ownership in the local authority.||Chapter 540|
A.8429 Rules (Gantt)
|Reduces the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level used to deem a motor vehicle operator to be intoxicated as a matter of law, from .10% to .08%.||Chapter 3|
A.8746-A Rules (Dinowitz)
|Allows DMV to consider accepting veterans' identification cards issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.||Chapter 544|
A.8775 Rules (Gantt)
|Imposes higher penalties on persons convicted of repeat driving while intoxicated offenses.||Chapter 691|
A.8843 Rules (Gantt)
|Provides greater flexibility in establishing 15 mph school speed zones.||Chapter 563|
A.8846 Rules (Robach)
|Replaces the "Combat Auto Theft" program with the federally-funded "Watch Your Car" theft prevention program.||Chapter 545|
A.8849 Rules (Gantt)
|Authorizes DMV to establish the expiration dates for driving school licenses and driving instructor certificates.||Chapter 645|
A.8850 Rules (Smith)
|Provides definitions of boat transporter and stinger-steered boat transporter, in conformance with federal requirements.||Chapter 26|
A.8853-A Rules (Sweeney)
|Clarifies that both lap and shoulder restraints must be worn to comply with the seat belt law.||Chapter 546|
A.9130-A Rules (Young)
|Renames a portion of Interstate Route 86 in Cattaraugus County as the "Cattaraugus County Veterans Memorial Highway."||Chapter 638|
A.9181 Rules (Grannis)
|Clarifies the law with respect to minimum liability insurance requirements.||Chapter 20|
A.9422-A Rules (Eve)
|Renames a portion of Goodell Street in the City of Buffalo as the "Reverend Dr. Bennett W. Smith, Sr. Way."||Chapter 263|
A.9444-B Rules (Sweeney)
|Creates the "Marine and Coastal District of New York Conservation, Education and Research Grants Program," and a distinctive license plate to assist in funding such program.||Chapter 360|
A.9445-A Rules (Sweeney)
|Authorizes DOT to waive certain fees, fares, and tolls at Republic Airport.||Chapter 578|
A.9490 Rules (Tokasz)
|Clarifies the driver's license endorsement requirements to operate a commercial vehicle hauling steel coils.||Chapter 63|
|Extends provisions of law relating to vehicle insurance requirements.||Chapter 6|
|Provides for the suspension of junior licenses and permits for driving while ability impaired.||Chapter 571|
|Excludes incidental drivers of utility vehicles from regulations limiting the number of on-duty hours, during emergencies.||Chapter 150|
|Renames the Kensington Expressway in Erie County as the "Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Expressway."||Chapter 636|
|Renames the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway in Nassau County as the "Ralph J. Marino Expressway."||Chapter 10|
|Renames a portion of State Route 301 in the Village of Cold Spring, Putnam County, as the "Sgt. Albert Ireland Memorial Highway."||Chapter 436|
|Establishes a pilot program allowing the operation of trucks transporting household or office goods with a Class D driver's license (currently used for the operation of passenger vehicles.)||Chapter 329|
|Clarifies provisions of the motor vehicle dealer franchise law with respect to house coach manufacturers and dealers.||Chapter 649|
|Authorizes DOT to raise the maximum speed limit to 65 mph on a portion of U.S. Route 219 in Erie County.||Chapter 193|
|Allows for the transfer and closure of certain roadways in the Jordan-Elbridge area of Onondaga County.||Chapter 306|
|Requires pre-licensing and defensive driving courses to contain components on work zone safety awareness.||Chapter 585|
A.11129-A Rules (Magee)
|Renames certain portions of Routes 104 and 11 in Oswego and Jefferson Counties as the "Lake Ontario Wine Trail."||Chapter 460|
A.11151-A Rules (Magnarelli)
|Authorizes the City of Syracuse to establish a parking violations bureau.||Chapter 628|
A.11318 Rules (Smith)
|Provides for the creation of distinctive "Conserve Habitat" license plates.||Chapter 376|
A.11333 Rules (Lafayette)
|Requires applicants for non-driver identification cards to provide their social security numbers.||Chapter 235|
A.11373 Rules (Gantt)
|Extends DMV's authority to accept credit cards as payment to July 7, 2006.||Chapter 108|
A.11376 Rules (Lafayette)
|Clarifies the law with respect to the suspension of commercial drivers' licenses for violations involving railroad crossings.||Chapter 569|
A.11381-A Rules (Young)
|Renames a bridge in the City of Salamanca as the "Seneca Nation of Indians, City of Salamanca Veterans Memorial Bridge."||Chapter 664|
A.11500 Rules (Glick)
|Requires motorists to yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks without traffic signals.||Chapter 159|
A.11612 Rules (Towns)
|Establishes guidelines for the establishment of private rail crossings in commuter rail service corridors.||Chapter 230|
A.11614 Rules (Gantt)
|Extends the provisions of the prompt suspension law until October 1, 2003.||Chapter 416|
A.11633-A Rules (Weisenberg)
|Converts the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency into a Department of the Nassau County government under the jurisdiction of the Nassau County Executive.||Chapter 527|
A.11670 Rules (Gantt)
|Makes State requirements consistent with federal requirements for sound signaling devices and visual distress signals carried on vessels.||Chapter 208|
A.11714 Rules (Koon)
|Renames that portion of Route 104 within Monroe County as the "Monroe County American Legion Memorial Highway."||Chapter 466|
A.11870 Rules (Paulin)
|Creates distinctive "Peace at Home" license plates, with proceeds to cover costs for domestic violence prevention.||Chapter 634|
|APPENDIX C: BILLS THAT PASSED THE ASSEMBLY|
|A.41 Cahill||Would prohibit DMV from providing registration lists and title information without the registrant's consent.|
|A.90 Gantt||Would limit DMV's authorization to suspend licenses and registrations for submission of a bad check to the particular license or registration for which such check was submitted.|
|A.91-D Gantt||Would define "electric assisted bicycle" and establish requirements for the operation of such bicycles.|
|A.525-A McLaughlin||Would require that certain information on disabled children be maintained on school buses transporting such children.|
|Would shift the cost of traffic control devices located at entrances to schools from localities to the State.|
|Would reestablish the Westchester Parkway Commission, to monitor the operation and maintenance of such Parkway.|
|Would require DMV to implement a highway user assistance plan.|
|A.907 Cahill||Would require DMV to imprint "ORGAN DONOR" on the front of driver's licenses issued to persons opting to make anatomical gifts.|
|Would direct the Thruway Authority and DOT to provide signage for truck parking.|
|Would require parking violations bureaus (PVBs) to return the amount of any fines paid for a parking violation within 30 days of entry of a judgment overturning the charge. Also would require a PVB to pay a penalty for failure to make timely payment.|
|Would require motor vehicle repair shops to notify every customer of their right to inspect repairs performed on their motor vehicle.|
|Would require motor vehicle passengers between the ages of four and seven to be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system.|
|A.1606-A Lafayette||Would require DMV to issue distinctive license plates for members of the Eighth Air Force Historical Society.|
|A.1622-A Tocci||Would require DMV to issue distinctive license plates for recipients of the Conspicuous Service Star.|
|Would authorize DMV to provide a uniform method for identifying vehicles participating in a funeral procession.|
E. C. Sullivan
|Would require DMV to include in its annual report on accident statistics information on bicycle safety helmet usage.|
|Would increase fines for obstructing access to a fire hydrant during an emergency operation.|
|Would require the suspension of boating privileges for certain DWI violations, and allow suspension of driving privileges for certain BWI violations.|
|Would require the payment of mandatory DWI surcharges to the STOP-DWI program in the county wherein the offense occurred.|
|Would require DMV to notify the insurers of recovered stolen vehicles when the owner cannot be found.|
|Would require the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to charge fees to out-of-state entities that are the same as the fees charged by other states to New York State entities for providing information.|
|A.3300 Brennan||Would require DMV to credit the unused portion of a vehicle registration fee applicable to a stolen vehicle to another vehicle owned by the registrant and registered at a subsequent time.|
|A.3511-A Gantt||Would authorize the use of booster seats for children who are under age four but exceed the size requirements for child safety seats.|
|A.3512-B Gantt||Would prohibit the operation of a pick-up truck with passengers under age 18 in the cargo area, with limited exceptions.|
|Would establish administrative remedies for persons whose vehicles are wrongfully towed.|
S.5487-A M. Smith
|Would direct DMV to issue distinctive license plates for the New York City auxiliary police.|
|Would require the Thruway Authority to implement a tourism information demonstration program.|
|Would prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle with children under age seven seated in the front seat, with limited exceptions.|
|Would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish an engineering and technician career development, recruitment and retention program.|
|Would require motorists to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians under certain conditions.|
|A.4340-A Weisenberg||Would require those vessels which are exempt from displaying NYS vessel registration numbers to display the appropriate number prescribed by federal regulation.|
|A.4501 Norman||Would direct DMV to establish rules and regulations for postponement of traffic hearings pursuant to statutory standards.|
|A.4625-A Cahill||Would codify the requirement that access aisles of disabled parking spaces measure at least eight feet in width.|
|A.4626-A Cahill||Would require that access aisles of disabled parking spaces be marked with "NO PARKING ANYTIME" signs and diagonal stripes.|
|Would require DMV to issue distinctive license plates for veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War.|
|A.5249-A Cahill||Would require retail stores having off street parking to provide parking spaces for disabled access.|
|A.5250-A Cahill||Would require DMV to include information regarding wheelchairs in the annual summary of motor vehicle statistics.|
|A.5568 DiNapoli||Would require provision of portable mechanical devices for disabled persons on rental vehicles.|
|A.5703-B Englebright||Would require the removal or covering of inapplicable highway work zone traffic control signs.|
|A.5705-A Englebright||Would authorize DOT and the Division of State Police to conduct a study of traffic light synchronization on Long Island.|
|A.5941 Pretlow||Would authorize nurse practitioners to perform the biennial medical examination on drivers of commercial vehicles.|
|A.6073-A Weisenberg||Would prohibit the operation of taxicabs unless passengers aged 4 to 16 are restrained by seat belts and all passengers under age 4 are restrained in a child safety seat. The child safety seat requirement would not apply to taxis hailed on the street.|
|Would require DMV to provide space on driver's licenses and non-driver ID cards for information on persons to contact in the event of an emergency.|
|A.6907-A Tocci||Would designate a bridge in the hamlet of Apalachin as the "Delmar D. Sibley, S 1/c USN Memorial Bridge."|
A.7196-D M. Cohen
|Would permit pleas of guilty to traffic infractions, including jaywalking, within the City of New York.|
|Would prohibit the construction of towers on Westchester Parkway lands without the consent of the local government.|
|A.7558 Herbst||Would require DOT to conduct a cost and feasibility study regarding noise abatement along a portion of State Route 135.|
|A.8424 Rules (Gantt)||Would modify the ranges of blood alcohol concentration levels for determining the levels of impairment of commercial vehicle drivers.|
|A.8430 Rules (Gantt)||Would require certain DWI offenders to submit to alcohol/drug abuse screening, assessment, and treatment if deemed necessary.|
|A.9614-A Levy||Would require DMV to issue distinctive "Proud to be an American" license plates.|
|A.9790 Gantt||Would require DMV to issue combination distinctive and disabled license plates.|
|A.9871 Eddington||Would authorize Suffolk County to establish a demonstration program for installing red light cameras.|
|A.9919-A Galef||Would rename the Croton Reservoir Bridge as the "AMVETS Memorial Bridge."|
|A.10053 Parment||Would clarify rules with respect to entering not-guilty pleas on traffic infractions.|
New York State Assembly
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