Grand Army Plaza Traffic Survey
In the summer of 2006, Brooklyn residents living around the Grand Army Plaza (GAP) mobilzed to take a traffic survey of the area.
Tired of waiting for the NYC DOT to improve pedestrian and bike access to GAP & Prospect Park, neighborhood leaders formed the Grand Army Plaza Coalition (GAPCO) which evaluated how traffic patterns could be modified to benefit pedestrians, and in some cases, drivers!
Perhaps the most interesting and inspiring facet is that while members had varied levels of transportation experience, their recommendations and observations show that residents usually know how their own neighborhoods work better than an outside planner. And yet, so often is the case that planners and engineers ignore residents input.
At nine minutes, this StreetFilm comes in a bit long, but we want this to be a historical document - to galvanize people across the city to band together and demand changes neighborhood safer. Hopefully, this model will be replicated.
Aaron Naparstek: [00:06] It’s this beautiful fountain, it’s probably one of the nicest fountains in the city, and you see like five people hanging out there on basically the nicest day of the year. And it would be like one of the best civic spaces in New York City, there’s no question about it.
Speaker: [00:39] What we want to do today is just come together and take a look at what we’ve been talking about for the past month or so. All of us I think have different perspectives on pedestrian/bicycle accessibility and safety [unintelligible 00:54] Grand Army Plaza. Our thought let’s focus on identifying some of the main issues and keep it pretty informally and get down some of our thoughts on paper.
Speaker: [01:05] I don’t know, it’s too dangerous. I don’t think we can do it.
Speaker: [01:16] Just like I’d pictured it.
Speaker: [01:18] Amazing, amazing.
Speaker: [01:21] One thing I’ve in New York before, the Don’t Walk signals stays up for like ever.
Speaker: [01:26] It’s a problem too if you’re trying to cross you have… you have a walk here and a walk from there, but you don’t have this little…
Speaker: [01:32] Right, which I think is a general them there.
Speaker: [01:34] But also look at how traffic is backed up down the street.
Speaker: [01:37] Yeah, the actual walk time there… it’s about enough to get across if you’re walking at pace.
Speaker: [01:44] People live here understand that it’s coming from there, but other people think it’s a long time when it’s still… it’s a No Walk sign but there isn’t actually much traffic coming because it’s only coming from round the circuit.
Aaron Naparstek: [01:58] Every single car on this side of Prospect Park, literally like all the way down to 17th Street, if you want to come and go down Eastern Parkway or on this side of Flatbush, every single car bundled up Union Street, another solution to that is to actually create one way of traffic on Prospect Park West. Like two or three lanes go that way still, but have just one lane going this way. So then all of a sudden like all the… like cars can filter up neighbourhood streets for 20 blocks, not all dumping on one block.
Speaker: [02:32] Yeah I mean you can say we have a bike lane here, we got somebody parked in the bike lane, if you’re coming… this cyclist, you notice has to come into the middle of traffic there because there was no room in the bike lane for him to pass.
Aaron Naparstek: [02:44] You could have another bike lane going the other way.
Speaker: [02:46] It’s just the sidewalks on the inside of the plaza are really only travelled by people who park there. So you could actually move the bike lane physically on the side, like it is on the Eastern Park Lane median.
Speaker: [02:57] But see the intersection behind me, people coming up to cross, they have no crosswalk, they have no crossing light, so they basically have to look over their shoulders for cars who are rounding a curve, not really slowing down because they don’t need to slow down, and then sort of dashing across the intersection to make it… to make it on time. This… see this guy not signalling, okay, so you don’t know that he’s going to make that turn till he actually makes the turn. They’re kind of stuck in the middle, they’re not sure what to do, so they move away from the… away from the curb cut to the middle of the block and then they can sort of, you know, take their chances there.
Speaker: [03:39] It’s dangerous, a car infested… car infested.
Speaker: [03:44] Curb cuts in this intersection, makes it quite difficult for strollers and other…
Speaker: [03:51] All hail intrepid travellers of the plaza. You made it safe and sound.
Speaker: [03:56] How you going? Welcome.
Speaker: [03:58] We are here.
Speaker: [03:59] We are here.
Speaker: [04:00] Can’t get where the crane is at all, without jaywalking.
Speaker: [04:04] There’s no access.
Speaker: [04:06] From here all the way over to that painted line is sort of wasted space and we could probably extend this plaza, you know, 80% of that way and give… and still have these cars turn with no problem, and head north.
Speaker: [04:23] In other words just put in a standard left turn lane right there…
Speaker: [04:26] Yeah, yeah.
Speaker: [04:27] More like a 90 degree turn.
Speaker: [04:34] We might have to move that stuff right back but it doesn’t seem like a huge deal.
Speaker: [04:39] We’re just about to approach the library crossing here. As you can see it’s a very narrow island in the middle there, people are waiting there and the cars are zooming by, and you’ll see the lights change and people have to run literally across before the lights go again and the cars proceed. It’s a terrible situation. Very, very, very dangerous.
Speaker: [05:00] Also the crosswalks are in the wrong place because it forces people into the small part of the bailout zone, but if the crosswalks were a little longer, going to the larger area, it’d be better for people who were there. And you wouldn’t have to change the traffic signalling to do it.
Speaker: [05:16] A couple of issues with this intersection the DOT did promise to move the stop line on this side of the street back 20 feet. They haven’t done that yet. They also said they would study the issue of lining up the curb cuts between where we’re standing and over there, not even close to being in alignment. That’s a danger to handicapped people, especially if they’re visually impaired. Cars come around the corner here and they make a very rounded turn, they follow this white line here. Now what happens is they’re making that turn, they come along and they see that red light right there, they don’t see that light, okay, you see how a car could come right under that green light and not see whether… that there’s even a traffic light there. So what we would like to see is to have this curb extended to force the cars to make a sharp right turn. If they made a sharp right turn they would see that that light is changing red and they would stop where they’re supposed to.
Speaker: [06:17] Being patient. Here we go. There we are sir, safe and sound.
Speaker: [06:24] If you’re here, how do you get over there?
Speaker: [06:25] Yeah.
Speaker: [06:26] And if you’re there, how do you get up here?
Speaker: [06:28] The Eastern Parkway project notwithstanding, bicyclists coming from the park basically coming from the park basically have to navigate on the Eastern Parkway if they want to get up to the garden museum or Prospect Parks Heights at this point because there’s no good way to cross them over to this median strip which is where the bike lane will eventually run. There’s still no good way to get…
Speaker: [06:48] These drivers heading into the plaza have just wide open space in front of them. And because of that they drive by this spot, so it makes it a very nerve-wracking place to stand. We need something, something over here in the plaza itself that narrows… if we could narrow the space here drivers would slow down.
Aaron Naparstek: [07:14] You could run Union Street through here potentially, you know, you could connect the arch to the front of the park.
Speaker: [07:21] The real fun is when you watch people like start loading up here and then they start honking, and it’s only a matter of time before they just really, just start going at it.
Speaker: [07:29] I’ll help you intrepid people cross the road, just follow me.
Speaker: [07:37] If you’re coming from Flatbush north of the circle and you want to… you want to get to the fountain, you have to go in a really roundabout way, all the way over to Vanderbilt in order to cross, quote/unquote, legally.
Speaker: [07:49] This woman here too, there’s no crosswalk, but it’s just so intuitive that you would cross here.
Speaker: [07:56] It seems like a pretty… it would be a fairly easy thing to just put a crosswalk… if you had painted islands in there would just make those… you could put in raised curbs and…
Aaron Naparstek: [08:04] The DOT guys were talking about like trying to keep the capacity going through the circle, but it’s just… it’s just like the more cars you flush through here, where are they going? They’re not going anywhere.
Speaker: [08:15] I mean that is a broken street right there.
Speaker: [08:18] We are encountering serious dangerous situations with just traversing across the various tracks here, or roads. We’re here to plot a new course. We are here to make it safer for all intrepid travellers.
[08:34] No mechanism for this kind of neighbourhood level to detail
to get into the system. I mean that’s… I think it’s one
thing, it’s like okay, they don’t have the resources to walk through
every neighbourhood and do this, but it would be nice if, you know,
if communities were willing like us to do that work. We should
have a way to get this input into the system, right now there isn’t.