MTA gets ‘D’ on safety, the DMV an ‘F’ from Transportation Alternatives

An MTA bus stops at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.
An MTA bus stops at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. Photo Credit: iStock

A safe street advocacy group gave the MTA a “D” rating and flunked the DMV in its report card on Vision Zero, the mayor’s plan to end traffic deaths.

Transportation Alternatives started giving the report card in 2015 to rank and evaluate the performance of agencies and officials responsible for eliminating deaths on the road.

The report card came on Wednesday, a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio, granted a B+ by the group, said traffic deaths last year were the lowest in city history. The group estimates that at the current rate traffic deaths will hit zero in 2055, rather than the mayor’s goal of 2024.

Transportation Alternatives rated the MTA a “D” for not being vocal in backing a Vision Zero law that made it a misdemeanor crime if a city driver hits a pedestrian with the right of way, such as in a crosswalk. De Blasio signed it into law in 2014.

The Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents bus drivers, was critical when the NYPD arrested them for not yielding in fatal crashes. The union said that crashes with no intent or obvious recklessness were being criminalized and called for bus drivers to be exempt.

“The MTA was virtually silent when all the controversy and debate was happening around whether or not motorists should face real consequences for not yielding to pedestrians, and killing them in the crosswalk,” said Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

The MTA said in a statement that it has partnered with the city on Vision Zero since it first launched and that its training and safety program for drivers is nationally recognized. The DOT said the MTA began attending the initiative’s task force meetings in 2015, but conversations began in 2014.

“We’re proud of our bus safety efforts, and we measure our progress by our improved safety numbers last year, not by a publicity-stunt laden letter grade,” said spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

He said that bus crashes involving pedestrians have decreased from 133 in 2014 to 108 in 2015. Fatalities decreased from 8 to 7.

“While this advocacy group seems to judge us by our rhetoric, we judge ourselves on the facts — and they show the number of collisions and fatalities fell last year,” added spokesman Adam Lisberg.

The report card also gave the DMV an “F” for not having a permanent commissioner and canceling required safety hearings for drivers involved in fatal crashes.

“It’s been almost a year, and that’s unacceptable,” said White. “The DMV has a very key role to play in Vision Zero. We need more leadership there at the state level.”

A DMV spokesperson said all results of hearings on fatal crashes are released online and they are open to the public. It said the agency works with the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to prevent crashes.

“In 2014 alone, there was a drastic decrease in two dozen major statistical traffic safety categories, along with a drop in total injuries and fatalities,” the agency said in a statement.

The report also gave the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which is in charge of the 27,000 cars owned by the city, a B-. None were involved in fatal crashes last year, following eight fatalities the year before, but the analysis said the agency should move faster with installing side guards to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

About twenty vehicles total between the city’s fleet, taxis and MTA buses, have been testing new technology from a contractor called Mobileye that can detect a crash about to happen and warns the driver.

“Collision avoidance technology has proven to be extremely effective when it comes to preventing crashes, and that’s where today’s focus needs to be,” said Michael Backman, a general manager for the company. “Policies and standards need to be implemented around these new technologies that prevent collisions from even occurring, rather than reacting to a tragic aftermath.”