Crain's Insider: Accident Data Off-Limits to Public
By Jeremy Smerd
August 20, 2010
On Monday, transportation officials said they will make public a list of the city's most dangerous intersections. But advocates say that's not enough.
They want the Bloomberg administration to support a City Council bill introduced this spring requiring CompStat-like reporting of traffic accidents in each precinct.
Intro. 120 would give the public real-time information about traffic dangers in each neighborhood, says a sponsor, Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, D-Manhattan.
The Bloomberg administration opposes the bill. At a Council Public Safety Committee hearing in April, the police said compiling the data would be too labor-intensive and raw data are not useful to the public anyway.
The recent experience of West Side Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal underscores the public's limited use of traffic-accident data. Earlier this month, Rosenthal criticized transportation officials for being slow to respond to complaints of frequent accidents where Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue cross West 71st Street. Out of 2,055 accidents in the 20th Precinct last year, 25 occurred at the corner of 71st and Amsterdam, Rosenthal's office says. There were 21 accidents, one fatal, at 72nd and Broadway.
But her office was unable to put the data in context by comparing these intersections to others. Neither was the city when asked by Insider. The best resource is a Transportation Alternatives website that ranks intersections, but the data are several years old.
Lappin says the accident data are available—they just need to be organized. Presumably, that is what transportation officials will do when they rank the most dangerous intersections next year, but it's unclear if the analysis will be regularly updated. Lappin expects to work out a compromise with police to get the mayor's support for the bill, which the safety committee is expected to take up again this fall.