DOT Pitches Faster Buses, Fewer Traffic Deaths

The 6,300 miles of streets and the transportation infrastructure spread across New York City’s 321 square miles “is coming up against limits,” the commissioner of the New York Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan, said in the agency’s “Sustainable Streets” plan announced today.

Since Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan never got off the ground, the DOT laid out a new blueprint to ease travel within the city by making streets more pedestrian friendly; targeting improvements in bus mobility, safety, and bicycling; and reducing the transportation network’s impact on the environment. It’s ambitious, but since Albany has no say in the matter it might be more likely to become a reality than its predecessor.

In “Sustainable Streets,” the DOT aims to cut traffic fatalities by 50 percent from 2007 levels; establish bus rapid transit lines to improve bus speeds citywide; double bicycle commuting by 2015; install 200 miles of new bike lanes—including 15 miles of which will be protected—by 2009; create new public plazas in every community citywide; increase HOV lanes citywide; increase ferry service; expand the use of technology to fight congestion; increase curbside parking prices to encourage turnover; and implement traffic remedies along congested corridors in all five boroughs.

The agency will use 50 percent more recycled asphalt; minimize the impact of street construction; increase the percentage of streets and bridges rated as “good” by 2030; and reduce the number of over-height trucks that strike overpasses.

These are just a few of the goals in the 68-page document.

After the MTA reneged on promised subway service improvements just three weeks after announcing the plans, we’re a bit skeptical of official pledges to upgrade the city’s transit network (subway ridership is at its highest since 1952).

That being said, the “Sustainable Streets” plan announced today by the DOT, if delivered, offers a faint glimmer of hope for beleaguered commuters hobbled by skyrocketing gas prices and the zoo that is mass transit.

Transportation advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign issued a statement on “Sustainable Streets,” applauding the DOT’s vision: “The Straphangers Campaign looks forward to a day when buses get you places quicker, biking riding is safer, and pedestrians can rest at plazas while taking in the city’s beauty and life.”

Others were less enthusiastic. Streetsblog wrote:

Of course state lawmakers took away the most powerful tool in the box by rejecting congestion pricing, so the agency is out of necessity focusing on measures within the city’s control, like Bus Rapid Transit, bike lanes and installation of public plazas.”

DOT Pitches Faster Buses, Fewer Traffic Deaths