– New York moving quickly to improve public transporation


by Rich Kassel

In 2008, the mayor’s proposal to use congestion pricing to fight traffic and help fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority dominated the transportation agenda of the city and state. When the plan hit a roadblock in Albany (after passing the City Council), attention turned to efforts that could improve transportation in the city without requiring the state legislature’s approval.

Today, New Yorkers are resting in pedestrian plazas formerly reserved for honking cars and riding to work on dozens of new bike lanes. Work is progressing on “Select Bus Service,” a new style of bus service that is providing a faster, more convenient bus commute along Fordham Road in the Bronx and that is slated to be expanded throughout the City over the course of the coming decade.

Perhaps most important, the city’s Department of Transportation is being revitalized and reshaped by Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan from its traditional focus on moving cars into an agency of multi-modal mobility advocates.

Here are some highlights:

  • NYC Transit and the city are implementing a plan to convert five bus corridors to Select Bus Service by 2014 (besides the existing Fordham Road line, Nostrand Avenue, First and Second Avenues, Hylan Boulevard and 34th Streetare all slated for Select Bus Service). Select Bus Service is the New York version of the Bus Rapid Transit systems being developed throughout Latin America and Asia. These systems offer many attributes of subways (e.g., paying before you board, longer distances between stops), yet are faster and less expensive to implement because they operate on the roads. The expansion of Select Bus Service is a tribute to the success of the first pilot project on Fordham Road in the Bronx — which reduced travel times by 19 percent while carrying 5,000 more riders per day. The city and NYC Transit are discussing a second phase of projects that will identify another eight to ten corridors for Select Bus Service by 2020.
  • More than 200 miles of bike lanes have been installed in all five boroughs in the last three years. This has almost doubled the number of bike lane miles in the city, and has raised the visibility and safety of bikers. Add in a new bill to allow bike commuters to bring their bikes into their workplaces upon a tenant’s request, another bill to require large parking facilities to offer spaces to bicycles, more than 6,100 bike racks, 20 sheltered bike parking structures, and the result is a city that is becoming more bike-friendly every day. As a result, more and more people are biking to work and school — the Department of Transportation estimates that bike commuting has grown 45 percent since 2006.
  • More on the fun side of transportation: Green Light for Midtown, otherwise known as “closing Broadway to cars” is revising the way New Yorkers look at our streetscapes. In particular, the pedestrian plazas in Herald Square and Times Square have become de rigueur stops for midtown workers, residents and visitors at lunchtime, after work and late into the night. And car-free days on Manhattan’s Park and Fourth Avenues have created new energy and vibrancy along these promenades on many otherwise-sleepy summer weekends.
      After two and a half years, the progress on PlaNYC’s key air pollution, transportation, and climate change initiatives is clear. On other critical environmental issues, the path toward greater sustainability in the coming decade has been laid out: More than 250,000 trees have been planted with a goal of one million new trees, an Office of Environmental Remediation has been created to clean up brownfields that don’t qualify as federal Superfund sites, plans to clean up pollution from dirty home heating oil are being developed, and a package of bills to require that large buildings improve their energy efficiency awaits action by the City Council. While there is still work to be done, the city has embarked on a strong path toward a more sustainable future.


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