Bloomberg on His Transpo Commissioner: “Keep Coming Up With New Ideas”

In his weekly radio appearance with John Gambling, Mayor Bloomberg touched on the demise of the 34th Street pedestrian plaza and gave some revealing answers about his trust in Janette Sadik-Khan and her record as transportation commissioner. In short, it seems like the mayor thinks his DOT commish gets a bum rap in the press, and he still wants her to innovate.

While the mayor didn’t make a rousing defense of the 34th Street plan, he did mention the success of rapid bus improvements on First and Second Avenue. Overall, I think it’s pretty good news if you want to see improvements for transit, biking, and walking move forward in New York City.

You can listen to the show here. Here’s a partial transcript:

Gambling: And we actually have a whole bunch of Tweets which we’ll see if we can get to as many as possible in just a little bit here. Oh, 34th Street. You and your Transportation Commish decided no more pedestrian –

Mayor: You know she can’t catch a break.

Gambling: I’m surprised she doesn’t get run over at this point.

Mayor: This woman has made some real innovations here in this city that will last and will be a very big deal.

Gambling: But this one’s not going to happen.

Mayor: Well everybody said, “You should talk to the community.” She came up with a plan, she spent a few years talking to the communities. They didn’t like it.

Gambling: From Herald Square to Fifth was going to be pedestrian, correct?

Mayor: Whatever. And so she’s changing it. Says, “I’ll come up with another plan.” That’s what she’s supposed to do. And one editorial vilified her today, the other one gave her a lot of credit for listening and trying something. More modest bus lanes, they work someplace. You know, my charge to her is don’t let anybody beat you down. Do the right thing, listen to people, try to explain, try to get buy-ins and that sort of thing, but keep coming up with new ideas even if your ideas — if you can’t implement them, if the people don’t want them or whatever, don’t go back into a car or a bicycle or whatever and be afraid of trying new things.

Gambling: Iris Weinshall, they laughed at her with the cross-town through streets, and those worked out pretty well.

Mayor: Yeah absolutely. I mean, you know, and Iris was very innovative and did a lot of good things, and Janette is doing it, and I hope whoever is the Transportation Secretary in my successor’s administration also does new things. You can’t sit there and do what you’ve been doing forever. It just — I know everybody says, ‘Oh no if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ You have to lead, you have to anticipate, and some of the things that Janette has done have worked out phenomenally well.

We have to address the fact that the buses are so slow, that they are not a good alternative to cars, because then you’re in this ever declining cycle of what’s it — non-virtuous cycle I think is what they would call it. And First Avenue, Second Avenue bus lanes I’m told are working out. These buses where you get on and off and it’s the honor system and you buy a ticket in the middle of the block, speed things up. Cameras on the buses, that speeds things up. You know, there’s somebody who doesn’t like everything so, you know, if we listened to them, Central Park would never have been built and nothing would have gotten done.