Vacca Committee Passes DOT Public Review Bills With Friendly Amendments

Amended versions of two bills adding requirements to the Department of Transportation’s public review process passed the City Council’s transportation committee unanimously this afternoon. The bills, which mainly codify current practices, would require DOT to consult with other city agencies and compile data on safety and traffic patterns for all major projects. “It is crucial that all the stakeholders are not only fully involved but also fully informed about what is happening in their communities,” said committee chair James Vacca.

Intro 626 requires the department to consult with the NYPD, FDNY, Department of Small Business Services and Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, which DOT already does. While the original version of the bill required DOT to produce a written report about each consultation, the amended version passed today only demands that DOT certify they did so.

Similarly, the requirements of Intro 671, which DOT did not endorse at a hearing held last September because it lacked flexibility, have been loosened. While the original included rigid mandates for DOT to report on the average speed of regular traffic and emergency vehicles before and after street redesigns, the new version requires DOT to post data on speeds, traffic volumes and vehicular level of service “to the extent such data is relevant to the project.” While level of service has been widely criticized as an auto-centric measure poorly suited to an urban environment, this language seems to suggest that the appropriate measure will vary with the intent of the project. The police and fire departments can set their own guidelines for measuring the impact of changes on their vehicles. The bill also requires DOT to study before-and-after crash data and post it on its website.

Each of the bills would only cover projects which add or remove a lane of traffic or parking for four blocks or more.

Next up for this visionary committee: a hearing on the MTA’s readiness for winter.