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Posts from the "Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability" Category

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Bragdon: PlaNYC 2.0 Cheaper, Bottom-Up, But May Include Hudson Tunnel

Photo: Randy Rasmussen/Oregonian.

David Bragdon. Photo: Randy Rasmussen/The Oregonian.

City sustainability chief David Bragdon offered some more hints about what to expect from April’s update of PlaNYC this morning. Speaking at a livability conference hosted by NYU’s Rudin Center, Bragdon said that the update would eschew large capital projects and feature a larger role for neighborhoods and individuals. In terms of transportation, Bragdon seemed to suggest that a call for a new Hudson River crossing of some kind would be a part of PlaNYC 2.0.

Much of what Bragdon had to say about the PlaNYC update has already been revealed: That the plan will take on solid waste management, for example, or that the administration wants to allow street hails for livery vehicles.

But he did suggest one idea sure to inspire fierce controversy. “We will be proposing to charge people ten dollars,” said Bragdon, pausing for effect, “if they want to have a hard copy of PlaNYC.”

When Bragdon turned more seriously to transportation policy, he offered an intriguing discussion about New York’s connections to the west. Bragdon pointed out that the number of rail crossings underneath the Hudson River, two, hasn’t changed in a century, though in that time the population of New Jersey has tripled while that of New York City has doubled. “We’re still making do with what we have here,” he said, but “doing nothing has a high cost.”

With that kind of talk, it seems that some sort of post-ARC proposal to add rail capacity underneath the Hudson will be in PlaNYC 2.0. Perhaps the return of the Secaucus 7?

In large part, Bragdon focused on the update’s new approach rather than new policies. With the city grappling with the recession’s fiscal fallout, he said, there won’t be any major new capital commitments in the update. Outlays like the $134 million for public plazas, he said, will be maintained but not likely to be repeated. How that commitment could be squared with the goal of new capacity across the Hudson isn’t clear.

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Bronx Residents Demand a Greater, Greener, Fairer PlaNYC

The green jobs working group presents its recommendations for a PlaNYC update. Photo: Noah Kazis.

The green jobs working group presents its recommendations for a PlaNYC update. Photo: Noah Kazis

The Bronx wants to see the next version PlaNYC go further and be more equitable than the original. At last night’s public outreach event for the upcoming revision of the city’s sustainability agenda, dubbed a “Community Conversation,” Bronx residents demanded that PlaNYC 2.0 be far bolder in its efforts to green the city — and especially their environmentally disadvantaged borough. Whether by tearing down the Sheridan Expressway, tackling truck traffic, or eliminating parking minimums, they want the city to step up its sustainable transportation efforts in particular.

The evening began with a staffer from the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability explaining the benefits that Bronx residents had already reaped from PlaNYC, like 102,000 new trees planted in the borough, the city’s first Select Bus Service route, or shifts away from the dirty heating oils that have contributed to asthma rates among Bronx residents far above those of the other boroughs.

That same presentation also tipped off the audience to a few issues that are likely to make it into the updated PlaNYC: the city’s solid waste disposal and food distribution systems. Both rely heavily on truck traffic and impose a particular burden on Bronx neighborhoods.

But the participants in last night’s forum wanted more. The climate change working group, for example, said a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases wasn’t good enough. They called for a 50 percent drop by 2030.

The open space group praised new parks like Concrete Plant Park, built on a remediated brownfield. But those parks aren’t worth much, they argued, if the city doesn’t make it easy to reach them. “You want people to walk to a park, but you don’t want them walking under a highway,” said a member of the group presenting its findings.

Concrete Plant Park is separated from all residential neighborhoods by the Sheridan Expressway, which many last night called to tear down. “Decommissioning the Sheridan, it would allow access to the parks that have been developed,” said an environmental justice organizer with Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.

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What Should NYC’s Sustainability Plan Tackle Next? Vote Today


New York’s citywide sustainability initiative — PlaNYC 2030 — is getting an update next Earth Day, and the public outreach is already underway. A series of “community conversations” about what comes next continues this week with a workshop in Manhattan tomorrow. Meanwhile, one place you can make your voice heard without even getting up from your desk is a new website where you can submit your own ideas for improving sustainability and vote for those you like best (or vote at the top of this page, where we’ve embedded the same program).

Since the sustainability plan debuted on Earth Day 2007, major transportation initiatives like the launch of Select Bus Service, the expansion of the bike network, and the creation of pedestrians plazas have been pursued under the PlaNYC rubric. The 2011 reboot could reinforce those initiatives and add new ones, like carrying out off-street parking reform or implementing a world-class bike-share system.

The new site, launched by the Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability and powered by the “All Our Ideas” voting software, works by pitting two different ideas against each other — say, “Increase access to EBT at farmers markets” and “Make delayed green lights for motorists so pedestrians can cross safely.” Click on one or the other, and your vote is logged. If you like both, or neither, there’s also an “I can’t decide” button. You’ll then get two new options. Continue until you get tired; there’s no limit to the number of votes you can cast.

Among transportation-related initiatives, four were tied for first place as of this afternoon. Those were: implementing congestion pricing (got that, state legislators?), building more safe bike lanes, shipping farm goods on commuter rail tracks during off-peak hours, and the vague-but-admirable “Invest in multiple modes of transportation and provide both improved infrastructure and improved safety.”

Overall, the most popular idea is currently to enforce recycling rules in large buildings.

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Advocates on Both Coasts Call Bragdon a Smart Choice to Lead PlaNYC

BragdonBikeShop.jpgDavid Bragdon, the new head of New York City's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, announcing a set of regional trails in the Portland area. Photo: BikePortland/Flickr

In appointing David Bragdon, the president of the Portland-area Metro Council, to run the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, Mayor Bloomberg turned to an established elected figure with a track record of progressive planning. What will he bring to New York City?

Streetsblog spoke to livable streets advocates on both coasts to find out.

"We're going to be sorry to have him gone," said Rob Sadowsky, the executive director of Portland's Bicycle Transportation Alliance. "He's got a real strong, rooted sense in policy, particularly around transportation, sustainability, and environmental stewardship."

Jill Fuglister, co-director of the Coalition for a Livable Future, agreed. "David's vision and values have been very focused on sustainable transportation," she said.

Fuglister said that Bragdon made transportation one of his two top issues, along with the creation of an interconnected regional park system called the Intertwine, after his 2002 election to the top post in the Metro Council, Portland's regional government and planning organization.

Sadowsky highlighted cycling-friendly achievements under Bragdon's watch, like the creation of a Metro Active Transportation Council, which brings together stakeholders from across the region to support walking and biking. Bragdon also facilitated the expansion of transit in Portland, said Sadowsky, helping the region streamline its efforts to access federal transit funding. As Streetsblog has reported, Metro has also played an integral role in promoting transit-oriented development in the region.

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Portland Metro President David Bragdon to Head NYC Sustainability Office

bragdon_lg.jpgDavid Bragdon, the new head of the mayor's sustainability office. Photo: Metro
Portland-area Metro Council president David Bragdon will be the next head of New York City's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. The founding director of the office, Rohit Aggarwala, announced his departure in April after a three-year tenure in which he led the development of the city's sustainability framework, PlaNYC 2030. Bragdon, an elected official with experience leading one of the country's most progressively planned regions, will take over the role as the city prepares for the 2011 update of PlaNYC. 

Bragdon has led Metro, the only directly elected regional planning organization in the country, since 2002. As president, he's managed a broad portfolio with many parallels to PlaNYC: regional planning, including the administration of Portland's urban growth boundary; recycling; the preservation of natural areas and water quality; and parks. According to Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland, Bragdon paid special attention to parks and trails and strongly supporting walking and cycling.

Bragdon's appointment comes at a critical moment for the sustainability office. PlaNYC is due for a mandated update next year. Whether by ratifying or expanding on previous commitments or by including missing pieces, such as off-street parking reform, the update provides an opportunity to set New York City's sustainability goals even higher than before. 

We'll have more on this appointment in a later post. 

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Boston Endorses Parking Reform as Key Green Policy

Boston_Climate_Recs.pngAn illustration of how Boston will make its transportation system greener. Image: City of Boston

"Folks, you ain't seen nothing yet," Mayor Bloomberg told an Earth Day crowd yesterday. "The best and greenest days are yet to come." The PlaNYC update coming in 2011, he implied, would have a slew of new initiatives to make our city more sustainable, and he's taking suggestions. 

He could get some good ones from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Released on Earth Day, "Sparking Boston's Climate Revolution" [PDF], is that city's answer to the greenhouse gas reduction targets in PlaNYC. Many of the ideas -- green buildings, new bike infrastructure -- will look familiar to New Yorkers. But on one crucial green measure, Boston could be poised to leap ahead of New York: using parking policy to reduce driving. 

Boston's plan calls for charging more for on-street parking. In commercial areas, meters would charge higher rates and stay in effect longer. In residential neighborhoods, Boston intends to start charging for residential parking permits for the first time. Over just the last two years, the city distributed 100,000 permits for free. The Boston plan also calls for charging much higher rates for every additional permit given to each household. So owning a second car will come at a higher price.

The higher meter rates and permit fees would not just disincentivize driving, but also raise revenue that Boston intends to use to fund pedestrian and bike improvements.

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Ed Skyler Departs. Who Will Take Over NYC’s Street Safety Portfolio?

The Bloomberg administration announced this morning the departure of deputy mayor Ed Skyler, who will be taking a position in the financial industry, the Times reports. While Skyler isn't quite a household name in livable streets circles, his portfolio made him an important mayoral advisor on sustainable transportation and street safety policies. As deputy mayor for operations, he was charged with oversight of several of the most high-profile city agencies, including NYPD, NYCDOT, and the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, which coordinates PlaNYC 2030 initiatives.

skyler.jpgEd Skyler. Photo: HuffPo.
Skyler's time in his current role, which he assumed at the end of 2007, has largely overlapped with Janette Sadik-Khan's tenure as DOT commissioner. While he was reported to oppose the push for congestion pricing, nearly all of the city's recent significant livable streets advances have occurred on his watch.

So, what should livable streets advocates look for in his replacement?

Skyler's successor will be in a unique position to coordinate between different city departments, said Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White. "Since improving street safety is such an interagency task, the deputy mayor for operations is the only one who can really bring different agencies to the same table," he said. "We'd like to see someone who has a good understanding of NYPD and has their respect. We can be hopeful that we'll get someone who saves lives by engendering interagency cooperation on traffic safety."

Skyler will be moving on at the end of April. Liz Benjamin reports that "the safe money is on someone within the administration moving up, or a sort of power-sharing agreement with the deputy mayors who remain."

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Mayor’s Office: Electric Cars Must Comply With PlaNYC Goal of Fewer Cars

Volt_Plug_In.jpgNew York City is not looking to create infrastructure for charging cars on city streets. Image: theqsqueaks via Flickr.

"Electric vehicles are here. They're coming, and they won't stop." Last night, DOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Schaller opened a panel discussion on electric car adoption in New York City with an implicit message: We should be prepared.

At a meeting that brought together representatives from the mayor's office, two electric utilities, and General Motors, there were two big takeaways for livable streets: The city is working to keep electric vehicle adoption compatible with the goal of reducing personal vehicle use, and on-street space isn't going to be given over to charging stations.

A variety of plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars are expected to hit the market in the next two years, presenting both challenges and opportunities for sustainability-minded cities. Schaller began the evening by noting that, nationally, widespread adoption of plug-in hybrids could take the greenhouse gas equivalent of 82.5 million cars off the road. With numbers like that, New York can't help but take notice.

"In 2007, electric vehicles were just a glimmer in our eye," said Neal Parikh, who leads transportation initiatives at the Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. "Now we think it's a real opportunity." He believes that if New York is to meet its PlaNYC goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation 44 percent by 2030, electric cars have to be part of the solution. Parikh was the lead author of the city's recent report on electric vehicle adoption.

While moving toward EVs will require action from the city and other players, including car companies and utilities, Parikh forcefully rejected any measure that would take away from PlaNYC's other transportation goals. While Britta Gross, a GM manager in charge of electric and hydrogen vehicle development, repeatedly claimed that allowing EVs into carpool lanes and offering them free or dedicated parking have proven effective at speeding EV adoption, Parikh said not to expect those offers in New York City. One of his slides put parking incentives directly under the heading "Won't Work."

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PlaNYC Report Takes a Restrained Approach to Promoting Electric Cars

Electric_Car_London.jpgAn electric car in London. Image: exfordy via Flickr.
Last week, the Mayor's Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability released its newest report, "Exploring Electric Vehicle Adoption in New York City" [PDF]. In a breezy 22 pages, it lays out some strategies to maximize electric vehicle purchases by so-called early adopters in the next five years. 

As a sustainability initiative, the merit of the proposal depends on whether trips in these new electric cars will replace trips powered by internal combustion or trips by foot, bicycle, and transit. According to the report, electric vehicles charged on New York's grid would emit as little as a quarter as much carbon per mile as conventional automobiles. "Electric cars are cleaner than conventional vehicles," said Natural Resources Defense Council vehicles analyst Luke Tonachel, "but walking, biking, and transit are all cleaner still." 

Switching to electric cars also does little or nothing to improve street safety, decrease congestion, or promote good urban design -- impacts that also benefit more sustainable modes of transport. Which seems to have been overlooked elsewhere, even in countries with enlightened transportation policies. As Charles Komanoff wrote on Streetsblog in November, Denmark's roughly $40,000 tax on conventional automobiles doesn't apply to electric vehicles, and EVs get free parking in downtown Copenhagen -- big perks that will lead more people to drive and fewer to bike or use transit. So is New York City planning to subsidize electric cars the same way they're doing in Denmark?

Thankfully, the PlaNYC report doesn't recommend using financial incentives to push people toward electric vehicles. "The absence of endorsements for such subsidies is a strong signal that the Bloomberg administration does not intend to follow Denmark’s mistake of subsidizing EVs in ways that would encourage more driving," said Komanoff. "This is very good news."

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A Citywide Prescription for Livable Streets

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"Streets to Live By" marshals data from several cities to make the case for investing in livable streets in New York.

Today Transportation Alternatives released "Streets to Live By" [PDF], the report previewed last week in the Observer. It seeks to define what makes a street livable and to synthesize a broad range of data, culled from numerous cities, on the effects of policies that put pedestrians first.

This doc is a big one, and we're still sifting through it. An early impression: The evidence gathered here related to economic development, health, and social wellbeing suggests that a number of city agencies should be shepherded into the livable streets fold. From the report's recommendations:

Improvements that support livable streets, whether through new construction, street rebuilding or zoning amendments, should be the standard. Coordination and creative problem solving between these agencies, including the Department of City Planning (DCP), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Department of Design and Construction (DDC), Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Department of Sanitation (DOS) would be best led by the DOT and the Mayor’s Office of Planning and Sustainability.

The report also names the Department of Health and the Department of Small Business Services as agencies that can forge stronger ties to a livable streets agenda, and calls for a livable streets training program aimed at the city's community boards. "We recognize that the jurisdiction of each agency only goes so far," says T.A.'s Shin-pei Tsay, "and we hope there can be greater collaboration between them."