Yesterday, DOT released “Sustainable Streets: 2013 and Beyond,” a 212-page report and accompanying website outlining the department’s achievements over the past six years and providing guidance for the next administration. Last night, Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan was joined by a panel of council members and New York Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson for a discussion of the document and the future of sustainable streets in New York.
“That certainly wasn’t the norm on city streets,” Sadik-Khan said in front of slides showing projects like the Madison Square plazas, the Prospect Park West bike lane, and Select Bus Service. Sadik-Khan pointed to the department’s 2008 Sustainable Streets strategic plan as the start of the transformation, followed by annual progress updates in the form of the Sustainable Streets Index. Last night’s release marked the capstone to six years of work, she said.
Just six years ago, the only yardstick by which the public could regularly assess the DOT was a few pages within the annual Mayor’s Management Report. It showed how many potholes DOT filled and how quickly the agency replied to service requests, but it didn’t offer a clear picture of the agency’s strategic goals and the measures it was using to track progress. Maybe because, at the time, the agency hadn’t articulated any strategic plan.
How times have changed. DOT now produces a bevy of reports to keep people informed about what the agency is doing and how the city’s streets are performing. Metrics like safety are now measured and tracked much more intensely and publicly.
The mammoth new report is divided into six sections, focusing on safety, mobility, world class streets, infrastructure, and resiliency. Each section includes a look back at how projects big and small have not just transformed the look and feel of New York City’s streetscape, but also changed travel behavior and measurably affected everything from crash rates to bus ridership and retail sales.
Each section also provides a series of recommendations for the future if the city is going to continue to meet its goals. The recommendations include things outside the agency’s direct control, like encouraging the state to give the city local control of automated enforcement, and things the agency did not do under Sadik-Khan, like aggressive expansion of physically-separated bus lanes. The report specifically mentions the pedestrian-heavy area around Penn Station, where DOT watered down its original busway plan in the face of opposition, as a candidate for car-free streets and dedicated transit lanes in the future.
During the panel after Sadik-Khan’s remarks, Council Member Brad Lander seconded the future focus on busways. ”The next mayor can’t be the bike mayor. That’s taken,” he said. “The beginnings of BRT are wonderful, but we need a really robust citywide BRT network.”