Eliot Spitzer’s campaign for governor promised, "Day One: Everything Changes." Well, it’s Day Two and it’s time to govern. Much of New York City’s transportation policy rests in the hands of Albany legislators and agency officials. Here are ten things that the new governor can do to make New York City’s streets more livable and transportation policy more sensible. Feel free to add more to the list in the comments section.
1. Improve safety on the Hudson River Greenway.
Congratulations, Governor Spitzer. You now run the busiest bike path in the United States. Some 5,000 cyclist use Manhattan’s west side greenway each day and over 10,000 people visit Hudson River Park during peak times. In 2006, drivers killed two cyclists on what is supposed to be a car-free bike path. State DOT and the Hudson River Park Trust are currently examining greenway safety and redesign options. We need you to make sure that they come up with some real solutions. Likewise, rather than simply counting vehicles and measuring success as "vehicle throughput," you should push your DOT hard to begin analyzing the highway, greenway, park and all of its various users more holistically. As Fred Kent at Project for Public Spaces says: "If you only plan for cars and traffic, you get more cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get more people and better places."
2. Give us our red light cameras.
Support legislation to grant the City of New York permission to deploy red light, speed and bus lane enforcement cameras at its discretion. Don’t let Albany continue to prevent us from making our streets safer.
3. Create secure bike parking at major transit hubs
New York State now has its hand in the planning and development of a remarkable number of major, New York City transit hubs: Moynihan Station, World Trade Center Transportation Hub, Fulton Street Transit Center and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. All of these transit hubs should have significant bike parking facilities in and around them. According to the NYC Department of City Planning, the lack of secure bike parking is the primary obstacle to potential commuter cyclists. Take a look at European cities (like Amsterdam, right) or, heck, even Chicago, for examples of how to integrate bike parking into train and bus stations.
4. Accelerate Bus Rapid Transit.
The MTA should increase funding to complete, not just five, but ten BRT corridors by 2012. The governor should challenge New York City to increase its annual contribution to BRT as well. The State and City should launch a p.r. campaign framing BRT in the broader context of "citywide traffic relief" so that drivers and parking-hungry neighborhood groups understand why it is necessary to prioritize buses over cars. And, oh yeah: The state also needs to pass legislation to allow New York City to deploy bus lane enforcement cameras.
5. Make sure New Yorkers know how to drive.
It must be a strange feeling after all of the hard work of running for governor and the elation of winning to wake up the morning after inauguration and realize, "Oh, crap, I’m in charge of the Dept. of Motor Vehicles." You may as well take the opportunity to strengthen the meager pedestrian, bicycle and street safety components of New York’s driver education curriculum. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Just steal from the Germans. Their drivers licensing requirements are incredibly stringent. New York’s should be too.
6. Make it easy to bring bikes aboard trains.
NJ Transit and PATH abolished bike-on-board permits several years ago. It’s long past time for Metro-North and the LIRR to do the same.
7. Allow bikes on buses
Tell the MTA that its time to wake up from its Rip Van Winkle-like slumber and, like cities all over the world, make it possible to put bikes on buses. Prioritize bus routes crossing bike-inaccessible bridges such as the Verrazano Narrows and longer-distance Long Island Bus routes. Bikes should also be permitted in the luggage bays of express buses.
8. Accelerate development of the East River Greenway.
The state legislatures must pass legislation to approve the conversion of a sliver of the Robert Moses Playground to Greenway. Make it happen, Governor.
9. Make a real commitment to pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
Re-invent the Dept. of Motor Vehicles’ Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee as a forum for inter-agency traffic safety planning and policy. Improve the reporting and analysis of car crashes. Create an online crash database and map to inform planning. Allocate federal HSIP funds fairly: Bicyclist and pedestrian deaths and injuries account for more than 55% of the New York City total traffic deaths yet these modes receive less than 5% of New York City transportation safety funds and 8% of federal safety funds. That’s a crime.
10. Make sure federal funds are used to achieve broader transportation goals.
The State Dept. of Transportation should set aside at least 15 percent of its federal CMAQ funds for bicycling and pedestrian projects. Most important, CMAQ grants should reflect the broader policy goals of reducing motor vehicle trips and promoting transit, cycling and walking. Tell the highwaymen to take a seat.