Shifting Gears at DOT

Sadik_Khan_Biking.jpg

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan bicylcing to work during her first week on the job

Crain’s New York reports that the earth is shaking below Dept. of Transportation headquarters at 40 Worth Street:

Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s new transportation commissioner, politely says she’s building on the foundation left by her predecessors. In fact, she is shaking it. A month into her job, she’s advancing ideas that the department has long rejected, from residential permit parking to banning cars from Central Park to the mayor’s revolutionary congestion pricing plan.

Ms. Sadik-Khan knows she can’t merely reform the Department of Transportation’s policies. She has to change its very mind-set, because staffers have long seen their mission as moving as much traffic as they can, as fast as they can.

Overcoming such entrenched thinking is an immense task, as Ms. Sadik-Khan, 47, knows from experience. As a DOT staffer in 1991, she answered Mayor David Dinkins’ call to reduce congestion by writing a plan for East River bridge tolls. The idea was predictably unpopular and died quickly. Ms. Sadik-Khan’s abandoned report sits on a shelf in her unglamorous 10th-floor office at 40 Worth St., a reminder of what happens when policy meets politics.

After leaving city government, she worked as a senior vice president at engineering giant Parsons Brinckerhoff and before that as a transportation official in the Clinton administration.

This time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to fight for congestion pricing regardless of the political cost, which is why Ms. Sadik-Khan is in the hot seat. "When I talked with the mayor about the possibility of joining the agency, I did talk to him about wanting to do congestion pricing, moving forward with bus rapid transit, taking a greener approach, looking at complete streets, a revitalized bike network," she says. "I very much see working toward a greater, greener New York as the new mission."

She speaks of redesigning the city’s streets for pedestrians, bicyclists and buses. That’s what Jon Orcutt from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Andy Wiley-Schwartz from the Project for Public Spaces and traffic consultant Bruce Schaller have advocated for years. The department had never listened, but Ms. Sadik-Khan not only heard them, she hired them.

At 40 Worth St., you can almost feel the foundation rumbling.

Photo: DOT press office

  • momos

    Let the earth tremble and the foundation walls collapse!

  • Nicole Belson Goluboff

    The mission to make New York City greener requires, not only changes in the city itself, but changes in the state tax system.

    As things stand now, New York State penalizes nonresidents who work for New York companies and sometimes telecommute. Specifically, it taxes them, not only on the income they earn when they travel to New York, but also on the income they earn when they work from home, outside New York – despite the fact that their home states can tax the same income. The double tax threat for telecommuting deters this driving alternative.

    Because telework takes cars off the road and riders off mass transit – and because it reduces the need to heat, cool and illuminate commercial offices – it is a vital tool for saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.

    For New York City to be the environmental leader Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Sadik-Khan rightly want it to be, it must be a place people can reach via the Web instead of by car, bus or train. The Mayor must, therefore, prevail upon Governor Spitzer to have his administration repeal the telecommuter tax.

  • gecko

    Great post by Nicole!

    Telecommunications is one of the most important environmentally convivial technologies and should be exploited to the utmost since energy and time intensive travel is not necessary to get a huge amount of things done.

    The new age of electronic communications is a prime example of energy and environmentally conservative behavior with immediate benefit and convenience and minimal to no deprivation.

    Elimination of cars from the world’s cities is similar behavior.

    Telecommunications requires little or no travel. Since everything is so close in cities, minimal travel is all that is required which is easily and conveniently achieved by human power or electric powering at human scale.

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