One of the first things you learn in journalism is the adage “If it bleeds, it leads.” Conflict sells copy, and bike lane lawsuits and political gossip about the transportation commissioner are like raw red meat for reporters. Innovations that work well and get results? Not so much. Hence the press we’ve been seeing lately about local transportation policy.
On the steps of City Hall this morning, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign led a group of advocates to deliver 1,700 thank you letters to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Mayor Bloomberg, and in the process call attention to some news that rarely gets covered. While a few people are suing the city over a single bike lane, many more New Yorkers are reaping the benefits of safer streets and better transit service.
“We’re here today to say thanks to Janette Sadik-Khan and Mayor Bloomberg,” said Tri-State executive director Kate Slevin. “It’s safer to get around New York City today than at any time since record-keeping began.”
In addition to the thank yous, the advocates delivered a few reminders of how forward-looking leadership has paid off for New Yorkers:
- “Bus riders have a great friend in the transportation commissioner,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “New York has the slowest buses in the country, but they move more than 2.2 million people daily. In the past, transportation commissioners have shrugged and said, ‘What can I do?’ But not Janette Sadik-Khan. That’s why I call Janette Sadik-Khan the MetroCard transportation commissioner.”
- “When a small number of very loud voices are shouting to turn back the clock, it’s worth remembering today that streets are safer than at any point in the last 100 years,” said Rich Kassel of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
- “DOT has dramatically sped buses through common sense improvements,” said the Pratt Center’s Elena Conte. Bringing the rapid bus innovations piloted on Fordham Road and the east side of Manhattan throughout the five boroughs will “reduce commuting time and open access to economic opportunity for millions of blue collar New Yorkers. It’s about basic fairness and social justice.”
The event ended with a basic choice for the city’s future leaders to mull over. “What kind of city do we want New York City to be?” asked Dan Hendrick of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “Will we look to the future? Or will we be one that stays stuck in the past.” New York can continue to innovate, make biking and walking safer, speed up buses, and improve public space, or we can keep on letting traffic bog down millions of transit riders each day and never lift a finger to change street designs that result in hundreds of needless deaths every year.
“I’d like to lay down a challenge to anyone who’s thinking of replacing this team in 2013,” Hendrick added. “What type of transportation system do you envision? All of us will be asking.”