DOT’s 5-Year Plan: Faster Buses, Smarter Parking, 5-Boro Citi Bike, Lots More

NYC DOT published a new strategic plan yesterday [PDF], marking the first time the agency has refreshed its guiding document under Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

stratplanIn addition to synthesizing a lot of work that DOT has previously announced (pedestrian safety plans, Select Bus Service routes, a wider Brooklyn Bridge promenade), the update includes several new projects and initiatives. The big headline-grabber is a center-running two-way protected bike lane on Delancey Street connecting the Williamsburg Bridge and Allen Street, slated for next year.

Advocates have been calling to complete that missing link in the bike network for ages. With the L train shutdown coming up in 2019, time is of the essence to get a safe, high-capacity bikeway on Delancey to handle the swarms of people on bikes who’ll come over the bridge. The Delancey project is one of four bridge access projects DOT aims to complete in the next two years. Though DOT doesn’t name the other bridges in the plan, it says the projects in its Harlem River bridges initiative will be a priority.

There’s a mountain of other stuff in the strategic plan. While some of the goals should be more ambitious (10 miles of protected bike lanes per year isn’t enough in the Vision Zero era) and the benchmarks for success could be more specific (most timetables call for hitting key milestones either by 2017 or by 2021, the last year of a hypothetical second term for de Blasio), the ideas are solid.

In a way the document underscores the urgency of securing more funds and political backing from City Hall for DOT’s initiatives — given sufficient resources, DOT is going to put them to good use.

Here’s my compilation of new ideas and goals from DOT that I think Streetsblog readers will find especially interesting.

Designing and maintaining safer streets

DOT’s borough-by-borough pedestrian safety plans will continue to guide its street redesigns. In addition, DOT is working with the Department of Health and NYPD on a review of crashes that caused cyclist fatalities or serious injuries, which will inform efforts to improve bike safety. Also new in the strategic plan:

  • DOT will use cameras, sensors, and other vehicle monitoring technology to gain a more sophisticated understanding of where and why crashes occur. Using this tech, DOT says it “may be able to highlight locations where vehicles have frequent hard braking events or use video analytics to determine where drivers are less likely to yield to pedestrians.”
  • Next summer, DOT will select one neighborhood to test out “a seasonal pedestrian and cyclist-only street” with tightly controlled car and truck access — a pilot project that could expand to other neighborhoods if successful.
  • The next round of neighborhoods in line for bike network expansion includes Jamaica, Soundview, and East Flatbush.
  • With capital projects to complete the East River and Harlem River greenways likely to proceed slowly, DOT will work to fill gaps in those routes with on-street bike projects.
  • To keep crosswalks and bike lanes from fading as new ones are added, DOT aims to increase installation of pavement markings by 50 percent compared to last year.
  • DOT will spend $245 million over four years to install and upgrade pedestrian ramps.

Bike-share, bike parking, bike counts, and e-bikes

With the current phase of Citi Bike expansion set to wrap up in 2017, DOT is starting to look ahead to a third phase. DOT says its goal is to bring bike-share to all five boroughs, though the strategic plan doesn’t offer much detail about the scope or timetable for the next round of expansion.

Other bicycle-related initiatives of note:

  • In a first for the agency, DOT will look to supply secure bike parking near “major transit hubs and activity centers across the five boroughs, including ferry terminals, key subway and commuter rail stations, and local commercial districts.” The pilot project for this initiative will be a bike parking facility on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, close to multiple subway connections.
  • State law effectively criminalizes e-bikes — a state of affairs that DOT recognizes as ridiculous. The agency says it will “develop a sensible legal framework to regulate growing e-bike use,” but it will be up to Albany to enact.
  • By the end of this year, DOT intends to develop new metrics to track citywide cycling trends. The agency has counted cyclists crossing the boundaries of the Manhattan core for a long time, but has not tracked year-over-year changes in biking activity in other parts of the city. That’s about to change.

Transit

The strategic plan does not name new Select Bus Service projects that aren’t already in the pipeline, but it does reflect a promising new emphasis from DOT on expanding bus improvements beyond SBS routes — which could help reverse a systemwide decline in bus speeds and ridership.

  • On local bus routes, DOT will add targeted bus lane segments and expand signal priority for buses. DOT also supports all-door boarding and faster fare collection methods, which are up to the MTA to implement.
  • To keep transit riders moving during the L train shutdown, “DOT will consider transformative traffic management and bus priority treatments on 14th Street and the East River Bridges.” However, it remains to be seen whether these transitways have support from the mayor himself, who has repeatedly deflected responsibility for increasing on-street transit capacity during the L train outage.
  • With an eye toward improving transit trips for New Yorkers who don’t live close to the subway, DOT and the MTA will study “unmet transit needs” and propose solutions that may include “SBS, rail system, and streetcar expansion.”

Parking and freight management

DOT’s efforts to reduce double-parking and cut traffic by adjusting the price of metered curb space haven’t progressed much under Mayor de Blasio, despite the debut of new technology that lets people pay for parking by phone. That should change if DOT follows through on the strategic plan, which calls for “a pricing strategy to increase curb availability for deliveries and customer parking, focusing especially on congested commercial districts.”

There’s also hope for placard reform in the strategic plan:

  • DOT floats the idea of using an electronic system to replace the city’s parking placards, which are infamously prone to fraud and abuse. NYPD has not been receptive to similar proposals in the past. If the new system can be enacted and enforced without relying on human agents who are reluctant to fine members of the placard class, NYC might finally cut down on the scourge of placard corruption.
  • Overweight trucks account for seven percent of freight traffic in the city, according to DOT, which poses public safety risks and can shorten the lifespan of street infrastructure by decades. Using new scales embedded in streets, DOT aims to track and enforce the city’s rules on overweight trucks more effectively.
  • Shemp

    Big question is how closely the operating units in the agency are held to account for these goals – will require a very engaged commissioner.

    Total aside: putting any CitiBikes in Staten Island would be a titanic waste

  • Vooch

    Citibikes on SI would be hilariously entertaining simply for the reaction

  • Joe R.

    They might be surprised how much bike activity there is in the outer boroughs. I always see loads of bikes chained up around downtown Flushing, for example (and that underscores the need for more bike parking near transit hubs).

    I hope they will also finally resolve the ludicrous illegal status of e-bikes.

  • Look at how nicely painted those crosswalks and other street markings are in the photo on the report’s cover. That happens in reality approximately never.

    Hooray for metaphors.

  • Joe R.

    From a political perspective maybe not. Far too many NYers in the outer boroughs see both bike lanes and bike share as a Manhattan/downtown Brooklyn thing. As such, they really have little vested interest supporting more of either if areas near them get little bike infrastructure plus no plans for bike share. Bike share would be enormously useful in places like eastern Queens with lousy bus service and equally lousy bike parking. From a personal standpoint, I don’t use my bike for errands not because of the lack of bike infrastructure, but the lack of safe bike parking. Bike share removes this worry from the equation. I don’t know how useful Citibike would be on Staten Island but even if the bikes end up lightly used I think it’s a good idea to put them there just so Staten Islanders can’t say they’re being left out.

  • N_Gorski

    It’s a shame they’re not extending the Delancey median lanes all the way to Chrystie St.

    I also hope that they try to clean up the entry plaza at the foot of the bridge; since they “upgraded” it for security reasons, it seems like it’s much more likely to cause a pedestrian/cyclist crash.

  • dave “paco” abraham

    Agreed… but that’s why this line put a smile on my face more than anything else in the report. “To keep crosswalks and bike lanes from fading as new ones are added, DOT aims to increase installation of pavement markings by 50 percent compared to last year.”

  • Anne

    Actually, as a carless non-SI resident, I would think it pretty handy to get a Citibike on the other end of the SI ferry. What if I want to check out Snug Harbor or the brewery or something?

  • redbike

    A subversive consideration: it would be hard to require a privately-owned entity (Motivate) to install bike share in locations where usage is likely to be sparse without a subsidy. Then again, actual usage might be surprising.

  • J

    Seriously, why stop at Allen, given the big new connection at Christie? And 10 miles per year? They do realize that the city has 6,000 miles of streets. Of course not all of them need protected lanes, but a LOT of them do, and 10 miles per year just isn’t gonna cut it.

    I’m happy to being making forward progress, but does it need to be SO incremental? At this pace, it’ll be another 3 decades before there’s a bike network I’d feel comfortable letting a kid ride in. But we’re the #1 bike city in the US, so no need to try harder.

    Also, not a damn thing about protected intersections? Is no one at DOT keeping tabs on the progress in other cities? Do the folks at DOT actually think “Mixing zones are good design? Would they let their kids ride in them? Or is NYC just “special” (read provincial) so no need to look at what others are doing. End rant.

  • Vooch

    in my more Ernest moments, I fully support PBLs and Citibikes throughout Staten Island, especially to serve commuters getting to ferry and the train stations

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Also it seems fairly clear that without a change in will to remove parking or adding filtering/bike boulevards to the toolkit, even a decade from now (that’s two of these Five Year Plans for those keeping track) there will have been no inroads for low stress cycling into the gridded outer boroughs.

  • Joe R.

    If autonomous vehicles live up to their hype, that could be a game changer as far as parking goes. When city residents who get around by car now have cars for hire on call, even in parts of the city where it’s hard to get car service now, many will opt to give up their private vehicles. Also, I’ve little doubt insurance companies will steeply raise rates for non-autnomous cars, further giving people incentives to go carless. If this pans out, the “need” for curbside private car parking will pretty much vanish in NYC. Or so we can all hope.

  • Flakker

    There would be a LOT of usage immediately around the ferry, especially if the ramp system were marked to permit direct riding from Richmond Terrace onto the upper level, where the bike racks are now. Better yet, have the station inside the actual terminal and make it possible to ride down/up a slice of the pedestrian ramp. If the local merchants knew what was good for then they’d be trying to subsidize it themselves and make St. George more competitive as an explicitly urban neighborhood.

  • Vooch

    I Know a guy that commutes via Bike -Staten Island to UES 70th Street Year Round. He Takes Hudson Greenway and 72nd. He Is just a regular Middle aged guy on a beater Bike

  • AnoNYC

    Good stuff overall, let’s just hope they stick with it.

  • Flakker

    Yeah, so do I. Blue-collar guy in his 70s. Not the same guy, different Manhattan destination, but of course there are more than a few SI bike commuters. Contrary to what the Staten Islanders you often hear from think, people there with jobs do ride bikes. Because you can bring bikes on the ferry without climbing stairs, for free, it’s actually a pleasant (but long) bike commute to Manhattan. Citibike done right would be a huge success there.

  • Vooch

    great Data point about Staten island cycling commuting

  • Vooch

    10 Miles of PBL per year ? That’s criminal. Even at 50 Miles of New PBLs per year if would Be 10 years until 10% of City streets have PBLs.

    Here Is Map of current pathetic Bike Network that supports 200,000 daily Trips. Imagine if this pathetic Bike Network had real Connections –