DOT Kicks Off Citywide Transit Plan

Council Member Brad Lander addresses the crowd at the first of six workshops for DOT's citywide transit plan. Photo: DOT
Council Member Brad Lander addresses the crowd at the first of six workshops for DOT's citywide transit plan. Photo: DOT

NYC DOT will be releasing a citywide transit plan in the fall, and between now and then, the agency is hosting a series of workshops to hear how New Yorkers want to improve transit service.

New York City currently has the slowest bus service in the U.S., and ridership has declined 16 percent since 2002. With the citywide transit plan, DOT is looking to speed up existing bus routes, improve walking and biking access to transit, and plan transit service to meet future demand.

Last night, a few dozen Brooklynites turned out to the Brooklyn College Student Center for the first workshop. (There’s also an online survey for people who can’t make it to the workshops.) After a round of events in the winter, DOT will draw up a draft plan to show at another round of workshops in the summer, before releasing a final document in the fall.

The idea for a citywide transit initiative arose from 2015 legislation by Council Member Brad Lander that required the city to create a 10-year plan for expanding bus rapid transit routes.

“The idea here originally was just to help push along the bus rapid transit network,” Lander said last night. “What I really give DOT credit for is saying, you know what, that’s actually a broader conversation about our transit network.”

While the city’s buses and subways are run by the MTA, DOT can make a big difference for surface transit through its management of streets, sidewalks, and traffic signals.

The two agencies jointly plan and implement the Select Bus Service program, New York’s scaled-back version of bus rapid transit. Last year, using BusTime data from the MTA, DOT released a map showing pinch points where bus speeds are the slowest — and where the city should prioritize interventions to speed them up.

“I think it’s appropriate for the city to have its own policy position on what its priorities are,” said DOT Senior Director for Transit Development Eric Beaton. “That doesn’t mean that we won’t work with the MTA and haven’t worked with the MTA really well, but, at the same time, the city can have policy positions that are not the same as the MTA.”

Attendees at last night’s workshop had a multitude of different priorities, and Beaton said that’s the point. “We want to hear from people how they really use the system, the trips they want to make that they can’t make, and really understand what people’s concerns are, what they care most about,” he said. “We want to do this outreach at sort of that stepped-back, citywide level to make sure that we’re looking at the right places and serving the right needs.”

Ana Fischer, an East New York resident and the community relations director for Council Member Inez Barron, said her office gets frequent complaints about the limited bus access to the Gateway Mall and other parts of the neighborhood. After midnight, Fischer said, there’s no way for Starrett City residents to get home via transit.

“You’re not going to be able to get a bus to take you home, so you’re going to have to walk — there’s no other option — or take a cab,” she said.

If you’d like to share your own ideas with DOT, you can attend one of the upcoming workshops or fill out the online version. Here’s the schedule for the rest of the winter events:

Image: NYC DOT

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