Weinshall Upheld a “Cars-First Status Quo,” T.A. Says

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Transportation Alternatives has come out with its statement on the resignation of DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall along with a brief to-do list for the next commissioner. Executive Director Paul White isn’t pulling punches. From T.A.:

Iris Weinshall upheld the cars-first status quo at a time when New York City streets desperately needed innovation and change.

To her credit, Commissioner Weinshall stabilized an embattled agency that just prior to her arrival had seen four commissioners in a period of six years. Commissioner Weinshall filled potholes better than her precedessors, and made pedestrian safety improvements to some of the city’s most dangerous streets. But these successes were eclipsed by Commissioner Weinshall’s failure to redress the enormous economic, heath and quality of life costs imposed by the City’s outdated car-based surface transportation system.

To reduce the cost of congestion and meet the challenges of growth and global warming, New York City needs a new cadre of expert transportation planners led by a progressive-minded DOT Comissioner who can institutionalize and apply modern street management practices that will shift driving trips to cleaner more space efficient modes. The Mayor should look to London and other big cities for the right candidates.

Road pricing, parking reforms and streets redesigned to maximize walking, biking and surface transit are solutions that the new commissioner needs to make happen if New York City’s 6,000 miles of streets are going to perform better for residents and business alike. Tasks that the Commissioner should tackle:

  • Adopt new universal street design standards that would make traffic calming, pedestrian, bicycle and bus improvements the routine rule, not the ad hoc exception
  • Expand annual data collection to better understand how New Yorkers travel, and what they need to drive less and walk, bike and take transit more.
  • Begin a comprehensive study of how variable road pricing can be effectively and fairly applied
  • Reform on-street an off-street parking policies to reduce unnessary driving and traffic
  • Improve community based planning and outreach to make streets work for residents first and through-traffic second.

Says Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, "New York City needs a new DOT commissioner with a new mandate. The old mandate was to move as many cars as quickly as possible. The new DOT commissioner must figure out how to move the most people around the city, using all of the available tools including mass transit, walking and bicycling." 

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