Sadik-Khan: We’re Putting the Square Back in Madison Square

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan gave a brief, clear-eyed overview of the city’s post-pricing transportation agenda today at the Regional Plan Association’s 18th Annual Regional Assembly. Speaking at a panel discussion called "Making Cars Pay Their Way," she rattled off a list of projects in the works, including some public space improvements that are certain to quicken the pulse of livable streets types.

"We’ll be going forward with pedestrian projects on Broadway," she said, "putting the square back in Madison Square and Union Square West." Near-term plans also include building up the bike network, reclaiming surface pavement for public space, and making streets safer for seniors, she said.

Taking the long view, Sadik-Khan mentioned that DOT will unveil its new strategic plan at the Municipal Art Society on April 28th. The document will set the goal of cutting traffic fatalities in half compared to 2007 levels, she said, in addition to making a commitment to more BRT, among other policies. She later noted that Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson has encouraged DOT to apply for federal funding for BRT projects.

While the commissioner professed disappointment at the defeat of pricing, she remained optimistic that the extensive public debate about mitigating traffic and funding transit would yield a payoff down the road. "We shouldn’t be in the business right now of eulogizing congestion
pricing," she said. "The process itself has been extremely useful in many other ways. It’s been a galvanizing force. The words congestion pricing could only be whispered in City Hall a year ago."

More thoughts from the commissioner after the jump.

"After all the meetings, I think the terrain has fundamentally changed. The mood is that Albany has to fund the whole MTA capital plan. Even opponents acknowledge that. And we’ve got people thinking about what the city would be like with less traffic.

"The public and the civic community have a deeper appreciation for the connection between congestion and transit. We now know that license plate rationing is not an effective solution. We know that modifying taxi policies isn’t sufficient. And we can safely say that a millionaire’s tax will not have a meaningful effect on VMT.

"All the information [from the congestion pricing approval process] doesn’t have to sit on a shelf. It can be used to streamline an EIS going forward. We are better positioned to pursue pricing and non-pricing strategies that we need. I hope we continue the partnerships that we’ve formed. I think the process we’ve just been through is a watershed for New York. We’ve shifted the paradigm and started a new conversation. We’re disappointed, but we’ve laid a foundation for future action for months and years to come.

"We need more bus riding. We now have the most bus passengers, and the slowest bus speeds in the country. Why? It has to do with congestion. Even without congestion pricing, we’re still committed to reducing congestion on the streets of New York."

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