Seven Graphics That Reveal the Present and Future of NYC Streets

A couple of weeks ago, the New York City Department of Transportation released an epic report summarizing its work since 2007. It’s full of statistics, graphics, and recommendations for the future. We picked out a few of the best maps, charts, and graphs from the 212-page document, which show the state of New York City’s streets today and offer a glimpse into their future.

DOT's 2025 bus rapid transit fantasy map: 17 new high-capacity bus routes within 13 years. Image: NYC DOT
DOT’s 2025 bus rapid transit map: 17 new high-capacity bus routes within 13 years.

The 2025 Bus Rapid Transit Map: DOT has installed six Select Bus Service routes in six years, bringing camera-enforced bus lanes, pay-before-you-board fare collection, and bus priority at traffic signals to busy routes in four boroughs. If Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is going to meet his promise to install at least 20 bus rapid transit lines, his next DOT commissioner will have to pick up the pace.

There have been a couple of different maps showing potential enhanced bus routes in the past few years. Advocates at the Pratt Center mapped their priorities for busways in 2008. Earlier this year, the MTA and DOT released a map showing future phases of SBS routes. DOT’s latest map shows a potential BRT system in the year 2025 with 17 new routes crisscrossing the five boroughs, filling the gaps in the subway network.

People walking and biking bear the brunt of the death toll on NYC streets.

The Most Vulnerable People on the Street: Last year, 274 people died in New York City traffic crashes — lower than most other years but an increase from 2011. Although motor vehicle drivers and passengers make up more than half of all NYC traffic injuries, it’s the people without protective metal around them who are most vulnerable. Three of every five people killed in NYC traffic were walking or bicycling. The leading cause of traffic deaths? Speeding drivers.

Think you're safe in a speeding car? Think again.
Think speed cameras won’t benefit people in cars? Think again.

Speeding Kills Motorists: Speeding drivers aren’t just a big hazard to cyclists and pedestrians, they also endanger themselves, their passengers, and people in other cars. Seven in ten motor vehicle occupant deaths last year were caused by speeding. Yet AAA New York still insists that automated speed enforcement is only “a revenue enhancement opportunity.”

New York is bested only by Boston when it comes to safe streets in the US, but what this graph doesn't show is that compared to other world cities, the Big Apple isn't anywhere near the top.
New York has the second-lowest traffic death rate in the US, but compared to the safest Asian and European cities, the Big Apple isn’t anywhere near the top.

Transit Cities Have Safer Streets: Among the nation’s 25 largest cities, New York has the second-lowest traffic fatality rate. The only American city that has safer streets? Boston. By and large, it’s cities with better transit systems — and less car dependence — that have the better street safety records. Globally, similar large cities show that NYC still has a lot of room to improve. London, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong all have lower traffic death rates than the Big Apple [PDF].

The city began installing pedestrian countdown clocks in 2006, but big parts of the city are still without them.
The city began installing pedestrian countdown clocks (at intersections marked with orange dots) in 2006, but big parts of the city are still without them.

Where the Countdown Clocks Are: DOT says the addition of countdown clocks has cut pedestrian injuries by five percent at the street crossings where they’ve been installed. Since it started putting them up in 2006, DOT has added timers at more than 2,000 intersections, focused primarily on high-crash areas, and aims to have 8,000 of the city’s 12,460 signalized intersections covered by 2016. That still puts NYC behind Washington, DC, which leads the nation with countdown clocks at 95 percent of its signalized intersections.

Speed humps are popular among City Council members and effective at slowing down speeding drivers. DOT has recently accelerated implementation, but that’s still not fast enough for some elected officials.

Don’t Slow Down on Speed Humps: Countdown clocks are nice, but changing the road itself to slow down speeding drivers is more effective. DOT says speed humps, which are a major component of its popular Slow Zone program, reduce driver speeds by 19 percent and pedestrian crashes by 40 percent. Speed humps are also popular with City Council members, especially around schools: A bill passed last week requires DOT to install at least 50 speed humps near schools annually. The agency has added more than 250 speed humps citywide so far this year, a significant increase from previous years.

Most car trips in NYC are less than three miles long and more than a fifth are less than one mile — very walkable or bikeable distances.

Most NYC Car Trips Are Walkable or Bikeable Distances: New York City is big, but most car trips in the city are surprisingly short: 56 percent are under three miles and 22 percent are under one mile. These are ideal distances for walking or bicycling. By making it safer and easier to get around by foot or bike — and transit for those longer journeys — we can improve health, cut traffic, and reduce pollution.

  • JamesR

    This is great, but why not a connection between the Bronx and Queens? Wouldn’t it make sense to have a sort of BRT version of the proposed Triboro RX circumferential subway project? It seems like a glaring omission.

  • Voter

    Regarding that last chart, how many of the trips in the 1 – 3 mile range are made by new mayors driving their teenage children to school?

  • Wow, 17 fake-BRT routes in 13 years. Dream big, New York.

  • Danny G

    Almost. By the time there are a dozen or so fake-BRT routes, one of them will manage to get converted to light rail, people will like it, and politicians will latch on and demand more light rail routes. (Though that’s just a wild guess.)

  • Clarke

    BRT on the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges, as well as the QMT and BBT? With no dedicated bus lanes? Anybody who takes NJT out of PABT in the evening rush…please feel free to chime in!

  • jamesbeaz

    We’re talking about the richest city in the richest country on Earth — why aren’t some of these fake-BRT routes being used for the introduction of high-quality, zero-emission tram (streetcar) service instead of buses.

  • Komanoff

    Great stuff from DOT and kudos to Sblog for distilling.

    Still, the last graph, Car Journey Lengths, is screwy. It’s sequenced by trip shares instead of distance. Translating it to make it meaningful isn’t easy. And the lack of zeroes in front of the decimal points for the super-short trips didn’t help, either.

  • qrt145

    The last figure is an amazing example of how to waste space with pretty colors while obfuscating the useful information lurking within. The distance ranges are in random order (OK, sorted by percentage, but that is meaningless considering that the distance ranges are arbitrary), and it makes it extremely hard to see at a glance the cumulative percent for each range. What question do you want to answer, “which arbitrarily defined distance range is more popular?”, or “how many trips up certain distance are made? (Or within a given distance range.)”. It doesn’t help that the distance labels are rotated. A simple table would be much more useful:

    Up to 0.5 miles: 10%
    Up to 1 mile: 22%
    Up to 3 miles: 56%
    Up to 5 miles: 66%
    Up to 10 miles: 85%

    Edward Tufte must be rolling over in his bed.

  • Clarke

    See Christine Quinn’s “got bored with a Sharpie” bustitution proposal:

  • Joe R.

    In other words, about 22% of car trips (up to 1 mile) can easily be replaced with walking, while 2/3rds can easily be replaced by walking or biking (up to 5 miles). Arguably, a significant percentage of car trips over 5 miles could be replaced by biking also if suitably fast, safe infrastructure existed.

  • Bolwerk

    Who do you suppose politicians are working for? The labor unions want jobs, petrol lobbyists want roadways, and fuel-agnostic LRT would cut the amount of work necessary to move significantly more people.

    Riders would prefer the faster, smoother ride, but they have no voice. You’d think the MTA would be a voice of reason on this matter, since they need to save money, but even they want to bustitute at least one existing albeit decrepit rail ROW.

  • Bolwerk

    I agree the bar is low if all we’re doing is investing in buses, but nobody ever wants to explain what is so “fake” about these routes. They’re reliable, cheap/probably cost-saving, handicapped accessible, and greatly improve trips.

    Yes, some of them should be LRT, but what feature needs to be added to make a “fake” BRT into a “real” BRT? The only one I’ve seen anyone (Joe R., specifically, in this thread from a few weeks ago on a similar topic) mention that doesn’t have significant drawbacks is traffic light preemption.

  • Guest

    That doesn’t connect enough transit in The Bronx.
    And you STILL won’t be able to get to Queens???

    Color me disappointed.G

  • cc

    What about 14th Street? I thought there was supposed to eventually be an SBS along 14th

  • rlb8031

    Joe, you’re making a bunch of assumptions here. There are people for whom car, taxi and bus rides are a necessity, not a luxury. A single healthy person could replace car trips with a bike trip or walking, but a mother running errands with an infant or small child might not. An elderly person with limited mobility (cane or walker) probably could not. An adult with health issues may not be able to. You also have to take account that New York City averages 122 days of precipitation per year. Even healthy, fit New Yorkers might choose to hop on their bike for a five mile ride in the rain or snow, or when temperatures are very high or low. There are definitely people for whom vehicular travel is a necessity not a luxury and we shouldn’t pretend like those people do not exist or that they are selfish or thoughtless because they do not bike or walk regularly.

  • qrt145

    I’m tired of hearing this argument every time without any quantitative indication of how many people actually “need” a car. Yes, not everyone can ride a bike, and yes, sometimes it’s impractical. But I’m pretty sure it’s a minority. If the majority that could choose to ride a bike did, it would make things much better for everyone, including the minority that “must” drive a car and would face reduced congestion.

    As for the rain, the 122 days per year figure makes it sound dramatic, but the reality is that most “rainy” days in NYC, it only rains for a few minutes. I ride often on rainy days without getting wet simply by waiting for the rain to stop (yes, not everyone can do that, but many people can.)

  • Joe R.

    The vast majority of people in NYC for whom walking or cycling aren’t feasible can usually find some sort of public transit option instead. There are very few instances where one has to use a car. Those instances are mostly for longer trips in the outer parts of the outer boroughs, or when one is carrying a heavy load. Also, perhaps if more people walked or biking starting from when they were young, they wouldn’t end up in such poor shape down the road that they couldn’t walk or bike as adults. Yes, some people sadly have legitimate disabilities which limit mobility, but in too many cases the limited mobility is purely the result of lack of exercise.

    As for riding in rain or snow or temperature extremes, they do it in places like Amsterdam all the time. None of these things stop people from walking, either.

    I don’t expect that everyone making car trips under 5 miles will go by bike but the fact remains that too many people in NYC drive when many other viable options are available.

  • Jonathan R

    Mother running errands with infant or small child: Rear and front child seats are readily available and can be mounted on existing bicycles with no issues.

    Elderly person: The inestimable Sarah Goodyear, formerly of Streetsblog, now on Atlantic Cities, has published several pieces about elderly people who find it easier to ride a bicycle than walk. The SF resident who writes the Hum of the City blog has related that it is easier to bike while recovering from a leg injury than it is to walk. Electric assist may help.

    Days of precipitation: As Larry L. has pointed out, it rains fairly often in New York, but not in drenching downpours over the entire five boroughs at once. Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving I managed to commute both ways to and from my job site without ever experiencing drenching rain.

    Temperatures high: Take it easy and drink water.

    Temperatures low: Wear layers. You will keep warm because you are moving.

    Folks who claim cars are “a necessity” aren’t selfish or thoughtless, they are just lazy and unmotivated. Case in point: all the people who drive to the bagel store on Utopia Parkway on weekend mornings.

  • rlb8031

    Jonathan, as a mom with two kids two years apart, you can put a kid on a bike but you can’t then 1) carry anything larger than a backpack’s worth of goods (and if your kid is under the age of 4 you usually have that much just for the kid) or 2) make multiple stops with goods because you’ll need to unload every time you leave your bike to go inside. And while there are often workarounds with one kid, it becomes pretty difficult with multiple kids. As a child with an 84 year old father with balance issues, my dad would certainly ride a three wheeler if I let him, but I know he lacks the strength to lift a trike off of himself if he falls over. You guys continue to post this stuff from your ivory tower of healthy vibrant man-life, but I’m telling you as a caretaker of little and big people, that 10% of people that are driving less than a half a mile are doing so for a reason other than sheer laziness.

  • Danny G

    What advice can you offer to people who can afford to either raise a child or own a car, but cannot afford both?

  • rlb8031

    Well, I looked at this site:

    that defines “disability as a long-lasting sensory, physical, mental, or emotional condition or conditions that make it difficult for a person to do functional or participatory activities such as seeing, hearing, walking, climbing stairs, learning, remembering, concentrating, dressing, bathing, going outside the home, or working at a job”

    The disabled population ranges from 8-10% of the total population of working aged adults in the city (except in the Bronx where its closer to 15%) The site has plenty of nifty data including the percentage of disabled adults (21-64) that use mass transit to get to work vs. car/truck/van, which is probably a good proxy for folks that can’t get around easily. As expected the car numbers are low in Manhattan but higher in the outer boroughs.

    Manhattan: 9.8% (20.9% used “Other” as transport)
    Bronx: 24.9%
    Brooklyn: 24.5%
    Queens: 32.9%
    S.I: 49.2%

    So, the population we’re talking about is a minority, but its larger than the current number of people who bike regularly (TA says approx 500,000 NYers ride their bike more than twice a month). In my book that makes it a big enough constituency to count.

  • qrt145

    Yes, disabled people count. I never said they didn’t. What I’m tired of is the members of the 85-90% who are NOT disabled, drive, and argue that bikes are not an option because disabled people can’t use them.

    (There are also plenty of people who can’t drive because of a disability, of course…)

  • Bolwerk

    Actually, I partly with @rlb8031:disqus’s premise, but she is overplaying it. For one, kids who walk are probably generally healthier than kids who are driven everywhere, all things being equal. For two,it sounds like she has to drive as much as she describes due to poor urban planning.

    Still, as a society, we get it plain backward: healthy, middle class, able-bodied people are paid to drive, and transit agencies are distracted into catering for the disabled. If we’re going to have cars, they should be focused on those rare things they do well, like having someone transport people who aren’t mobile. But our government expects subways and buses to do that, and subways aren’t that great for that even with ADA accessibility and buses are scarcely better.

    Everyone else should be training, walking, biking, or busing it.

  • Guest

    There’s probably a valid point in here – you can’t convert 100% of the car trips over those distances. I’ll accept that. If we “only” converted 75% of those trips, it would be a huge improvement!

    My note of caution is the latent demand for longer trips that might be induced to backfill the street/parking capacity that would be freed up. To really do this right, I think you would need public space improvements or signal timing changes to take up that space to ensure we realized some meaningful gains.

  • Jonathan R

    Glad we can compare caretaker notes. My son is two!

    Cargo trailers are cheaper than child car seats and solve problem no. 1.

    Multiple stops are more of a hassle with the motor vehicle because you have to remove children from the car, then hustle over to the store from somewhere out in the parking lot, which is plagued with inattentive drivers backing out of spaces. With the bike you can ride right up to the front door, out of the way of crazed drivers, and unload whatever you need to keep with you into a shopping trolley.

    My son manages to get along for an entire day without a backpack of goodies; to me it seems a little extreme to spend a couple thousand dollars on a car just because I want him to have two kinds of snacks available at all times. When you are on a bike it is easy to stop at one of the innumerable NYC fruit stands and pick up something to nosh on.

    I’d write more, but my son and I must hasten to frolic vibrantly around our ivory tower of healthy man-life.

  • qrt145

    Do you use a bike trailer for your son in NYC? I’m genuinely curious because I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do that in NYC. I have a son too, and he rides on a seat mounted on the bike, but he’s starting to outgrow it. I thought about getting a trailer, but: 1) I’m worried that trailers are at a higher risk of getting crushed by careless motorists. 2) I don’t know where I’d store the trailer. I don’t think I’d like to leave it all the time in the street, and while I have some room in my apartment (where I store my bike), I don’t know how I’d be able to get bike + trailer in the elevator (but hey, at least there’s an elevator!)

  • Jonathan R

    No, I wouldn’t put my child in a trailer. I would use the trailer for hauling the shopping and keep the child on the bicycle.

    The Xtracycle or Yuba Mundo is IMO the best option for getting a cargo bike in a regular residential elevator.

  • qrt145

    Thanks, silly me: you wrote cargo trailer and “problem #1”!

    Thanks for the cargo bike recommendations, too.

    Do you have any plans for when your son no longer fits on your bike?

  • Jonathan R

    When youngster is too big for the bike, we parents will invest in one of these indigenous Portuguese Miranda donkeys to schlep him around.

  • Jonathan R

    But seriously, we happen to have inherited a bakfiets-type bike from my defunct cargo-hauling business, so I expect to use that. I have hauled two grown adults in the box, so I expect it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to take youngster and his own wheels when necessary.

  • rlb8031

    I’ve looked at cargo trailers. They are not less expensive than car seats (This one is, however, pretty sweet

  • Miles Bader

    Oddly enough the elderly and the mothers with kids going shopping around here somehow manage to get along just fine without driving… (many use bikes of course, but walking and public transport are also very popular)

  • I knew that New York City had a lower fatality rate per capita than Chicago but it’s nice to see someone else concur *and* put it in a chart.


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