Trottenberg: DOT Will Soon Propose Amsterdam Avenue Bike Lane

DOT will release a long-awaited proposal for a bike lane and other traffic calming measures on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side this September or October, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show this morning.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg says her agency will propose a bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue in the next couple months. Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr
Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg says DOT will propose a bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue in the next couple months. Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr

The announcement comes after years of requests from local advocates and Manhattan Community Board 7 for a northbound pair to the southbound protected bike lane on Columbus Avenue. Council members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine, who represent the area, have also backed a protected bike lane on Amsterdam, which was recently repaved. Citi Bike will expand to the Upper West Side this fall.

“Amsterdam Avenue is challenging… Just the way the traffic moves and the configuration of the roadway do make it a more challenging road to redesign [than Columbus],” Trottenberg said. “But we’re going to come up with some plans and we’re going to lay them out for the community board and for everyone who’s interested.”

The wide-ranging interview also discussed a proposal from Assembly Member Aravella Simotas for a car-free Shore Boulevard in Astoria Park (“We are taking a look at it,” Trottenberg said) and the redesign of Queens Boulevard, which she called one of DOT’s “marquee” projects. Noting the new bike lanes on Queens Boulevard, Lehrer said callers are often “more afraid of the bicycles, because they seem to go every which way, than they are of the cars.”

Much of the interview was driven by Lehrer’s focus on congestion and bikes.

“Is there an upside to congestion?” he asked Trottenberg. “Like, is traffic congestion good for Vision Zero, because you want cars to go slower in general?”

“They’re really two separate issues, and I understand why people put them together,” Trottenberg said, before explaining the difference between making sure free-flowing traffic moves at a safe speed and combatting gridlock in the Central Business District, which is attracting fewer cars each day even as congestion has worsened.

Cruising by Uber drivers and other growing for-hire services is a likely cause of the additional congestion, Trottenberg said, and she acknowledged other factors, such as deliveries. The city will study CBD congestion after backing away from legislation to cap the number of cars operated by Uber.

“How about the bikes as a factor?” Lehrer asked.

“[DOT] has tried to be very careful and thoughtful about where we put in bike lanes, and doing it in conjunction with a lot of other smart re-engineering of the streets to keep traffic flowing,” Trottenberg said.

The conversation became more productive when Lehrer turned to the MTA, where Trottenberg serves as a board member. The state authority faces a large gap in its capital program, yet Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature have yet to propose a sustainable funding solution. Cuomo says the multi-billion dollar commitment will come from the existing state and city budgets.

“We’re open to working with the state and our legislators up in Albany,” Trottenberg said. “The mayor put Move NY and other things on the table, but I think he also made the point that one of the challenges we face at the city level is we don’t have that much of an ability to generate revenue ourselves. So even if the city is quote-unquote contributing more, that solution is also going to involve Albany.”

Trottenberg said that if the city contributes more, it will also want a greater say over the direction of the MTA capital program. “I mean, look, East Side Access is a project which I think is really one designed to benefit the riders of the Long Island Rail Road,” she said. The over-budget and delayed project, however, is too far along to cancel, she said. “We’ve got to complete it.”

The city will also be likely on the hook for future expansions of the Second Avenue subway, Trottenberg revealed. “The MTA has now asked the city to fully cover the non-federal share of the next phase of the Second Avenue subway,” she said. “But the city, we also have some priorities,” including the Utica Avenue subway extension and the expansion of CityTicket for Metro-North and LIRR customers in the city. “There’s also some things we’d like to put on the table, as well.”

  • qrt145

    I suspect it took less time to come up with the proposal for the New Horizons mission to Pluto than it is taking to come up with the proposal for the Amsterdam Avenue bike lane…

  • r

    Why does she give such wishy washy answers? She misses real opportunities left and right to advance any sort of an agenda beyond pleasing all people all the time.

    DOT “tries to be careful,” huh? Not according to community board cranks!

    Here’s a better way to answer if bikes are contributing to congestion.

    “How about the bikes as a factor?” Lehrer asked.

    “We have a lot of hard data on that question. If you look at 8th Avenue, travel times for drivers improved by 14% after the bike lane went in. On Columbus Avenue, travel times improved by about 35%. So, no, bike lanes don’t cause congestion.”

  • Eric McClure

    Is Brian Lehrer just trolling on behalf of his audience, or is he really that obtuse about 21st century street design?

  • Anyone know what it is about Amsterdam Ave that makes it so much more challenging than Columbus? I say this out of genuine curiosity.

  • Two Times the Marvelous

    I think it is because it begins with an “A” where Columbus begins with a “C”. That has to be it.

  • Ghost of JSK

    Because one street was redesigned under JSK and the other is under consideration for a redesign by Trottenberg.

  • BBnet3000

    Great, but how are we supposed to use this lane coming from points south? We are going to put in more disjointed, stop-start protected lanes and then act surprised that everyone who is not a thrill-seeker cycling still takes the incredibly crowded Hudson River path. No vision, no strategy, no coordination.

  • D’BlahZero

    I found it telling that, when mentioning various street users throughout the interview, Commissioner Trottenberg always lead with “cars and trucks”.

  • JK

    If the mayor wants a FT transpo financing pro on the MTA board, he needs to recreate the Mayors Office of Transportation. Being DOT commish is a big job without having to deal with MTA finances. There is no logic in having the person in charge of NYC street management and maintenance also have to deal with the arcane transit funding policies and politics of a state agency.

    There is simply no way Polly can be the streets commissioner we need while spending significant time dealing with the MTA. If you want a reason for why things seem to be lagging compared to the previous administration, this has got to be one of them. An hour at MTA is an hour not working on smart curbside parking (what happened to pay by phone and SmartPark) For Hire Vehicle policy, bike network improvements or the redesign of big scary streets.

  • MatthewEH

    8th Ave, then across on one of the minor cross-streets in the 60s?

    It would be fantastic if the lane also included 10th Avenue down to 55th street, though, or alternately, space for a contraflow bike lane was carved out on 58th Street eastbound. Navigating Columbus Circle on a bike is hairy.

  • Alex 3speed

    I get irked by the oft expressed idea that Vision Zero/slowing the speed limit and increasing congestion/slowing speeds are the DOT’s policy.

  • J

    The way Commissioner Trottenberg describes the proposal for Amsterdam seems designed to lower expectations. Is she not aware the TWO council members have requested a protected bike lane, and the local community board has requested it TWO times now, including as far back as 2009. What is the hold up??

    It’s as if the Trottenberg DOT has to be pulled kicking and screaming on every step of every single bike lane in the damn city. There is still no bike plan and no vision for a low-stress bike network. There is no clear process for getting a bike lane. There has been no effort made to make decent crosstown routes. no bicycle boulevards. No protected intersections. And the city continues to build crappy sharrows and double parking lanes all over the place. At this rate it will be 2050 by the time there is anything remotely resembling a cohesive network.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    To be fair, there’s three of the Mayor’s MTA board appointees who are still waiting for confirmation. Agreed that Trottenberg shouldn’t be the only one up there.

  • EB

    40% of the 2nd Avenue Tunnel to 125th Street was dug out years ago, there is tremendous population density in the area, most of the cost will be paid back by increased tax revenue, the plans are all ready to go, and she wants a Utica Avenue subway instead? What a political hack. Bring back Bloomberg

  • AnoNYC

    Why Utica Ave when you could extend the SAS into the Bronx along Third Ave and create much more dense housing due to more liberal zoning and less anti-density NIMBYs. The Third Ave corridor is not only more dense currently, but could support substantial redevelopment due to the number of industrial property and vacant land. It’s also closer to Midtown. This is where the next expansion should be once the East Harlem leg of the SAS is complete.

  • Joe R.

    If we’re going to build new subways, then they should be in areas largely not served by subways at all, like big swaths of eastern Brooklyn and Queens. The proposed Utica Avenue extension is in an area which already has a decent amount of subway service. Sure, some people might be over a mile from existing subway lines, but large parts of eastern Brooklyn and Queens, some with just as heavy population density, are over 5 miles away.

    As for the Second Avenue subway, the purpose seems to be more to relieve congestion on the 4/5/6. In that respect it’s needed regardless of local subway coverage. Yes, it puts the subway a block or two closer for some people, but seriously walking an extra block has never been an impediment to people using the subway. On the other hand, being 2, 3, or 5 miles away definitely is.

  • FLYINGCHOPSTIK

    So right! It always seems like she wants to take the safe route and her dot has yet to come up with any street designs that are innovative… Ok queens boulevard, but wil this be a 1 protected bike lane per 2 year average???

  • Alexander Vucelic

    or even better “Bikes are roughly 10% of traffic in CBD and use less than 2% of roadway, protected Bild Paths reduce congestion”

    I am deeply concerned that The JSK DOT Mission of creating 5 Miles of protected bike Lane annually in Manhattan plus Equal lane miles in Brooklyn, Queens (ie 15 Miles of protected bike lanes annually) has been watered down to 5 Miles citywide.

    can anyone confirm this ?

  • KeNYC2030

    In the case of Columbus, a complete street was created by narrowing the avenue’s three Interstate-width lanes. Amsterdam has four 10-foot wide lanes that cannot be further narrowed, meaning that a car lane will have to be eliminated to accommodate a protected bike lane. This is “challenging” to DOT, which apparently is not conversant with the well-documented phenomenon of shrinkage.

  • Andrew

    Who needs shrinkage? Peak hour traffic volumes are lower on Amsterdam than on Columbus.

  • Maggie

    I’m glad you point this out! I live on Amsterdam and am consistently amazed at the congestion on the sidewalks, relative to the non-congestion on the -six- lanes of space designed for cars and trucks speeding through (and shared by bikes).

  • Tyson White

    “Amsterdam Avenue is challenging… Just the way the traffic moves and the configuration of the roadway”

    Can anyone explain this gibberish to me? What is the “way that traffic moves”? What “configuration”? It’s lanes going north. Anything in particular that vexes you, Polly?

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