DOT’s 5-Year Plan: Faster Buses, Smarter Parking, 5-Boro Citi Bike, Lots More

NYC DOT published a new strategic plan yesterday [PDF], marking the first time the agency has refreshed its guiding document under Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

stratplanIn addition to synthesizing a lot of work that DOT has previously announced (pedestrian safety plans, Select Bus Service routes, a wider Brooklyn Bridge promenade), the update includes several new projects and initiatives. The big headline-grabber is a center-running two-way protected bike lane on Delancey Street connecting the Williamsburg Bridge and Allen Street, slated for next year.

Advocates have been calling to complete that missing link in the bike network for ages. With the L train shutdown coming up in 2019, time is of the essence to get a safe, high-capacity bikeway on Delancey to handle the swarms of people on bikes who’ll come over the bridge. The Delancey project is one of four bridge access projects DOT aims to complete in the next two years. Though DOT doesn’t name the other bridges in the plan, it says the projects in its Harlem River bridges initiative will be a priority.

There’s a mountain of other stuff in the strategic plan. While some of the goals should be more ambitious (10 miles of protected bike lanes per year isn’t enough in the Vision Zero era) and the benchmarks for success could be more specific (most timetables call for hitting key milestones either by 2017 or by 2021, the last year of a hypothetical second term for de Blasio), the ideas are solid.

In a way the document underscores the urgency of securing more funds and political backing from City Hall for DOT’s initiatives — given sufficient resources, DOT is going to put them to good use.

Here’s my compilation of new ideas and goals from DOT that I think Streetsblog readers will find especially interesting.

Designing and maintaining safer streets

DOT’s borough-by-borough pedestrian safety plans will continue to guide its street redesigns. In addition, DOT is working with the Department of Health and NYPD on a review of crashes that caused cyclist fatalities or serious injuries, which will inform efforts to improve bike safety. Also new in the strategic plan:

  • DOT will use cameras, sensors, and other vehicle monitoring technology to gain a more sophisticated understanding of where and why crashes occur. Using this tech, DOT says it “may be able to highlight locations where vehicles have frequent hard braking events or use video analytics to determine where drivers are less likely to yield to pedestrians.”
  • Next summer, DOT will select one neighborhood to test out “a seasonal pedestrian and cyclist-only street” with tightly controlled car and truck access — a pilot project that could expand to other neighborhoods if successful.
  • The next round of neighborhoods in line for bike network expansion includes Jamaica, Soundview, and East Flatbush.
  • With capital projects to complete the East River and Harlem River greenways likely to proceed slowly, DOT will work to fill gaps in those routes with on-street bike projects.
  • To keep crosswalks and bike lanes from fading as new ones are added, DOT aims to increase installation of pavement markings by 50 percent compared to last year.
  • DOT will spend $245 million over four years to install and upgrade pedestrian ramps.

Bike-share, bike parking, bike counts, and e-bikes

With the current phase of Citi Bike expansion set to wrap up in 2017, DOT is starting to look ahead to a third phase. DOT says its goal is to bring bike-share to all five boroughs, though the strategic plan doesn’t offer much detail about the scope or timetable for the next round of expansion.

Other bicycle-related initiatives of note:

  • In a first for the agency, DOT will look to supply secure bike parking near “major transit hubs and activity centers across the five boroughs, including ferry terminals, key subway and commuter rail stations, and local commercial districts.” The pilot project for this initiative will be a bike parking facility on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, close to multiple subway connections.
  • State law effectively criminalizes e-bikes — a state of affairs that DOT recognizes as ridiculous. The agency says it will “develop a sensible legal framework to regulate growing e-bike use,” but it will be up to Albany to enact.
  • By the end of this year, DOT intends to develop new metrics to track citywide cycling trends. The agency has counted cyclists crossing the boundaries of the Manhattan core for a long time, but has not tracked year-over-year changes in biking activity in other parts of the city. That’s about to change.

Transit

The strategic plan does not name new Select Bus Service projects that aren’t already in the pipeline, but it does reflect a promising new emphasis from DOT on expanding bus improvements beyond SBS routes — which could help reverse a systemwide decline in bus speeds and ridership.

  • On local bus routes, DOT will add targeted bus lane segments and expand signal priority for buses. DOT also supports all-door boarding and faster fare collection methods, which are up to the MTA to implement.
  • To keep transit riders moving during the L train shutdown, “DOT will consider transformative traffic management and bus priority treatments on 14th Street and the East River Bridges.” However, it remains to be seen whether these transitways have support from the mayor himself, who has repeatedly deflected responsibility for increasing on-street transit capacity during the L train outage.
  • With an eye toward improving transit trips for New Yorkers who don’t live close to the subway, DOT and the MTA will study “unmet transit needs” and propose solutions that may include “SBS, rail system, and streetcar expansion.”

Parking and freight management

DOT’s efforts to reduce double-parking and cut traffic by adjusting the price of metered curb space haven’t progressed much under Mayor de Blasio, despite the debut of new technology that lets people pay for parking by phone. That should change if DOT follows through on the strategic plan, which calls for “a pricing strategy to increase curb availability for deliveries and customer parking, focusing especially on congested commercial districts.”

There’s also hope for placard reform in the strategic plan:

  • DOT floats the idea of using an electronic system to replace the city’s parking placards, which are infamously prone to fraud and abuse. NYPD has not been receptive to similar proposals in the past. If the new system can be enacted and enforced without relying on human agents who are reluctant to fine members of the placard class, NYC might finally cut down on the scourge of placard corruption.
  • Overweight trucks account for seven percent of freight traffic in the city, according to DOT, which poses public safety risks and can shorten the lifespan of street infrastructure by decades. Using new scales embedded in streets, DOT aims to track and enforce the city’s rules on overweight trucks more effectively.

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New bike routes will provide safer connections on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, in an attempt to divert cyclists from Delancey Street. Image: NYCDOT NYCDOT unveiled a slate of pedestrian and bicycle improvements to the transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 3 last night. Presenters asked for votes on two street safety projects: […]