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DOT Spins Bus- and Bike-Lane Failure as ‘Streets Plan’ Success

The agency quietly released its required status report on the Streets Plan, which shows massive shortcomings that DOT downplayed.

A revolution stalled: Mayor Adams has barely made a dent in the city’s need for bus lanes.

The Department of Transportation admitted late last week that it is in violation of city law requiring it to hit mandated mileage for bike- and bus-lane construction, but the agency only touted its "achievements."

The agency quietly released its required status report [PDF] on the Streets Plan, which became law in 2019 and required the DOT to build 80 miles of protected bike lanes and 50 miles of protected bus lanes in the first two years of the Adams administration.

In its report, the DOT admitted that it has built only 58.2 miles of bike lanes (or 72 percent of the requirement) and just 9.6 miles of bus lanes (or 19 percent).

The agency was also required to upgrade 1,000 bus stops, but has done 68, or 6.8 percent. Even including 320 bus stops that got seating, that only brings the percentage up to 39 percent.

And DOT was also required to add pedestrian-friendly signal timing to 2,000 intersections, but has done 1,535, or 77 percent.

On the plus side, the agency said it did meet the requirement for:

  • Adding accessible signals to 1,000 intersections (the agency did 1,360).
  • Creating at least 1,000,000 square feet of pedestrian space. The agency claims it has added 1,083,725 square feet, though DOT has not provided an itemized list.

The top-line failures were criticized by Transportation Committee Chair Selvena Brooks-Powers, who issued a blistering statement soon after the agency released its summary report.

"The Streets Plan is the law, and the Department of Transportation is still failing to fulfill its legal obligations," she said, specifically citing the bus lane numbers.

Brooks-Powers did not respond to a request for comment regarding whether she and her Council colleagues will consider suing to get the Adams administration to follow the law — as the Council has done recently regarding a housing voucher law. Speaker Adrienne Adams told Streetsblog earlier this month that she was open to the idea of a lawsuit.

Despite the failure to meet the legal benchmarks, DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez hailed his agency's success, citing initiatives, such as Open Streets, the expansion of Summer Streets, and outdoor dining, that were not foreseen by the authors of the Streets Plan.

"The past year was a record year of accomplishment for NYC DOT," he said in a statement. "We completed major projects in 2023 that made our streets more livable, sustainable, and safer."

By definition, any completed project — such as a bus lane on Gun Hill Road or the Berry Street bike boulevard — makes roadways safer or more livable. But there's an irony to the DOT's bus- and bike-lane failure. Then-Council Member Rodriguez was one of the prime movers behind the Streets Plan before he took over DOT, and his statement suggested that Council Member Rodriguez asked too much of Commissioner Rodriguez.

"This law ... had benchmarks that were aggressive," he said.

But he promised that one day, he'd meet them — or try to.

"Now as DOT Commissioner, I can assure you that we continue to aspire to them in the face of numerous capacity and resource constraints," he said.

The DOT's failure will likely be of minor concern to Mayor Adams, who emphasized last year that he would not be bound by the legal benchmarks of the Streets Plan, and created an entirely new office inside City Hall to oversee and stall DOT projects.

"My legacy I want to be left with is that this was a mayor that heard us on the ground, and communicated with us on the ground, and respected us enough to hear our input," he said.

Rodriguez took a different tack in his statement.

"Quality remains a focus of our projects," he said. "The work outlined in this report was driven by a focus on improving safety, equity, and the other goals of the Streets Plan by delivering projects where they would have the most impact, regardless of how many miles they accumulated or what benchmarks they counted toward."

But numbers do matter to many activists. After Streetsblog reported that Mayor Adams said he has done "an amazing job" building bus lanes, Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein called on the mayor to "present a detailed plan for how he's going to ... build the 130 new miles of bus lanes he owes us in the next two years."

Here's what the failure to build bike lanes looks like as a practical matter in the so-called outer boroughs:

The city still has lots of areas with no protected bike lanes close by. Chart: DOT

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