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DOT Testimony on Intro. 199


January 25, 2007

Good morning, Chairman Liu, Councilwoman Brewer and Members of the Transportation Committee, I am Iris Weinshall, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) and with me here today is Giancarlo Bonagura, DOT's Deputy Commissioner for Procurement and Technical Services, and David Woloch, DOT's Deputy Commissioner for External Affairs. Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to testify on Intro 199.

This bill would require DOT to develop and monitor performance targets and indicators aimed at assessing and reducing the amount of traffic Citywide and within each borough. Specifically, targets geared towards reducing commuter times, emissions and driving times; and increasing the use of other modes of transportation, the availability of on-street parking, the efficient movement of commercial traffic and optimizing the usage of our existing transportation infrastructure. Furthermore, the bill would also require DOT to establish a database to track such indicators, as well as to submit a biannual written report to the Council.

First let me state that the spirit of this bill, that is, to assess transportation related indicators with the aim of reducing congestion, is a goal that I think we all share. Under the Bloomberg Administration, DOT has made reducing vehicular congestion and bolstering alternative modes one of our primary goals. So many of our initiatives from Bus Rapid Transit to Thru Streets to our Muni Meter Commercial Parking program to our bike lane expansion efforts reflect this focus.

However, the City Charter already requires the submittal of objectives and indicators as detailed in the Mayor's Management Report (MMR) and, therefore, any legislation to require additional reporting seems redundant. Under the Bloomberg Administration the MMR has, in fact, become the dynamic report card this legislation appears to contemplate; it is constantly evolving as new indicators are added. In recent years, for example, we have added fatalities, the number of traffic monitoring cameras, and the change in number of private ferry passengers and routes, among others, to the report.

More importantly, I would like to point out that DOT is already, in fact, collecting and making available much of the data the bill contemplates.
DOT annually conducts screen-line counts of the number of vehicles on an hourly basis at all water crossings within the City and access points into the five boroughs, periodically collects vehicle occupancy counts, obtains bicycle volume counts and assesses the availability of curb space. In addition to these examples, data is also collected for many specific DOT initiatives as part of their evaluation process - including Thru Streets, the '05 Transit Strike and the closure of the Central Park drives. The data assist us in determining the effectiveness of particular initiatives -- whether they are performing as anticipated or whether modifications are necessary. We also make available Safe Streets NYC: Traffic Safety Improvements in New York City, a comprehensive report of our many safety initiatives.

While these data are publicly available on DOT's website, I have brought copies of these reports with me today that I would like to share with the Committee. We recognize that the information may be overwhelming and not in a format that the Committee finds readily accessible and, therefore, I invite the Committee to go through the reports and work with us and the Mayor's Office of Operations in identifying indicators they would like to see presented in a different format or on a more frequent basis.

Most importantly, we share the sponsor's belief that there are new measures and new data collection efforts we must move forward on - and, in fact, we have already begun to proceed towards this goal. Working with our regional partners, we are employing technology on a number of City highways to collect speed data and travel times such as on the I-278 corridor that runs through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Additionally, in Lower Manhattan we are in the process of piloting technology to create an ITS infrastructure package that will utilize wireless traffic cameras, microwave sensors and other technology to collect myriad information including travel speeds and volumes.

The point to be made here is that the use of new advancing technology as a means to collect data is right around the corner and once this technology proves to be reliable, the information collected will be made available. Furthermore, as we look ahead to the Mayor's long-term sustainability plan and the new transportation initiatives that will arise from it, new performance targets and data collection efforts are sure to be developed.

I would, however, like to point out that while DOT is committed to working with the Council on data collection format and frequency, and moving forward on new data targets and data sources, it is important to note the vast resources that must go into these efforts. Data collection is labor intensive requiring employees, consultants and equipment that all translate into the need for funds. In fact, we are already planning to increase our data collection contract from $600,000 over two years to $3 million over two years.

I also should point out that by continuing our efforts to collect more data and to make it more readily available, City DOT can only represent part of the story of how people and goods move throughout the five boroughs. As you are aware, many transportation functions in the City are provided by other agencies and jurisdictions and many of our transportation challenges are regional in nature. Intro 199 seems to ignore the multi agency nature of our transportation systems. Many non-mayoral entities play a role in our transportation network -- from New York City Transit, to the commuter railroads, to New York State DOT to the Port Authority.

It is because of this regional paradigm that the federal government established Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) for the country's urban areas. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) is an association of governments, transportation providers and environmental agencies that serve New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley. It provides a collaborative planning forum to address transportation-related issues from a regional perspective. In this role, NYMTC assembles a great deal of regional mobility data from City DOT, the MTA, the Port Authority, New Jersey Transit, and on its own -- a fact Intro 199 does not seem to address.

In sum, DOT already sets numerous targets in the MMR, currently makes a great deal of data available, is committed to working with the Council on data collection format and frequency, and most importantly is embarking on new frontiers to obtain and communicate new data resources. Intro 199 therefore seems premature and arguably unnecessary given DOT's current efforts and also fails to account for the many jurisdictions that comprise our City's transportation system.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be here today and at this time we would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.