April 30, 2008
Integrated Urban Transit
A new strategic transit plan looks to transform city streets.
You can download the 2008 edition of the New York City Cycling map by clicking here.
The marble floor of the Municipal Art Society resembled a packed subway car at rush hour on Monday night, but when New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan started her speech debuting her department’s strategic plan, whoops went up like a party on a stalled A train. (She even said “shout-out.”) In heralding a booklet about the new transit strategic plan, Sadik-Khan was preaching to the choir, with visions of bike lanes, fast buses, and tulips in concrete lingers on the street.
New York City hired Sadik-Khan to run its transportation a year ago: she campaigned hard for a plan to charge a fee on Midtown drivers and seethed when the state legislature refused to vote for that plan earlier this month. “Now that the London model of congestion pricing is on the shelf, people say look at the Paris model of wider boulevards,” said Sadik-Khan. “But we are going to be implementing the New York City model!” (WHOOP! WHOOP!) Greening of plazas and letting buses trip red lights or collect fares from waiting customers at kiosks, she said, would refresh the city’s “incredible foot traffic” and extend its mass-transit veins. Road upkeep and redesign would protect pedestrians and bikers. And credit-card-accepting meters (to discourage circling) and weekend pedestrian days would just make cars look dorky. Appealing to philanthropists for support and polemicists for backing, Sadik-Khan rhapsodized: “Sustainable Streets is really a handbook for new streetscapes, clean mobility, and an attractive pedestrian environment.”
Despite the jubilant spirit, Sadik-Khan’s pep talk reveals an anxious desire to lock upgrades into the physical city before a new mayor (maybe playing to old constituencies) takes over. And navigable streets influence how New York can tamp down crime, house new residents, and lure businesses: the Police and Design and Construction commissioners milled around with the bike advocates and good-government types at the guacamole station after the talk. Sadik-Khan told me that the document includes benchmarks for progress by 2010 and beyond- and that it reflects the inspiration and dedication of the department’s bureaucratic staff. “We had 100 people who went through priorities in workshops,” she said. “The hope is to engage the public.” If New York’s public life can feel more piquant than a mess of potholes and horns, last night’s merriment may spread into something unpredictable.