StreetsPAC testified at yesterday's New York City Council Committee on Transportation hearing on the Mayor's preliminary budget for fiscal year 2018. Here's what we had to say:
The additional $400 million for Vision Zero that Mayor de Blasio announced in January provides a major boost for safety on city streets. While those funds will be spent over several years, they’ll begin to have an effect right away, especially on critical initiatives like the replacement and refurbishment of street markings. The major capital commitment to shortening the replacement cycle for crosswalks and bike lanes, and the Department of Transportation’s improved ability to handle restriping, is vital to better street safety.
Likewise, more spending on crossing guards, additional funding for implementation of hardened center lines for left turns, enhanced street lighting, and upgrades to intersections along the bike network will similarly have an immediate effect in improving safety for vulnerable street users. We applaud this commitment to Vision Zero spending.
This commitment is especially important in light of a brand new Health Department report that reveals that pedestrian fatality rates in poor neighborhoods are triple those in wealthy communities. It should be a moral imperative that we prioritize Vision Zero spending in high-poverty areas, which would be very much in keeping with the Mayor’s goals of addressing inequality.
It’s also critical that we get life-saving infrastructure upgrades in the ground quickly, and unfortunately, that’s not frequently the case with the Department of Design and Construction. The Department of Transportation is nimble with paint and plastic, but those things can’t stop a speeding car. We need to make sure that DDC implements Vision Zero work in a much more timely manner.
While this increased spending on Vision Zero initiatives is laudable, there are some areas in which we believe the proposed budget is deficient.
Citi Bike will complete its planned Phase II expansion by the end of this year, and at this juncture, no concrete plans exist for further growth of the bike share system. Will we top out at 12,000 bikes? Or will Citi Bike continue to grow to serve even more New Yorkers, delivering the convenience and efficiency of bike share to neighborhoods hungry for this reliable, low-cost transit option?
The original white paper drafted by the Department of City Planning eight years ago, which laid out the potential for bike share in New York City, envisioned a 49,000-bike system serving significant portions of four boroughs. Such a robust system would cover all high- and mid-density neighborhoods, with a projected capital cost of $200 million and an annual operating cost of $100 million, the latter fully offset by membership and user fees, and sponsorship.
Widespread support exists in the Council for public funding of the capital costs necessary to expand Citi Bike, and we strongly urge the Administration to commit to working with the Council to earmark the funds necessary for the full Phase III expansion outlined by City Planning in 2009.
We also support the Fair Fares initiative proposed by our friends at Riders Alliance. According to their calculations, full funding of half-priced Metro Cards for the approximately 800,000 New Yorkers who live below the federal poverty line would require $212 million annually. This is not an insignificant commitment, to be sure, but few things would address economic inequality in New York City like the improved access to jobs and services that more affordable transit fares would provide those who need it most. Let’s get this done.
Speaking of improved access, given the large budget allocated to bridges, we urge the Council and the Mayor to find the funds needed to expand access to the Brooklyn Bridge for people on foot and on bikes. This New York City icon is such a popular tourist destination that the footpath often overflows with tourists, leaving little room for the city’s rapidly growing contingent of bicycle commuters. Council Members Chin and Levin and Lander floated a proposal to expand the bike and pedestrian ramps several years ago, and it high time to make it a reality.
Lastly, we implore the Council and Administration to take a very hard look at parking policy. The underpricing of curbside space in New York City contributes greatly to congestion, which in turn harms productivity and constrains economic activity. Given the negative externalities of private automobile use, our failure to properly price parking has societal consequences beyond the legitimate revenue we’re leaving on the table. That foregone revenue could put a sizable dent in the additional spending for which we’re advocating today.