StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on DOT Transparency and Notice Requirements

Yesterday, we testified at the New York City Council Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's oversight hearing on DOT transparency and notice requirements, presenting our opposition to three proposed bills that, ironically, are transparent in their intent to preserve street parking over other curbside uses, gum up bike lane and Open Streets approvals, and undermine the city's speed-camera program. We also voiced qualified support for legislation that would make it harder to remove Open Streets, establish better standards for siting news racks, and make it easier to track requests for traffic-control devices and speed reducers.

Our full testimony follows below.

As we near the end of 2023, we are faced with the reality that New York City will finish the year with roughly the same number of traffic deaths as we experienced in 2022, a figure, at +/- 250 fatalities, that’s about 25% higher than in 2018, the safest year on record. At the same time, we will again fail, significantly, to achieve many of the mandates required by the Streets Plan. We remain, sadly, a very long way from achieving Vision Zero.

It is that context that makes several of the bills being heard this afternoon so disappointing. Rather than furthering efforts to move us closer to Vision Zero and advance the work of the Streets Plan, some of the legislation on today’s agenda seems intended to hamstring the work of DOT. At a time when we’re losing, on average, five New Yorkers to traffic crashes every week, the City Council should not be advancing legislation that would hamper street-safety and public-space projects or take roundabout aim at the city’s life-saving speed camera program.

Int. 0172-2022 – Support in Principle with Reservations

We certainly support what we believe to be the motivation behind Int. 0172, which is to prevent the summary removal or modification of an Open Street at the whim of someone with the power to make that happen. As is too often the case, the effort to make streets safer or more inviting to uses other than driving and parking requires numerous hurdles, while undoing such changes can happen quickly.

On the other hand, many of the notification steps for implementing Open Streets are already built into the official process, and rather than legislating additional steps, we believe that the measures called for in this bill, especially those that would prevent the rapid undoing of projects, could be addressed in DOT’s rulemaking process. We urge that this be negotiated rather than legislated.

Int. 0810-2022 – Support in Principle with Reservations

We support efforts aimed at improving the placement and maintenance of news racks, which continue to clutter limited sidewalk space even while many publications have moved from printed paper to electronic publishing. As with Int. 0172, however, we believe the intent of Int. 0810 may be better accomplished through rulemaking rather than legislation.

Int. 0922-2023 – Oppose

We oppose Int. 0922, which would require 15 days’ notice to Community Boards and Council Members before removal of parking spaces. We believe this would create an unnecessary and unwarranted bureaucratic process that would not have any effective benefit.

Int. 1030-2023 – Support in Principle with Reservations

We support the principle behind Int. 1030, which is intended to increase the transparency of and access to information about the status of requests for traffic-control devices and speed-reducing infrastructure. However, we believe that at least some of this information is already published by DOT, so this is another case in which we think a negotiated outcome is preferable to legislation. This type of information should be publicly accessible in an easy-to-find and easy-to-navigate dashboard, so we urge DOT to work with the bill sponsors to arrive at a satisfactory outcome that improves the transparency and availability of data.

Int. 1033-2023 – Oppose

We oppose Int. 1033, which would create unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for the implementation of Open Streets and bike lanes and would also recreate a process that is already happening at the borough command level. DOT regularly consults with the Fire Department when developing and implementing street projects of all types, but this happens at a management level. It would not make sense administratively for DOT to have to consult with individual fire houses when a command and communication structure already exists within FDNY.

Int. 1120-2023 – Oppose

We oppose Int. 1120, which would require DOT to assess the installation of speed humps at a minimum of 100 speed-camera locations annually. While we’re all for speed humps and other measures to reduce speeding, there’s already a long backlog of speed hump requests, and we know that speed cameras by themselves are effective at reducing speeding, since most drivers who receive one or two tickets change their behavior and slow down.

As the Staten Island Advance wrote when reporting on the introduction of this bill earlier this year:

“City data shows that, as of December 2020, speeding has dropped by an average of 72% at locations where the cameras have been installed, with injuries falling by 14%.

“The cameras have also shown to deter repeated speeding offenses, with the majority of vehicles only receiving one or two violations since the program began in 2014.

“Additionally, in 2021, more than half the vehicles that received a speed camera violation did not receive a second one.”

We suspect that the intent of this bill is ultimately more about opposition to speed cameras than it is about aiming to improve street safety.

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published this page in News 2023-12-05 15:54:02 -0500
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