StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Preliminary FY2025 Transportation Budget

We testified yesterday at the New York City Council Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure's preliminary hearing on the city's FY2025 budget, focusing on ongoing concerns about the Streets Plan and renewing our call for public investment in bike share and secure bike parking, among other items. Our full testimony follows below.

At the March 2023 hearing of this committee on the fiscal 2024 budget, we testified about our deep concern regarding the city’s failure to have met the 2022 benchmarks for the creation of physically separated bike lanes and bus lanes required by the city’s Streets Plan. We noted that those benchmarks were increasing in 2023, underscoring our worry. Unfortunately, our concern was prescient, as the administration again failed to reach the Streets Plan mandates, building about 32 of the 50 required bike-lane miles, less than 20% of the prescribed 30 miles of separated bus lanes, and upgrading only a fraction of the 500 bus stops mandated.

So, while the Department of Transportation reports that it is back to pre-pandemic staffing levels and that it’s adequately funded, the continued failure to meet legally required benchmarks indicates otherwise. That the vast majority of cycling deaths that have occurred on city streets over the past year happened on streets without protected bike lanes underscores the human cost of not doing better. And with the advent of congestion pricing right around the corner, we should be doing everything we can to improve bus service, not leaving straphangers stuck behind double-parked SUVs.

This isn’t a case of DOT staff needing to work harder or smarter, it’s a case of needing to give them the resources and tools to deliver on the Streets Plan. And we gladly acknowledge that there has been progress, notably in redesigned intersections and expanded public space. But we’ll note that Mayor Adams two years ago announced an historic five-year, $900 million commitment to “rapidly build out critical street safety and public transportation infrastructure.” Given the number of projects in both realms that have been slow-walked or outright obstructed, we were heartened to hear Speaker Adams announce yesterday her intent to legislate the creation of a Streets Plan tracker to help hold the administration accountable for the lackluster progress.

We also need to ensure that investment is focusing on the equity gaps that persist in our transportation system and infrastructure. As we said at last year’s hearing, the Streets Plan rightly focuses on addressing equity by prioritizing upgrades in those areas of the city whose residents are predominantly people of color, where incomes are lowest, and where investment in infrastructure has lagged the most. It’s therefore critical that funding is sufficient to prioritize those efforts, and that Streets Plan targets are met.

At the same time, we urge the members of the City Council to be full and constructive partners in that work. We were very disappointed to learn that only six Council Members responded to Commissioner Rodriguez’s request for ideas on where to make street-safety upgrades in their districts. Yes, it is DOT’s job to take the lead on that work, but we hear plenty of criticism from the Council about what DOT should or shouldn’t do, and a cold shoulder is an odd and unacceptable response to an invitation for input. We can assure you that we and our advocacy colleagues would jump at such a chance to inform project priorities.

Turning back to the administration, we’re deeply concerned about the city’s failure to deliver promised funding to many of the volunteer organizations operating Open Streets, and we in fact signed on to a letter sent by several such groups to DOT last month. In some cases, Open Streets volunteers haven’t received reimbursement for any of the funds they advanced in 2023. This is a serious problem that threatens the future viability of some of the city’s most popular new open-space efforts, and disproportionately affects under-resourced communities. This situation must be rectified, whether the issue is a need for more funds for reimbursement or for adding staff to process those payments in a much timelier fashion.

We also support Speaker Adams’s call to increase eligibility for the Fair Fares program to New Yorkers who are at 200% of the federal poverty level. Expanding the effort will require only a sliver of the city’s budget and create more economic opportunity for those New Yorkers who need it most, and it should apply to commuter rail within the city, as well. Expanding Fair Fares eligibility is an easy way to advance transportation equity.

Lastly, we want to circle back to two areas we highlighted in last year’s testimony. We renew our call for public investment in the city’s bike-share system to accelerate Citi Bike’s expansion into all city neighborhoods. We’ll note again that the Chairs of the Transportation and Infrastructure and Finance Committees have said they’re eager for bike share in their respective districts, and we’ll reiterate that bike share is the only facet of our public transit system that receives no public subsidy.

We also renew our call for the city to make a significant investment in safe, secure bike parking infrastructure. We know that the absence of secure storage options is a critical barrier to growing the use of bicycles, and it’s also a partial solution to the lack of sufficient charging infrastructure for e-bikes, and for reducing the dangers of battery fires. We urge the administration to aggressively increase its investment in secure bike parking facilities.

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