StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Transportation Equity

We testified today at the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing regarding transportation equity. Our full testimony follows below.

This hearing, let alone our two minutes of testimony, will only begin to scratch the surface of the problem of inequity in New York City’s transportation system. It’s a crucial topic that requires much more attention and effort, but calling attention to it today is a good and welcome start.

New York City is plagued by inequality, and that grave imbalance extends from incomes and housing and education to the city’s streets. Black and brown New Yorkers, and African Americans and low-income communities especially, are disproportionately victimized by traffic violence. This is due in large part to the city’s failure to make equitable and adequate investments in life-saving infrastructure, in traffic-calming designs like road diets, curb extensions, refuge islands and protected bike lanes, a failing underscored in an excellent analysis last month in Streetsblog developed by reporter Julianne Cuba and How’s My Driving creator Brian Howald.

The New York City Streets Plan, however, is a promising step in beginning to address that inequity. Passed by the last Council and signed into law by then-Mayor de Blasio, the Streets Plan lays out important benchmarks for investment in the city’s transportation network and infrastructure, and it rightly prioritizes that investment in communities that have been poorly served in the past. It’s incumbent on this committee and the Council, and we in the advocacy world, to make certain that City Hall and DOT meet the benchmarks laid out in the Streets Plan – and to insist that it’s fully funded.

We must also continue to prioritize investment in automated enforcement strategies that remove human bias, like speed and red-light cameras, and lobby Albany to allow those devices to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We don’t turn off ShotSpotter overnight or on weekends. We don’t turn off security cameras after hours. Far, far too many crashes that cause death or injury happen in places with speed cameras that are not operating due to curfew. The Council must join with the Mayor in lobbying Albany for home rule, for speed limits as well as camera systems.

Our colleagues in advocacy have spoken and will speak about buses in greater detail, but we as a city must make better bus service a top priority. Buses are lifelines for working-class New Yorkers who often don’t have other means to get around, but we neglect them by allowing single-occupancy private vehicles to hog road space. A lone double-parked SUV can ruin a commute for 50 people on a bus. We must build more busways and separated bus lanes, rapidly expand signal priority and all-door boarding, and put enforcement cameras on every bus in the city.

We also must make cycling attractive, affordable, and safe for many more New Yorkers. Biking has boomed during the pandemic, but there’s so much more we can do. Subsidizing accelerated expansion of Citi Bike to many more neighborhoods, rolled out in tandem with a robust network of safe, protected bike lanes, is a great place to start. The city’s bike-share system is immensely popular, but it has yet to reach many New Yorkers for whom it would be an attractive mobility option. As the only facet of our transportation system that doesn’t receive public funding, it’s high time that we boost the bike-share program with operating subsidies, and with the kind of safe bike-lane network that will attract and protect new cyclists. Let’s see a bill come out of the Council this year that puts that in motion.

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published this page in News 2022-03-07 15:28:41 -0500
StreetsPAC supports candidates for public office who will champion Safe, Complete and Livable Streets.