Testimony of Noah Budnick, Projects Director, Transportation Alternatives to New York City Council Transportation Committee

Good morning. My name is Noah Budnick, and I am the Projects Director for Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s advocates for walking, bicycling and sensible transportation. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

I am here today to talk about ways to improve the performance of the City Department of Transportation, including recommendations for the Mayor’s Management Report and proposed budget priorities.

Before I address the DOT, I would like to note that City Hall has not translated the success of the NYPD’s TrafficStat program and the DOT’s improvements to the city’s most dangerous intersections into a meaningful or consistent citywide policy for how to address traffic safety concerns. The Mayor’s Office of Transportation must be reinstated to help agencies better work together and address common neighborhood problems like speeding, dangerous access to parks, inappropriate cut-through traffic and excessive truck traffic on neighborhood streets.

As I mentioned, the success of the NYPD’s TrafficStat program needs to be recognized. It is a major reason why pedestrian fatalities have gone down in New York City over the past five years. TrafficStat uses up-to-the-minute crash maps to examine individual precinct’s tactics to improve traffic safety. I think everyone here agrees that the safety of people walking, biking and traveling through New York City and NYPD’s work to ensure traffic safety are important and they should be present at future Transportation Committee oversight hearings.

There is nothing more important than preserving life and limb. This should be prominently reflected in the Department of Transportation’s section of the Mayor’s Management Report. The annual numbers of walkers, bikers, passengers and drivers killed and injured in traffic crashes should each be featured in the Report. Currently, the DOT’s section of the Mayor’s Management Report includes “Citywide traffic fatalities,” and the NYPD’s section includes the total number of walkers and bikers killed each year by cars.

To the NYPD and DOT’s credit, total traffic fatalities have gone down from 407 in Fiscal Year 2000 to 330 in Fiscal Year 2004, and combined pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have declined from 227 in Fiscal Year 2000 to 186 in Fiscal Year 2004.

However commendable, these statistics are vague and must be detailed to target agency resources so that improving the safety of walkers and bikers is a high priority for all branches and levels of government. On average, 12,000 pedestrians and 3,500 bicyclists are injured by cars each year in New York City. Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and injuries should be detailed for City Hall, Council, the public and advocates to see.

London, England (population 7,593,300) is a city of similar size and character to New York and has set clear outcome-based performance indicators and date-bound targets to improve traffic safety. New York City should adopt similar goals set by Transport for London, London’s DOT. Here are some examples of Transport for London’s performance indicators:

· Reduce the total number of people killed and seriously injured [in traffic crashes] by 40% by 2010 compared with 1994-1998

· Reduce the number of children killed and seriously injured [in traffic crashes] by 50% by 2010 compared with 1994-1998

· Reduce the number of pedestrians killed and seriously injured [in traffic crashes] by 40% by 2010 compared with 1994-1998

· Reduce the number of bicyclists killed and seriously injured [in traffic crashes] by 40% by 2010 compared with 1994-1998

· 100% of primary schools to have 20 mph speed limits on appropriate surrounding roads by 2011 (Previously introduced 20 mph school zones saw a 60% reduction in fatalities and serious injuries.)

London’s targets work. In 1984 London had more pedestrian deaths than New York: 300 versus 293. By 1997, London had reduced pedestrian fatalities to 150, compared to 249 here. In 2003, 111 pedestrians were killed in London, versus 178 in New York City.

To help demonstrate the City’s commitment to encouraging bicycling, the DOT should publish its annual bicyclist counts in its section of the Mayor’s Management Report. In terms of bicycle-related performance indicators, the DOT’s yearly “screenline” bicycle count is second in importance only to the bicyclist fatality and injury numbers mentioned above. Currently, the DOT’s only bicycle-specific indicators in the Mayor’s Management Report are the number of miles of new bike lanes and the number of new bike racks installed each year.

The annual screen bicycle count is the sum total of the number of bicyclists riding on the avenues and the Hudson River Greenway who cross 50th Street and the number of people who bike across the City’s four East River bridges from 7am to 7pm on a given day in late summer or early fall. On one line in the Mayor’s Management Report, the DOT should publish the bicycle count from the avenues, on a second line the count from the Hudson River Greenway and on a third line the count from the East River Bridges.

Again, Transport for London sets outcome-based performance indicators to encourage bicycling and alternatives to private car use. The DOT should adopt similar measurements, such as:

· Increase the journeys made by bicycle per year by at least 80% between 2001 and 2011.

· Increase the journeys made on foot per person per year by at least 10% between 2001 and 2015.

· Maintain or increase the share of personal travel in London made by means other than personal car.

· Improve the access to the public transportation system of targeted groups that are currently under represented in the system, particularly disabled people and women traveling at night.

The City of New York can set and achieve meaningful goals of reducing pedestrian and bicyclist deaths and injuries and encouraging more biking and walking by devoting more agency resources to these modes of transportation. The DOT needs to spend City funding to expand the staff at its small, hard working bicycle, pedestrian and traffic calming programs.

The DOT needs to double the staff size of its Bicycle Program. Daily bicycle riding in New York City has increased 35% in the past decade, but government bicycle program staffing has not kept pace. Right now, only four of the DOT’s 4,000 staff people work on bicycle projects. There are simply not enough person hours available to make necessary biking improvements, such as making the city’s popular greenways and bridge paths safer and more convenient to bike to, creating secure bike parking at transit hubs and educating City agencies, elected officials and community groups about the City’s bicycling efforts.

The DOT should use City funding to immediately grow the Bicycle Program. It is the fastest way for the agency to hire much needed staff. Currently, most of the support for the DOT’s bicycle Program comes from Federal money, passed through Albany. Most of this funding is earmarked for building specific bike improvements and, while quite necessary, takes years for the City to get approved. Additionally, using City funding to increase staff could help the DOT collect on millions of dollars of unspent Federal bike funding.

For similar funding reasons, the DOT should also expand the staff at its Pedestrian and Traffic Calming Programs. The agency gets credit for launching a well-staffed Safe Routes to School program to improve traffic safety around schools, but pedestrian safety programs should not be limited to just schools. More staff is needed to expand the agency’s use of strong traffic calming and safety measures, improve neighborhood traffic safety and keep trucks off of neighborhood streets.

The DOT has a lot of work from 2004 to be proud of: launching the citywide Safe Routes to School program, continued improvements on Queens Boulevard, the release of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Study, more car-free time in Central Park, a growing bike network in Downtown Brooklyn, a new bike path on the Manhattan Bridge, spot safety improvements at the 95th and 96th Street entrance/exit to the Henry Hudson Parkway and increased use of pedestrian head starts (or Leading Pedestrian Intervals) at intersections.

Transportation Alternatives wants to see the DOT and other City agencies do more of this good work throughout the city, report meaningful transportation indicators and work together to improve traffic safety, quality of life and health for New Yorkers.

Thank you.

Testimony Old URL
Secondary Title
Oversight Hearing on 2005 Mayor’s Management Report and City Budget as Regards to the City Department of Transportation