City DOT Opens Traffic Floodgates on Downtown Brooklyn
Agency releases final Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Report
Downtown Brooklyn residents, already overwhelmed with traffic and concerned about projected traffic increases with the proposed development projects in the area, received more troubling news last Friday when the City Department of Transportation released its final Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming report, the culmination of almost a decade of work.
In 1996, after residents in Downtown Brooklyn and the surrounding areas complained that their neighborhoods were overrun with bumper-to-bumper through traffic and that their quality of life was suffering from the danger, air and noise pollution, the DOT finally initiated the city's first and most ambitious community traffic calming project.
But from the start, the DOT ignored the community's most basic request; the agency insisted that the goal of the project was to reduce the effects of traffic, not to reduce the volume of traffic. In reality, the political impetus and community goal for the project was to reduce the net number of cars in the neighborhoods surrounding Downtown. This fundamental disagreement about the purpose of the project is at the root of the problems with the DOT's final report.
From the onset, the DOT discarded traffic calming measures recommended by the authoritative Federal Highway Administration and proven in New York City and around the world to reduce cut-through traffic, slow drivers and improve walking and bicycling safety. The DOT vetoed speed humps, diagonal diverters, traffic circles and other physical changes in the name of convenience for people driving through Downtown Brooklyn.
Starting in 2006, the DOT plans to spend $4 million to build the traffic calming improvements laid out in the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming project's final report. Though some of the safety improvements are welcome, parents, children, seniors and other Brooklynites will not get the relief they originally sought from the onslaught of traffic.
In the traffic mitigation strategies for the proposed development projects, the DOT should use real, robust traffic calming devices like speed humps, raised intersections, diagonal diverters and traffic circles, all of which are detailed in the Federal Highway Administration's "Traffic Calming: State of the Practice." Indeed, the agency has chosen to implement very few of the FHWA's recommended traffic calming measures, turning instead to oversized signs, which have been shown to be a danger to pedestrians elsewhere in New York City, and routine traffic management devices like left turn bays. These neighborhoods need real relief from motorized traffic, especially as they face the likelihood of significant additional motorized traffic from the Downtown Brooklyn Development project, proposed Nets arena and Ikea store. Says Kit Hodge, Transportation Alternatives' Campaign Coordinator,
Though the report on the whole is extremely disappointing to residents, who poured countless hours of work into the project over the course of a decade, there are some good elements, including new bike lanes, a very few raised intersections (though it is unclear as to whether the DOT will build them to the 4" universal standard) and the "possible" addition of Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI). Leading Pedestrian Intervals are a proven pedestrian safety technique that cost nothing, and the DOT should move them from the "possible" category to the definite category.
Finally, on paper, and as
envisioned by the community and consultant, the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic
Calming project was the most sweeping community based planning process attempted
by the City DOT. Had the New York City Department of Transportation
exploited its potential to do real traffic calming and traffic mitigation, it
could have been a huge success. But no process, however well crafted, can
survive incessant sabotage by the government agency which funds and controls it.
What the process did do was show how big the gap between the community and
the DOT was and is. This does not bode well for the City's treatment of the
flood of new traffic that the new development projects will bring.