NYC’s new street plans illustrate the complex changes needed to address congestion and pollution

This plan appears to be a comprehensive and considered approach to decreasing congestion and pollution in NYC by improving traffic flow, promoting bicycle use, and more. But reading the investment and time needed to improving just this one element of public transportation shows what daunting problems lie ahead to improve our environment.

City Council expected to pass Corey Johnson’s master streets plan this week

Corey Johnson’s Streets Master Plan is poised to go into effect in 2021

By Zoe Rosenberg@zoe_rosenberg  Oct 28, 2019, 2:55pm EDT

A cyclist in a lime green helmet rides on a protected bike lane in the East Village towards East 10th Street.
Protected bike lanes insulate cyclists from car traffic by using curbs, parked cars, or posts to create distance.

The City Council is expected to approve a plan on Wednesday that may revolutionize how New Yorkers bike, walk, and ride public transit throughout the city.

The Streets Master Plan, an initiative of City Council Speaker and 2021 mayoral hopeful Corey Johnson, calls for 250 miles of new protected bike lanes alongside other safety measures that would finally subjugate private transportation in a city with one of the most robust public transportation infrastructures in the world.

The ten-year plan calls for the Department of Transportation to install 30 miles of protected bike lanes in its first year, and 50 miles each year following. It would also require the city to build 20 miles of bus lanes protected by a barrier or camera enforcement in the plan’s first year, and 30 miles each year following.

“The way we plan our streets now makes no sense and New Yorkers pay the price every day, stuck on slow buses or risking their own safety cycling without protected bike lanes,” said Johnson in May, before introducing the legislation that will come to a vote Wednesday. “I want to completely revolutionize how we share our street space, and that’s what this bill does.”

In addition to protected bike lanes, the bill also calls for a transit signal priority system at 750 intersections in its first year and 1,000 intersections per year after that. The system would allow buses to pass through intersections more seamlessly and speedily by signaling for green lights as they approach an intersection. It also calls for the creation of one million square feet of new pedestrian space in the plan’s first two years.

The Streets Master Plan is expected to go into effect in December 2021 rather than this month, as was initially proposed in reaction to a spate of cyclist fatalities across the city in 2019. The delayed timeline, the New York Times writes, is a concession to the De Blasio administration in order to win its support. A new mayor will be elected to the office the month prior to the plan’s proposed kick-off.

The plan is expected to cost about $1.7 billion, according to estimates from Johnson’s office, and has won support from both the city and public transportation advocates.

CEO of New York Transit Authority Andy Byford endorses the plan to expand the city’s bus lanes. “Early results from the dedicated busway on 14th Street show the huge passenger benefits that can be gained from giving transit priority,” Mr. Byford said in a statement gleaned by the Times.

“Speaker Johnson’s Streets Master Plan would bring not incremental change, but miles upon miles of bus lanes, bike lanes and accessible intersections across our city,” said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris in a September endorsement of the plan. “The Streets Master Plan will save the lives of thousands of New Yorkers.”

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