In August of 2011, Governor Cuomo signed New York State’s complete streets bill into law, an effort to ensure that capital project planners consider all users of the road, and not just drivers. Judging by NYSDOT’s draft two-year capital plan, though, the agency hasn’t gotten the memo: it fails to identify walking or biking as modes of transportation. Although the document uses key buzzwords—”multi-modal,” “users of all modes,” “sustainable,” “improve livability,” “environmental protection”—complete streets advocates are left hanging when the document lists the ways New Yorkers get around:
Each mode of transportation—highways, transit, rail, ports and aviation—has an important role to play in this support, and investment to improve this infrastructure is essential for economic growth. New York’s future economic competitiveness requires investment in all modes of the State’s transportation system, creating balance where transportation can support a sustainable future.
The document also makes no mention of the 2010 Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act (PIPA), which was passed to encourage sustainable development instead of sprawl. An Empire State Future report on PIPA implementation released earlier this year found that New York State would benefit from “direct attention from the [Cuomo] Administration in the implementation of the law,” and now is as good a time as any.
As the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has shown, cycling and walking are crucial transportation modes that New York state cannot afford to neglect. Recently passed complete streets and smart growth laws were not intended to sit on a shelf—until the state’s capital investments match its stated policy, our limited tax dollars will not develop the transportation choices needed to address the economic and mobility challenges of today.