As General Election Approaches, More Specificity Needed on NYC Transportation Issues

Primary day has come and gone, and New York City’s mayoral candidates will no doubt have some adjustments to make as they shift out of primary mode and into general election mode (or a possible runoff). But what does this mean for the future discourse on transportation issues in the city? During the primary, a coalition of 15 community, environmental and transportation groups released a transportation platform for the next mayoral administration, but no major mayoral candidate really embraced sustainable transportation as an issue. Now that we are moving toward the general election phase, here are a few things we’d like to see candidates debate and discuss in more detail:

East River tolls — We were disappointed to hear all five of the candidates who participated in the final Democratic mayoral debate say they were against tolls on the East River bridges, a measure that’s “widely understood to be a component of any realistic congestion-pricing scheme.” Tolls on East River bridges have been studied for decades, but with little contrast between parties on this issue, it’s unlikely we’ll hear much more about it in the coming weeks.

Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure — There’s been a wide range of rhetoric in interviewsforums and debates about pedestrian plazas, bike share and cycle tracks. Given how “controversial” allocating street space to anything but motor vehicles is often perceived to be, we’ll most definitely be hearing more from candidates on the matter. Here’s hoping candidates will look to the facts as their views evolve on how to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.

Select Bus Service (SBS) expansion — We know there’s widespread support across party lines for expanding New York’s enhanced bus system, and we also know that the City has more control over bus routes than it does with subways. What we don’t know is how the remaining candidates would expand SBS, or if they would support upgrading the system from “BRT-lite” to a full-fledged bus rapid transit system. So far the candidates have approached SBS with varying degrees of specificity, so the general election should provide more opportunities for them to try to win the votes of the City’s 2.5 million daily bus riders.

Traffic Safety and Enforcement — Although the NYPD recently committed to investigating more crashes and renamed its accident investigation squad, pedestrian and cyclist deaths and injuries are on pace to surpass the number killed last year, and few drivers who kill or maim pedestrians and cyclists are held accountable. Nobody is against making streets safer, but they differ on how they’d go about doing so, and if they would keep Commissioner Ray Kelly at the helm of the NYPD.

Transportation Commissioner — NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan “has earned international fame for transforming the car-clogged streets of New York.” In six years, she launched the nation’s largest bike share program, installed hundreds of miles of protected cycle tracks, and reclaimed space for pedestrians throughout the city. She’s been called a visionary, but some mayoral candidates have been less quick to send praise in her direction. Though it may be early to name names, people who walk, bike and ride transit in New York City deserve to hear more from the candidates on what qualities they’ll look for in a transportation commissioner.

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