A Revitalized Transportation Network that Makes the City Work for Everyone

Transportation is the central nervous system of the City, connecting people to housing, jobs, education, healthcare, and recreation. It can rectify inequities and help the City recover from the impacts of COVID-19, as more transportation options help communities of color, the disabled community, and low-income neighborhoods. We need a 21st century transportation system that improves transit service for everyone, prioritizes mobility expansion in underserved areas, makes the streets safe for everyone who uses them, combats climate change, and reverses the legacy of racism within the city’s current transportation network.

The roadway is a public space and the way it is designed and used reflects the City’s priorities—from commuting to recreation to economic connection for industries. While cycling and micromobility are important and growing modes of transportation, the City lacks the infrastructure to support these alternatives as true choices for many drivers. Buses can be a reliable, efficient mode of mass transit and new routes can be planned and built quickly, helping to to meet the needs of residents in transit deserts, yet we have not done everything possible to move buses faster.

New York City’s reliance on cars erodes the quality of life in the city, but alternative transportation options must be viable for New Yorkers. Troubling trends are emerging in the wake of COVID-19. Bridge and tunnel crossings have already returned to pre-COVID levels by June, outpacing ridership gains on the subway and buses. Without a bold commitment to manage traffic volumes, post-COVID New York City will negate gains to pedestrian safety, pollution and transportation alternatives.

Our plan will focus on: 

Innovating Transportation to Promote Safety and Efficiency

Our transportation system is more than a tool for residents to get around our city, it’s a gateway to economic opportunity, a cleaner climate, and safer streets—but only if we are willing to seek out creative solutions.

We are committing to the following policies and programs:

Launching true Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for a faster and smarter bus network that reflects today’s needs of passengers

Subways do not adequately serve the full population of New York City (more than ⅓ of New Yorkers do not live within walking distance of a Subway station) and buses do not currently provide a reliable, far-reaching complement. Buses in New York are slow and unreliable for those who need them the most, and the City has not worked aggressively enough to prioritize bus transit systems. Because transportation inequalities impact a neighborhood’s average income, employment level and overall economic mobility, the city should prioritize investment in a true Bus Rapid Transit System in key corridors with dedicated right of ways, intersection treatments, and stations while also improving regular bus service. This is a cost-effective, low-carbon method of improving mass transit that also begins to reverse the inequity of previous MTA capital expenditures.

In the immediate term, as we deal with the COVID-19 crisis, the MTA has called for an expansion of 60 miles of bus lanes and busways. MTA listed a number of busy corridors for expansion and the first step is to fulfill this request based on need and prioritize shorter commutes for essential workers. Improving regular bus service is critical. More bus lanes must be built in transit deserts and communities of color, not just busy corridors. We would also support All-Door Boarding to get people on buses faster by leveraging the new OMNY payment system.

Blocked bus lanes hurt essential workers, neighbors with errands to run, and caregivers with childcare needs. Bus drivers continually are frustrated by cars and delivery trucks impeding their movement. Making sure the new bus lanes and busways are serving residents efficiently requires enforcement, but we must commit to doing this fairly. Expansion of automated camera enforcement would not single out any one particular corridor and can ensure busways are not blocked.

Technology can also be used to speed up regular bus service by installing more Traffic Signal Priority (TSP) throughout the city. One study found an 18% reduction in bus travel times when using TSP. According to NYCDOT, all buses in the fleet are equipped with the technology, but every intersection needs TSP technology installed to “talk” with the bus. There is TSP currently active at 260 intersections on five out of 326 bus routes. By prioritizing the intersections with bus routes, we can speed up the average bus travel time. 

Drive equity and innovation in our transportation system

There are many more ways to connect people through our transportation network. The behind the scenes transportation work is often siloed and continues inequities among our neighborhoods. We plan to support cohesive planning, from co-building bus and bike infrastructure and networks, to ensuring that anyone can use MTA’s new MetroCard—OMNY—no matter how they get around, to a continued commitment to Fair Fares. We will create a One City approach to New York’s transportation system. But we cannot be one city without acknowledging and understanding how many communities suffer from the legacy of racism in transportation decision-making. From underinvestment to lack of more inclusive community processes, we commit to rethinking investment decisions by deploying data and tools to make sure often ignored communities get real transportation benefits and services.

Embrace cycling and micromobility as viable modes of transportation

Cycling is a great way to get around the city, especially as an alternative to the subway during the COVID-19 pandemic. While more people are choosing to use bikes, the current infrastructure is insufficient and unsafe. Though there are more than 1,200 miles of bike lanes currently across the five boroughs, only 480 miles of them are protected. Furthermore, in 2020, more people were killed in traffic than in 2019—people dying in the crosswalk is not an unavoidable part of city living. Two-thirds of commuters who don’t bike cite safety concerns as their primary reason for not biking. We must prioritize the connectivity of the current fragmented network of bike lanes while at the same time making many of these new connections protected to make it safe for bikers to travel about the city. Envisioning new street design delivered in a more cost-effective way can promote safe cycling will be a boon to the city as we make our way towards recovery.

Today in New York, 90% of traffic sector emissions come from private vehicles. We must get people out of their cars and into other modes of transportation that will improve the health and resilience of the city. By connecting bike lanes with current transportation hubs with secure bike parking, we can reduce our reliance on cars and work to lower the emissions coming from private vehicles. 

To read more about our climate mitigation plans, please refer to our Climate Platform.

Many cities around the world are seeing a boom of e-scooter options as a new form of transportation. New York City must be prepared to launch a similar program and is mandated to launch a pilot program in 2021. To best support e-scooter expansion, the city must ensure that safety, choice, equity, and transparency are key pillars of any introduction of private sector operators. E-scooter companies operating in the outer boroughs should be responsive to community needs, including those of the disability community.

Other measures must be taken to make the pilot program successful—focusing on technology like geofencing can keep scooters out of high-traffic pedestrian areas and alleviate sidewalk congestion while promoting accessibility and safety. The providers must also agree to a set of good data management practices that keep the consumer safe. 

Focus on street safety

We need to put people, not cars, at the center of all transportation conversations and projects. A Donovan administration will work to improve street design, get reckless, unsafe drivers off our streets, and reduce illegal speeding by cars and trucks. With more strategic and consistent automated enforcement, we can make streets safer and stop traffic violence in New York City. Vision Zero only scratches the surface of what is needed—a comprehensive plan with a series of policy changes that is laser-focused on all New Yorkers’ safety and security and an overhaul of the program is critical. We are committed to lead the effort to reimagine the city’s streetscape, reduce the city’s reliance on cars, expand bus and bike lanes, and end traffic violence.

Properly create and maintain Open Streets

COVID-19 has shown us that our streets can be used for so much more than vehicles and parking. We can use streets as parks, expanded dining seating, and gathering places. By speaking with communities and gathering their input, we can make the Open Streets Program accessible, equitable and responsive to the needs of each neighborhood, and revitalize small businesses throughout the city, given that research shows cycling and foot track improve business income.

Seek congestion pricing while making transit improvements

To successfully implement congestion pricing, the city must make the transition easy for New Yorkers. While congestion pricing is expected to reduce car use, alternatives must be created to keep people moving efficiently. We need to insist on transit improvements prior to the deployment of congestion pricing so that residents can have other ways to get around the city.

Reallocate curb space

We are seeing new, innovative ways our curbs can be used for things other than parking. We want to think creatively about other ways our curbs can serve residents like allowing schools and camps to use the space for outdoor activities, more efficient delivery of goods, and potentially new approaches to trash collection. We can use data and technology to understand the use of the curb today and see how residents can benefit more from this public space. As more people are spending time outside to gather, the curb space is becoming a precious entity and giving that space to residents instead of cars can support New York’s recovery.

Strengthen Partnerships with MTA

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is in crisis and the transit system is falling apart. Although ridership has plummeted during the pandemic, millions of New Yorkers still rely on transit every day. 55% of all frontline workers use the subways as the primary mode of transportation for New Yorkers. A robust system is critical to the recovery of New York. The MTA’s $51.5 billion Capital Plan is estimated to generate 350,000 jobs total for the five years with close to 80% of the jobs in New York City.  We will partner with the MTA on key priorities, collaborate on bringing new financing, and install more effective and high-level communication channels. We need to be at the table as it comes to decision-making at the MTA. 

We are committing to the following policies and programs:

Create pathways for increased City oversight of the MTA

Currently, the mayor has limited power with the MTA, holding only four board seats. By creating a stronger partnership with the MTA, we can ensure ridership on the subways, buses, and paratransit is supported. We must increase oversight on MTA capital plan prioritization, operations planning, and work to increase governance authority through the addition of Board seats.

New Yorkers are the main customers of the MTA subways and bus system; the City government must play a larger role to ensure that new and ongoing projects are delivered for New York City residents. We are proposing formal mayoral meetings with the head of New York City Transit to discuss key priorities and operational issues, especially in historically underserved areas, and partnering with Senate and Assembly Chairs of Corporations, Commissions and Authorities to discuss City priorities and get updates on the current projects. We would establish strong relationships with state and local elected officials representing New York City districts to ensure they hold the MTA accountable at the state level. 

Bring financing to the table

The mayor has the opportunity to use their bully pulpit to encourage collaboration between the city, state, and federal governments. As the MTA is experiencing a major financial deficit, aid from the federal government is more important than ever. Downstate New York accounts for 8% of the country’s GDP, which translates to great bargaining power. We can use that power to bring funding to the MTA by lobbying for federal tax dollars and ensuring that the sources of funding are dedicated to City priorities.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must come up with new ways to increase funding. Some examples worth considering include value capture and a Marijuana Tax. State law allows for value capture but we will recommend that every future expansion project use value capture as part of its funding.

If the state were to legalize recreational marijuana and place a tax on those sales, the revenue could be $500-$750 million annually. A portion of that money could be set aside for public transit improvements and this could be bonded to support capital expenditures. Given other states’ movements towards legalization of marijuana, New York should go next. 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email