Street safety advocates on Thursday urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to expand New York City’s Vision Zero program statewide — and pointed to a 2006 plan laid out by the state Department of Transportation as evidence that New York is lagging on goals to push commuters out of cars.
The plan — put forth under former Gov. George Pataki — sought to integrate and improve the region’s transit networks by 2030, with the goal of reducing car usage, traffic deaths and air pollution.
With just seven years left, carbon emissions in the state are up, traffic deaths remain high, and the MTA, NJ Transit and the Port Authority all operate independent transit systems.
A new report from the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives highlights how far New York still has to go to realize Pataki’s 16-year-old plan, and urged Hochul to take similar steps as she prepares to lay out her agenda for the year in next week’s State of the State address.
The group’s goals center on implementing the city’s Vision Zero program statewide, with the goal of eliminating traffic deaths entirely by 2050.
The city’s Vision Zero initiative launched in 2014 under former Mayor Bill de Blasio. It called for eliminating all traffic deaths across the five boroughs by 2024. Last year, 252 people were killed by drivers, 47 fewer than 2013, the year before Vision Zero launched.
Transportation Alternatives also wants Hochul to require all state DOT projects to consider accessibility needs, as well as pedestrian and cyclist features.
Hochul has already taken some steps in that direction by signing the Complete Streets bill last year, which allows extra funding for towns and cities to add safety features when redesigning streets.
“To achieve our climate goals, prevent traffic violence, address inequities and support our economic recovery, we must put our streets to higher use,” Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, wrote in a statement.
Michael Fleischer, a former executive director of the state Thruway Authority who contributed to the 2006 plan, said state officials were ahead of the curve by thinking about reducing greenhouse emissions nearly 20 years ago.
“The master plan was always intended to be a living document, it was not intended to be a list of projects but a way of looking at transportation policy and practices,” said Fleischer. “And ways that all the transportation partners can look at these issues, not from a siloed ‘what agency do I work for,’ but what is the best transportation solution.”
Another demand from safe streets advocates is to pass Sammy’s Law, which would allow New York City lawmakers to set the speed limit for the city without approval from state legislators.
While the bulk of the requests from Transportation Alternatives focused on reducing the use of vehicles and the damage caused by them, the group also wants Hochul to make cycling safer and more affordable. It called for the state to offer rebates for buying an e-bike or bicycle. They also want to legalize the “Idaho stop,” which allows cyclists to roll through a stop sign if there are no vehicles present. Secure bike parking at subway stations and other state-owned transit facilities was also part of the pitch.
The group also proposed a new program to allow low-income residents to rent e-bike and e-cargo bikes from libraries.
It remains unclear to what degree Hochul will hone in on street safety issues during next week’s address. She has said she’ll outline new funding for the MTA, which forecasts a major budget crunch in the coming years.
“Governor Hochul has taken action to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers, whether you’re on the sidewalk, in a car, riding a bike, or utilizing transit services, and we are committed to working with the legislature to continue to improve transportation access and safety and meet our climate goals,” Hochul spokesperson John Lindsay told Gothamist on Wednesday.
Transportation Alternatives has a suggestion to address the MTA’s multibillion-dollar fiscal cliff: use federal funds dedicated to highway projects to keep the agency’s finances above water.