In October the Master Streets plan bill was passed in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the master plan into law on November 19th. The Master Streets Plan Bill in New York City is structured as a continuing series of plans with the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) having to issue new master plans every five years. The first plan would be due in December of 2021 and would include:
- 150 miles of physically or camera-protected bus lanes over five years, with at least 20 miles in the first year and at least 30 miles during each subsequent year.
- Transit signal priority at 750 intersections during the first year and 1,000 intersections during each subsequent year.
- 250 miles of protected bike lanes over five years, with at least 30 miles in the first year and 50 miles in each subsequent year.
- Bus stop upgrades like benches, shelters, and real-time passenger information at 500 bus stop each year.
- Redesigning at least 2,000 signalized intersections over five years, with at least 400 redesigns each year.
- Accessible pedestrian signals at no fewer than 2,500 intersections, with at least 500 installations each year.
- Assessing and amending commercial loading zones and truck routes.
- Developing parking policies to promote the master plan’s goals of safety, mass transit use, reduced vehicle emissions, and access for individuals with disabilities.
One million square feet of pedestrian space must also be created by 2021. The second master plan, due in December 2026 would include the completion of a connected bike lane network, installation of physically or camera-protected bus lanes on all routes where they can be installed, installation of accessible pedestrian signals at no fewer than 2,500 intersections over five years, installation of bus stop upgrades at all bus stops, redesign at least 2,000 intersections over five years, and installation of pedestrian ramps at no fewer than 3,000 street corners. Lastly, the bill also requires reporting in February of each year regarding an update on any changes to the master plan and the progress towards achieving the benchmarks laid out in the plan. The estimated cost to the New York City taxpayer is $1.7 billion.
As DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg referenced in her remarks at the signing ceremony, DOT is working on many of these proposals already, particularly regarding freight movement. Ordinarily, the scant mention of freight accommodations in a bill like this would be alarming but DOT was actively involved in creating the Complete Streets Consideration for Freight and Emergency Vehicles guidebook. They are rolling out various pilots to better accommodate freight, with a master freight plan for New York City to be announced soon.
Still though, will planning hearings be public? Will communities have input? And what are the design standards that are being used? This looks to be about quantity over quality which will hurt communities and won’t move the needle on safety. Without public input, businesses could really suffer. Remember the ill-advised clear curbs pilot which devastated businesses along Roosevelt and Flatbush Avenues. If not for pushback from those communities that plan would still be in place. This is a large and diverse city, one size does not fit all.
As for the de Blasio “master streets plan”, it looks right now that this is more of a master guidebook, the success of safely and efficiently accommodating all road users and commercial entities will depend on how DOT and the City Council fill in the pages.