DOT May (May?!) Fund the Streets Master Plan For This Year, But Advocates Want More

Mayor Eric Adams is all-in on free buses, but needs to get more red paint on the ground.
Mayor Eric Adams is all-in on free buses, but needs to get more red paint on the ground.

Pols and advocates are demanding that the city actually fund the long-awaited Streets Master Plan, whose goal it is to create a safer, and more bike- and pedestrian-friendly New York, with hundreds of new miles of protected bike lanes and bus lanes, cleaner sidewalks, and car-free streets over its five-year scope.

Historic legislation that passed the City Council in 2019 — after last-minute support from former Mayor de Blasio because its implementation would fall to the next mayor — requires the city to implement a transportation master plan that meets such benchmarks as 150 miles of protected bus lanes over five years, with at least 20 miles in the first year; and 250 miles of protected bike lanes over five years, with at least 30 miles in the first year.

The Department of Transportation’s 96-page plan issued late last year claimed the agency did not have the money to implement it — so on Wednesday, advocates demanded that the city set aside at least $170 million annually, especially amid one of the deadliest years on the streets of New York City since Vision Zero.

“DOT is in danger of missing the plan’s required benchmarks without dedicated funding,” reads an open letter to Mayor Adams from 60 advocacy groups, including Transportation Alternatives, Open Plans, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Bronx Health REACH, Lyft/Citi Bike, Lime, and the NY League of Conservation Voters.

Streetsblog last reported that DOT had said it could only build out 100 miles of protected bus lanes over five years, as opposed to the required 150, and only 150 miles of protected bike lanes in the same half-decade, instead of the mandated 250. At a hearing on Wednesday, now under new leadership, DOT told the City Council that it has the funds to hit the 30 miles of protected bike lanes this year — plus a few — but is still counting out pennies for the future.

“We think we are on target for meeting our milestones for this calendar year, and we are really gonna be working hard to make sure we can meet the milestones for the future years as well,” said Deputy Commissioner Eric Beaton.

The DOT’s $1.3-billion budget for fiscal year 2023 — slightly more than it got in fiscal year 2020 — includes $438 million for traffic operations, including signals, streetlights, automated enforcement, and parking; $214 million for roadway maintenance; $145 million for transportation planning and management, including installation of street signs and roadway markings; $123 million for ferry operations and maintenance; $115 million for bridge maintenance and inspection; and $294 million for other DOT operations and administration, including sidewalk management and inspection.

Critically, the budget does not specify how much is currently allocated to fund the master plan, and DOT could not provide a number.

“We are still assessing what funding needs there are for NYC Streets plan, and will be working within the administration to address funding through the budget process,” a spokesperson for DOT told Streetsblog earlier this month.

Council members who sit on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure raised other DOT-related issues during the hearing, including commercial loading zones, the beleaguered Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the rise in traffic fatalities and speeding as an epidemic of its own.

Surprisingly, no one mentioned placard abuse enforcement, or really, lack thereof.