Adams Administration Misses Key Street Safety Reporting Deadline
The Adams administration blew past its deadline to give the first legally required progress update on a five-year plan to build hundreds of miles of new bike and bus lanes, the Department of Transportation confirmed this week — heightening advocate concerns after the city failed to meet the plan’s benchmarks in 2022.
DOT was supposed to give public updates on the Streets Master Plan by Feb. 1 but is behind schedule, according to agency spokesperson Vin Barone, who told Streetsblog Wednesday evening officials plan to release the review “soon.”
According to the 2019 law, the agency must release the report publicly at the start of February, including any changes to the streets plan, the current coverage of the city’s bike lane network, and the status of each mileage requirement.
More public information would help the public track DOT’s progress towards the law’s benchmarks of 150 protected bus lanes and 250 miles of protected bike lanes over five years, but the legislation lacks an enforcement mechanism.
“New Yorkers need to know where, when, and how DOT plans to invest in life-saving street safety improvements, especially after the multiple year-one benchmarks were missed,” said Elizabeth Adams, the senior director of Organizing and Advocacy at Transportation Alternatives.
The city fell short of the first-year benchmarks in 2022 — installing 11.95 out of 20 miles of new bus lanes and 25 out of 30 miles of protected bicycle lanes, according to its own calculations.
Little is known about the city’s progress on other items in the law, which also mandated improvements at 500 bus stops each year, 400 redesigned intersections, and 500 accessible pedestrian signals, along with the creation of one million new square feet of pedestrian space by the end of 2023. Adams last fall touted more than 1,300 “treatments” at intersections, but roughly half of the intersections only got retimed traffic lights.
DOT’s claim of 11.95 new bus lane miles was disputed by advocates from Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives, who logged lower numbers than DOT’s official count — just 6.8 miles for buses and 18.9 miles for bikes.
The DOT disputes the advocacy groups’ numbers, but nonetheless, agency insiders have already said that the DOT expects to miss future annual targets as well, which increase this year to 30 miles for buses and 50 miles for bikes.
Advocates insist the city has an obligation to meet the goals set out in the plan, which Transportation Alternatives’ Adams called “not optional.”
“The Streets Plan law is a law, not a suggestion,” said Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director at Riders Alliance. “The department needs to comply with each and every aspect, from planning through to implementation.”
A public dashboard would allow the public to monitor progress, so it’s not left up to advocates to fill in the blanks, said Transportation Alternatives Research Director Philip Miatkowski.
“Advocates shouldn’t have to be the ones tracking bus and bike lane targets, for example. New Yorkers shouldn’t be left in the dark,” Miatkowski said.
DOT declined to give a reason for the report’s delay, but chronic staff shortages and political opposition have held up progress on many street safety upgrades since Mayor Adams took office, the mayor’s own quarterly management report shows.
State transit leaders with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have urged their city colleagues to get with the program to help speed up the Big Apple’s sluggish buses.
Last week, MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber told reporters “we have to start hitting the numbers,” and that officials “need a little bit more cooperation in some cases from some neighborhoods [where] sometimes folks resist having bus lanes.”