New York City Council Passes Streets Master Plan Legislation

The bustling streets of the Big Apple will soon be safer and greener. Last week, the City Council passed Speaker Corey Johnson’s bill requiring the NYC Department of Transportation to develop a citywide master plan for streets every five years – one of NYLCV’s policy priorities.

Though it may not be obvious, reimagining street space goes hand-in-hand with combating the climate crisis. This bill will make it easier for New Yorkers to use sustainable modes of transportation, improve mobility, reduce dependency on cars, decrease pollution, improve air quality, and combat climate change.

Intro 1557-A contains plans for additional protected bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, redesigned intersections, and more bus lanes. It will reclaim much of the city’s streets for pedestrians, bus riders, and bicyclists. A streetscape that prioritizes buses, biking, and walking will lead to fewer cars on the road

Speaker Johnson highlighted combating climate change and promoting sustainable modes of transportation as the bill’s major benefits at a press conference in support of the bill last week. Transportation emissions are the state’s largest contributor to climate change. With fewer cars on the road, pollution will decrease and air quality will improve, but in order to encourage New Yorkers to get out of their cars in favor of a more sustainable mode of transportation, we have to make those options much more attractive. That’s why the Streets Master Plan is so critical.

These benefits align with two of the City’s major initiatives: the Vision Zero initiative to create safer streets and the OneNYC plan to slash emissions and combat climate change.

Furthermore, many of these benefits have been proven. In other shared street examples, like the Flatiron Plaza, added bike lanes and increased pedestrian spaces led to a 29% decrease in traffic crashes.  

The first master plan due is due by December 2021 and the bill designates many of the details of what should be included in it.  Within the plan’s first two years, the City will add 2 million square feet of pedestrian space and accessibility features. Over the course of five years, the City will add 250 miles of protected bike lanes and 150 miles of protected bus lanes overseen by traffic cameras. Every year for five years, 1,000 additional intersections will receive Transit Signal Priority treatment; part of which includes programming red lights to limit bus wait time, which will lead to faster buses. These benefits are intended to increase convenience for all bus passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Our hope is that this will lead to more New Yorkers making the switch from cars to bikes and buses or traveling by foot

Due to the bill’s climate benefits, we included this policy in our NYLCV 2019 Policy Agenda. We also joined Speaker Johnson, Transportation Alternative, and other groups and officials at a press conference for the bill. Advancing the city’s transit efficiency will create considerable opportunities moving forward in the mission to create a greener and more sustainable city.