In The News

The Stringer Plan: Buses, Buses, Buses — And Pedestrianized Zones, Bike Highways and Far Fewer Placards

Originally published in StreetsBlog NYC.

If elected mayor, Scott Stringer promises to build more bike lanes, pedestrianize more of the city, completely reform parking rules, massively reduce the issuance of parking placards to city employees, boost transit (especially buses!) and reduce the ability of community boards to block or delay crucial street safety projects.

It’s all part of Stringer’s three part, 17-point, 26-page plan, “Our Streets, Our Recovery: Let’s Get All New Yorkers Moving,” that the comptroller’s campaign released on Wednesday [PDF].

First, the highlights (yes, in three parts with nearly a dozen bullets!):

Part I of Stringer’s plan is about street redesign. It includes some existing city initiatives, such as permanent open streets, more dedicated busways and bus lanes, curbside loading zones and expanding the city’s proposed containerized garbage pilot. But it also includes:

Part II focuses on transit, which “is failing to serve New Yorkers in the 21st century” because so much of it “was laid out in the last century” and a majority of jobs created between 2000 and 2018 were located outside of Manhattan. This section includes a demand to restore 24-7 subway service immediate (something not worth discussing here, as candidates won’t have this power even if elected).

Part III is about infrastructure. Some of Stringer’s plan calls for policies that any mayor would have to undertake, such as moving quickly to “unlock capital infrastructure spending halted during the pandemic” and to “speed up the construction process by removing bureaucratic barriers.” And pretty much everyone supports the Gateway project. But there are some highlights:

The plan does not mention divesting the NYPD from its role overseeing traffic enforcement and crash investigations, which is the subject of a Council bill announced last month. In a separate policing plan unveiled earlier this month, the comptroller said the city should “remove uniformed officers from traffic stops and accident reporting, and curtail consent and pretextual stops.” The plan also said that “the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad should be transferred to the DOT and their mandate expanded to take on a more concerted role in street safety.” Stringer’s mayoral rival Shaun Donovan supports getting the NYPD out of those roles.

Overall, Stringer says his proposals would double cycling in the city in his first term (cycling more than doubled between 2008 and 2018, so another doubling would be impressive). He focused a big part of his plan on safe cycling for students.

“Most high school students currently ride the subway, bus, or drive to school, even though 40 percent attend a school in their home district,” the plan states. “Our students, just like our workers, need more protected bike lanes leading to schools, more bike parking on school campuses, and more affordable bike-share memberships.”

Stringer would create “dozens of miles of bike priority” streets, modeled after roadways in Holland and Belgium that make it difficult for cars — which are “invited guests” — to go above 5 miles per hour anyway. And the bike-to-school plan would include 75 miles of protected bike lanes built around 50 high schools across the city within five years, plus free Citi Bike memberships to “lower-income” students inside the Citi Bike zone. (The 75 miles of PBLs near schools is included in the 350 miles of PBLs that Stringer promises to build in his first five years, a spokesman said.)

He also supports a state bill that would subsidize electric bike purchases (just as electric cars are subsidized currently.

But the core of Stringer’s plan is buses, with a promise to be the “Bus Mayor.” It’s based on his 2017 report on how the city should improve surface transportation.

“The streets, traffic lights, curbs, and sidewalks that the city operates will be optimized to give bus riders the fast, reliable, frequent, and accessible service they deserve,” the plan states, “creating a system that can both accelerate the recovery and support growth in the future. The result will be shorter commutes, better job access, less crowded roads and subways, and a more equitable transportation system for all New Yorkers.”

The bus plan itself has 19 points (!), including building 35 miles of dedicated bus lanes every year (the city built about 17 miles last year — and that was a record); preventing bus lanes from being blocked by designing them better from the start; reducing boarding times by building out sidewalks directly to the bus entry point; and increasing off-peak and weekend service (using the city’s MTA contribution as leverage).

“Our communities of color and non-Manhattan residents suffer the longest commutes, the highest asthma rates, the worst access to parks and community space, the highest rates of pedestrian and cycling injuries, the fewest protected bike lanes and subway stops, and too many working people can’t get where they need to go, when they need to go there,” the plan states.

Stringer’s proposal was immediately lauded by Curbed, which seems to have anointed the comptroller as the candidate that gets it:

“Politics divides us into transportation tribes — drivers, bikers, passengers, pedestrians — but in practice we are constantly switching among all of them,” the outlet’s Justin Davidson wrote today. “So it’s invigorating to see a candidate for mayor, Scott Stringer, treat mobility not just as a technical and budgetary problem, but as a multilayered set of human activities. He’s thought about how to move kids safely to class (by connecting 50 high schools with the city’s bike-lane network), how to keep bus riders out of the rain (more shelters), how restaurants and shops can keep operating outdoors while still leaving room for foot traffic and wheelchairs (widen sidewalks), how to serve all the people who don’t head off to the office at rush hour but travel around the clock, how slow walkers can get across the street without being crushed by a left-turning SUV (redesign intersections).”