Getting NYC to 80×50: Transportation

Publication | June 18, 2017

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This week, the NYLCV Education Fund hosted a Transportation Forum as the first part of its series on Mayor de Blasio’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. The forum was centered around the question: how can we ensure sustainable mobility for all New Yorkers? In attendance were a range of interested stakeholders, including consultants, professors, and government employees, who are somehow invested in transportation and sustainability. Two expert panels fielded questions from both the moderator and the audience, digging deeper into the specifics of the current state of transportation in New York City and what improvements can be made. The panels were streamed on Facebook Live and archived footage is available here. In conjunction, NYLCVEF also released a background paper examining the issue, written by Stephen Miller.

The first panel addressed the best ways to promote sustainable modes of transportation in the outer boroughs. Ultimately, the discussion focused on the general lack of low-carbon public transportation modes in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Although significant money has been invested in transportation infrastructure in Manhattan, similar attention has not been given to the other boroughs. While the panel agreed that In order to successfully introduce transit options, more data needs to be collected and revolutionary modes of transportation may not be the answer. Instead we can greatly improve our existing transit by designating bike and bus lanes, improving board times on buses, and providing ferry access for waterfront communities. Citi Bike may also be implementing pedal-boost technology in the near future, which will make biking

long distances easier and provides a feasible, low-carbon option for all New Yorkers. The panelists stressed that the collaboration happening on stage between public and private sectors is important for crafting effective policies.

In the second panel, a wide variety of individuals engaged on mobility systems of the future, including representatives from Uber, NYU’s Rudin School of Transportation, Sam Schwartz, HR&A and the Department of Transportation. The conversation varied from autonomous cars to ride-sharing to road pricing, but ultimately everyone agreed that the government should start planning according to the development of innovative technologies so they can be seamlessly integrated into the existing structure. The idea of road pricing emerged from the fact that roads are a severely underpriced public utility, and that pricing should be used to make users internalize the cost and create a shift towards more sustainable modes of transport. This would drastically cut emissions, and decrease the traffic congestion that plagues New York. Similarly, autonomous cars provide an opportunity for ride-sharing and could be mandated to be zero-emission, both of which would reduce their carbon footprint.

All in all, both panels facilitated highly productive conversations around transportation in New York City. Stakeholders from a variety of fields collaborated to discuss policy solutions, setting an important example for how policy should be crafted to guide the city to an 80×50 future. There were two major conclusions- that we need to invest in mobility in the outer boroughs by improving existing transportation networks and we need to start planning for future technologies so that they can best complement these other transportation modes. Going forward, these discussions are a great start but are certainly not the end of the conversation on transportation. The ideas that emerged today combined with others across the sector have the potential to radically improve and shift the transportation industry to less carbon-intensive modes.

By: Korinna Garfield

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