The Mayor’s Management Report of September 2016 touches upon objectives for the New York City Department of Transportation in the coming fiscal year. Among DOT’s objectives enumerated in the report is to “provide a safe transportation network,” supported by a set of goals, which includes “improv[ing] safety for pedestrians, motorists and bus and bike riders.” To meet this goal, DOT reports a series of improvements it has already made, including:
- 81 street improvement projects
- 395 speed humps (exceeding the targeted number of 250)
- 2 million linear feet of roadway safety markings (falling short of the targeted number by 4.8 million)
- 47 accessible pedestrian signals installed (exceeding the targeted number of 25)
- Pedestrian countdown signals at 1,113 locations
- 648 traffic signals reset with Leading Pedestrian Intervals, giving pedestrians a head start crossing the street
The results of these improvements are mixed at present. Traffic fatalities were at a record low of 236 in FY2016, which was a decline of five percent from the previous year’s total. But overall crashes rose seven percent. Even so, fatalities dropped seven percent for motorists and passengers and four percent for bicyclists and pedestrians. (It is worth noting that statistics for fiscal year 2016 do not match the 2016 calendar year, which, according to DOT’s 2016 fatality report, saw an increase in fatalities for cyclists and pedestrians.)
Moving forward, DOT plans to install 250 more speed bumps and 75 additional accessible pedestrian signals in FY2017 and lay about 50 million linear feet of roadway safety markings.
Time will tell if there is a real correlation between DOT’s initiatives and improved traffic safety. One of the hallmarks of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative is lower speed limits and increased enforcement of speeding infractions. The research behind those measures suggests that collisions at lower speeds are more survivable. In a fiscal year when fatalities dropped while the number of reported crashes rose, we can be encouraged that a pillar of the mayor’s plan is working. However, we eagerly await proof that other elements of “safe traffic network” actually improve safety.
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