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Vision Zero working, but needs yearly benchmarks, greater investment

TransAlt Report Card: Fatalities Down, but at Current Pace, NYC Won’t Reach Goal Until 2055

January 21, 2016 Special from Transportation Alternatives
Graphic courtesy of Transportation Alternatives
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Vision Zero is working, with the number of traffic deaths at historic lows, thanks to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s leadership. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, fatality numbers aren’t falling fast enough to​ get to zero by 2024, and the city is at risk of being more than 30 years behind schedule.

That’s according to Transportation Alternatives’ 2015 Report Card, which found that progress remained dangerously uneven in the second year of the initiative to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. The advocacy group’s study highlights continuing inconsistency among city and state agencies and calls on the Mayor’s Vision Zero Task Force to adopt annual, measurable benchmarks to evaluate traffic safety efforts.    

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said, “The number of traffic fatalities continues to drop because of the de Blasio administration’s commitment to the three E’s of Vision Zero: Engineering to fix dangerous corridors, Enforcement to deter the most deadly driving behavior and Education to change the culture of recklessness on our streets. The mayor has renewed his commitment to get to zero by 2024. But if we’re going to save enough lives each year to meet that goal, the agencies on the Vision Zero Task Force need to commit to another E — evaluation. They must set annual benchmarks to measure progress, and make adjustments to their policies and budgets if they are falling short.”

TransAlt researchers found that if traffic deaths and serious injuries continue to fall at the current rate, New York City won’t reach Vision Zero until 2055, and an estimated 1,800 more people will die in traffic. De Blasio is taking a big step in the right direction by pledging more funds for street redesign, which is essential to save more lives each year. At the Department of Transportation’s current pace, it would take 100 years to fix every dangerous corridor. In Albany, state​  lawmakers must authorize the deployment of more speed cameras around the five boroughs. “Getting Vision Zero back on schedule is a matter of life and death — 1,800 lives, to be exact,” White said.

The report card notes that while a few players are leading innovative traffic safety efforts — especially City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez — most are falling short. Without leadership from their commissioner, precincts of the NYPD (Grade: C-) continue to summons reckless drivers at disparate rates. The Department of Transportation (Grade: B-) has been inconsistent in its still underfunded efforts to fix dangerous streets, too often allowing local community boards to override the recommendations of traffic safety engineers. The Staten Island District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, both of which received a grade of F, have largely bowed out of the effort to eliminate traffic deaths.

“The de Blasio administration is proving every day that it can hang its hat on making our streets safer,” said Rodriguez. “For two straight years, we have set records for the fewest deaths on our streets​ ever; but we are far from done. The third year in this ambitious plan will be about building on our accomplishments and taking Vision Zero to the next level: stricter enforcement against dangerous behavior, cracking down on hit and run drivers, redesigning and rebuilding more troublesome intersections and streets; and finally, a real commitment to letting New Yorkers and other drivers in our city know that their choices matter and poor ones can have devastating consequences.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, “As we work to fulfill the promise of Vision Zero, saving the lives of hundreds of New York City residents every year, I remain committed to expanding my initiatives such as CROSS [Connecting Residents on Safer Streets], which protects pedestrians, cyclists and motorists by extending sidewalks and modernizing traffic signs and signals, and the redesign of hazardous streets and intersections to protect the families and children of Brooklyn..”

“Basic street safety improvements are among the most fundamental and important changes we can make in a community to enhance safety and quality of life for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists,” said State Sen. Daniel Squadron.  

The report card is available at

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