Transportation: Trends to Watch for the Future of NYC
The start of 2022 marks a point of transition between Bill de Blasio’s eight years in charge of New York City and the arrival of Mayor Eric Adams. A mostly new City Council just took office.
THE CITY is giving New York City a checkup by tracking its vital signs year by year on health, poverty, crime, housing, environment, homelessness, transportation and education, showing progress through de Blasio’s terms in office into the pandemic — and the stage set for Adams.
Bill de Blasio pledged to eliminate traffic deaths with his Vision Zero initiative. But a contrasting picture emerged in recent years. After falling during the first five years of the outgoing mayor’s administration, the number of fatalities in motor collisions has increased in the last two.
The police department recorded 269 deaths in 2020 and 288 in 2021, making it the deadliest period in at least a decade. Since 2014 when de Blasio took office, more than 2,000 people — an average of 250 a year — have died in car crashes.
The fatalities happened after city government interventions that included a 25 mph speed limit — down from 30, expanded speed and red light cameras, pedestrian-friendly crosswalk lights, more speed humps, widened sidewalks and more.
But a city law requiring remedial driver education and even vehicle impoundment for those who repeatedly rack up enforcement camera violations did not result in the required enforcement — including in the case of a driver who killed a 3-month-old in Brooklyn last year after driving the wrong way down a street despite having dozens of tickets.
De Blasio launched the Better Buses initiative in 2019 to bring bus speeds up to 10 miles per hour. But the MTA data shows that buses are slower today than they were in 2015 when MTA started collecting these stats, even while fewer people are using public transit.
Buses clocked an average of 8 miles per hour in November 2021, compared to 8.2 miles per hour in January 2015. The speeds varied by boroughs, with buses in Manhattan running at 6.1 miles per hour, 7.4 miles per hour in Brooklyn and 7.8 miles per hour in The Bronx. The bus speeds in The Bronx fell by 0.7 miles per hour since January 2015.
The only notable gain came in April 2020, when bus speeds reached 9.2 miles per hour as a result of dampened vehicle traffic during the pandemic shutdown.
City buses carry millions of people a day, including hundreds of thousands of essential workers who depend on public transit to get to work.
MTA data shows that bus ridership fell consistently each year during de Blasio’s tenure –– from an average of 2.5 million per weekday in 2015 to 2.2 million per weekday in 2019. The pandemic accelerated the declines as ridership dropped by half in 2020. Roughly 63% of that had recovered as of December 2021 — only to plunge to below 45% of pre-pandemic levels during January 2022’s omicron wave.
One of the core goals of the Better Buses plan was to create 10 to 15 miles of new bus lanes each year, but only 14 miles were installed in two years from July 2019 to June 2021, according to the 2021 Mayor’s Management Report.
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