The new book, Streetlight, by former New York Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is an eye opener on how modern cities are planning and implementing solutions for moving people around.
Reading it gives more insight into the principles and stats that drive (or should be driving) city’s decisions about transportation options. The centrepiece of the book is Janette convincing Mayor Bloomberg that closing Times Square to cars will make traffic flow better. In addition she’s demonstrates that safety is her responsibility in addition to getting from A to B.
Transportation is one of the few professions where nearly 33,000 people can lose their lives in one year and no one in a position of responsibility is in danger of losing his or her job.
The book also does a great job of showing how residents and business respond to street design changes. On display is every example of FUD, criticism and nonsense ever heard at community consultation meetings.
The critics claimed that the project would create traffic chaos, city-paralyzing traffic. Carmageddon. We were told that no one would want to walk in the plazas or visit Times Square, that the change would strip the area of its character.
Meanwhile Sadik-Khan provides the data showing that Evidence Based Management is clearly pre-eminent in Bloomberg’s term.
When they asked retail and business managers, 68 percent said the plazas should be made permanent, and this pro-business sentiment wasn’t just based on anecdotes. The Real Estate Board of New York found that per-square-foot rental rates for ground-floor properties fronting Times Square doubled in a single year, a figure that would eventually triple. Five major retailers opened new stores in Times Square, and by the fall of 2011, Cushman & Wakefield announced that, for the first time in its rankings, Times Square was one of the top ten retail districts on the planet.
She goes on to cover topics such as parking, bike lanes, pedestrian crossings and the battles encountered over her 7 and half years of improving safety and transportation efficiency. These topics don’t sound like interesting reading however anyone out on the street in any city see them in action. Plus for our area which is going through change with accompanying issues of parking, traffic coming up at every community meeting, this book should be required reading.