Transformando las Calles de Nueva York: Una conversación con Janette Sadik-Khan
Desde que empezó en su nuevo puesto como comisaria del Departamento de Transporte en la mitad del año 2007, Janette Sadik-Khan se retó a transformar las calles de Nueva York. Se reto a mejorar la comodidad y seguridad vial para peatones y ciclistas y a reorientar el foco del departamento al diseño de calles para múltiple medios de transporte. Empleando conceptos innovadores, la comisaria y su equipo lograron muchos cambios a favor de ciudadanos en poco tiempo. Para definir esta nueva dirección, el departamento tomó lecciones de otras ciudades - como Bogotá, Colombia y Copenhague, Dinamarca que lograron transformar sus sistemas de transporte - para crear su propio modelo para revolucionar el sistema de transporte en Nueva York.
En esta entrevista exclusiva, la comisaria conversa con Mark Gorton, el director ejecutivo de “The Open Planning Project” acerca de algunos de sus proyectos a corto plazo que aún logrados en poco tiempo, han mejorado totalmente el ambiente de la ciudad. Estos proyectos incluyen la nueva cicloruta en la 9o avenida, plazas para peatones en Madison Square y Broadway, vías exclusivas para los buses en carreteras principales y un evento exitoso estilo Ciclovía.
To watch in English without subtitles click here.
Mark Gorton: [00:00] Hi, I’m Mark Gorton, I’m delighted to be here today with Janette Sadik-Khan, who is the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation in New York City. I have to start off with a disclaimer that I’m a big fan of your work and what’s been going on at the Department of Transportation recently. A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to ride in transportation’s alternatives century ride around, all round New York City, and it was practically a tour of the different improvements that DOT has done. There’s Broadway, I guess you’re calling it Broadway Boulevard, Madison Square which is just a fantastic change in the street treatment. I mean just bike lanes all over the city. I mean I guess it’s just the scope and the scale of it is really amazing.
Janette Sadik-Khan: [00:42] All these transformations that people are seeing on the streets of New York reflect the fact that for many years we’ve looked at our streets as really utilitarian corridors that have been really designed to get traffic to go as fast as possible from point A to point B. And we need to take a fresh look at our streets and our streetscape and how we use them. And the fact is, is that we’re going to have a million more people in New York City by 2030 and so we have to take a much different approach to our streets. So one of the projects that you referred to is the Madison Square project. And so what we did is on 23rd Street… it used to be the longest pedestrian crossing in the city, it was the equivalent of two football fields to cross that intersection. And so what we did is we reengineered the streetscape so that we’ve created about 45,000 square feet of space that we’ve turned back into really a public plaza. And it has really transformed that area. When you think about it you’ve got all this iconic architecture all around you, and so you’ve got the flat iron building which is spectacular, you can look up and see the Empire State building. And now you have a safe place to sit down, read the newspaper, drink a cup of coffee, catch up with a friend or catch up with your email and enjoy this space. On Broadway Boulevard where we’ve taken seven blocks from 42nd Street to 34th Street and basically designed that so that we’re improving the pedestrian experience and putting out tables and chairs and umbrellas, all of which are being maintained by the Business Improvement Districts. And the businesses along the corridor support it because they understand all that additional foot traffic, all those people spending time enjoying these new created spaces means more business. So these are some of the projects that are starting to get into the public conscience about wow, we can use our streets differently.
Mark Gorton: [02:36] Yeah, I mean I had a meeting with a guy who said his office is on, I think, 40th Street and Broadway, and he said from the first morning that Broadway Boulevard was in there, all the tables and chairs were just filled all the time.
Janette Sadik-Khan: [02:48] It’s amazing. I mean this city really doesn’t have enough seats as it is. We put down just the orange cones, even before we get to the epoxy or the tables or the chairs, people are out in them, just in-between the cones because that’s how hungry people are for public space.
Mark Gorton: [03:04] We were talking a little bit about Madison Square before, but this is another place where you’ve gone and reclaimed pavement. I mean where we’re standing this was cars driving here not that long ago.
Janette Sadik-Khan: [03:14] Right, it used to be lanes and lanes of traffic. We’ve got the medians there again for safety. We’ve got the planters there, you know, a thousand pound planters which are great also again protecting pedestrians. You know it’s created a great little vista in the heart of the meatpacking district.
Mark Gorton: [03:29] Yeah, it’s amazing. I mean look, I mean people just enjoying space I mean in a way they could never do that before. I mean actual human life in this city.
Janette Sadik-Khan: [03:37] And you come here, you know, one o’clock in the morning and it’s just as filled because New York City’s a 24 hour a day city.
Mark Gorton: [03:45] I think one of the great things is it shows the enormous latent demand for just public space and sitting. So even thinking about like providing seating as part of DOT’s mission is a real transformation in the thinking.
Janette Sadik-Khan: [03:56] Well exactly, and even how we approach, you know, sidewalks, you know, too much of the time I think pedestrians have been seen as sort of just guests in this space, you know, and they’re really used for other purposes. And so really putting a prime role for designing for people, designing for pedestrians, designing for cyclists, designing for buses, designing for better mobility, designing for a more sustainable city, it’s all part of a package. Well here we are at beautiful Gansevoort Plaza and again this is just showing what it is that we can do in very short order with temporary materials. I mean we’ve striped, you know, the outside which is our faux sidewalk and put up these bollards, which are really important for safety, they’re very heavy, so pedestrians are protected within the space. And again just taking blocks, you know, from old bridge reconstruction projects and put them down.
Mark Gorton: [04:50] I mean it’s amazing how easy and inexpensive it is to make a public plaza.
Janette Sadik-Khan: [04:55] Yes, absolutely, and particularly when you’re working with the bones of this kind of neighbourhood. I mean this is the old meat packing district and you take a look at this beautiful Belgian block and so we’re really reclaiming the Belgian block and highlighting that.
Mark Gorton: [05:11] What about traffic calming?
Janette Sadik-Khan: [05:12] Well traffic calming is one way that we’re bringing, I think, transformative change to the streets here and you can see it. I mean this used to be kind of like a, you know, roadway racecourse here. And now you’ve got trucks that are obeying the stop signs and taxis that are doing the same and people really sort of reclaiming this space back.
Mark Gorton: [05:31] You know so it really does point out just how drivers take psychic cues from the way the roads are designed.
Janette Sadik-Khan: [05:37] Exactly.
Mark Gorton: [05:37] And that if you design them with people in mind, they might actually obey the laws more.
Janette Sadik-Khan: [05:43] Yeah, and so that’s very much what we’re seeing. And again, you know, it’s a bit of a tipping point, it’s a cultural change and so, you know, it takes a little while for traffic to, you know, understand that the rules of the road have changed and in this case, you know, that feet are driving the traffic pattern here.
Mark Gorton: [06:00] Most people don’t really get would be what you’re doing on 34th Street, so can you describe, I guess, what you’re doing there and the motivation behind it?
Janette Sadik-Khan: [06:08] What we’ve done is we are giving priority treatment to buses on 34th Street. We have painted in very attractive terracotta type of lane, in fact this looks like the lane that we’ve painted on 34th Street, and we’ve created a dedicated lane that is going to… that will have soft barriers on it to demarcate the lane visually, physically. We’ve got the largest bus fleet in North America, and the honour of the slowest bus speeds in North America. At this point in time you can walk across 34th Street from river to river faster than you can take a bus. And so in terms of improving mobility and getting people to where they need to go, out of their cars and onto public transportation, we need to make that system work better. And so since our roads are really the rails for the bus system, we’re trying to reengineer our roads to better account for the mobility of buses. So we’ve done that on Fordham Road. We did a similar treatment, the buses get to the green light first, it gets priority in the queue and we’ve got off-board fare collection, so you can pay before the bus comes and then get on the bus, because waiting times are about a third of the delay with buses right now. We’ve got iconic buses, so that people understand that here’s a different looking bus that has a different priority in the system, that there’s enforcement to keep cars out of it. And even on 34th Street what we’re doing is we’re using cameras to enforce against taxis that are a lot of the problem in midtown, and to keep them out of the lane. So if they get into the lane then they’re going to get a ticket.
Mark Gorton: [07:43] We continue our walking tour of street transformation, and so why don’t you talk a little bit about what you’ve done here?
Janette Sadik-Khan: [07:51] Well this is one of our most exciting projects. What we’ve done is we’ve created a completely protected bike lane for bikers by flipping the parking lane with what’s traditionally the bike lane. And you can see we’ve got the bike lane and then we’ve got a painted median and then we’ve got the parking lane, so everybody’s safe. You can see we’ve got great plantings in the middle, so we’ve created a really attractive corridor, and then on the other side of the street we’ve also changed the parking regulations, the delivery regulations so we’ve provided additional delivery windows for businesses.
Mark Gorton: [08:27] Is this a complete street?
Janette Sadik-Khan: [08:29] This is the epitome of a complete street. This is a safer corridor. This is a greener corridor. This makes it possible for all the users to use this street in a safe manner. And this is really the ideal for what it is that we’re trying to get done on the streets of New York, all 6,000 miles of street.
Mark Gorton: [08:47] So this summer, I mean I guess for three weekends you closed down Park Avenue between 72nd and, well basically all the way to Brooklyn Bridge. I mean I thought it was a huge success. I mean everyone out there was just having, you know, a fantastic time. What was DOT’s experience with Summer Streets?
Janette Sadik-Khan: [09:04] Summer Streets was a complete and unabashed home run. Transformative. And to see people out on the streets walking and biking and hanging out was amazing. We also programmed the streets which I think was a nice, very important component to it. So we had fencing on the streets. We had cha-cha, samba classes. We rolled out tennis courts. I never knew that there was a big statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the founder of the New York Central Railroad, at the 42nd Street viaduct. I’d never seen him before. And, you know, you looked up and you saw these incredible iconic buildings. You know, just to see that, to stop and not worry about getting hit by somebody or something was really I think incredible. And kids in particular were just going crazy, running around. So that’s I think the experience that people had and that we had, and we got a lot of coverage around the world, and I think it’s a great way for cities to experiment.
Mark Gorton: [10:04] It’s great to see New York in it’s leadership position. I mean it’s where the city should be, you know, innovating, showing other places how it can be done. It’s really satisfying to see other cities starting to do the same stuff we’ve been doing here. I mean you get enormous credit for that.
[10:19] Well, and Mayor Bloomberg who’s, you know, really set the
table nicely in terms of work and then change the way that we do business
in the city and we understand the imperative of sustainability.
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