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Pavement As Lab

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Madison Square  

The project of reforming New York’s streets is nowhere near complete. Select Bus Service is in its infancy and needs to be radically extended. So does the Citibike system. Permeable paving can absorb rainwater and make crossing the street after a storm a less amphibious adventure. And we still need to find a way for the various ways of getting around the city to coexist more peaceably. Cycling rates have risen and the Citibike system is a success, but we still have an adversarial atmosphere in which riders, drivers, and pedestrians act as if they belong to different tribes. This is still a city full of Ratso Rizzos yelling, I’m walkin’ here!

Continuing the job will take commitment and the continued pressure of advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives. Many of Sadik-Khan’s interventions have been quick and cheap, requiring little more than a few hours and a can of paint. Meanwhile, the DOT’s traditional responsibilities keep sponging up money: In the next decade, we’ll need to spend $4.3 billion to keep bridges in good repair, $2.4 billion for roadway maintenance, $300 million for the Staten Island Ferry. Faced with the staggering cost of covering basics, the next administration may be tempted to forget the frills. That would be a terrible mistake, because it’s those background tweaks that improve life for everyone in the most democratic part of the city: its streets.


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