How New York's Outgoing Chief Of Transportation Made The City Richer And Healthier

Today, Bill de Blasio takes over as mayor of New York City, and Janette Sadik-Khan steps down from her post as commissioner of the Department of Transportation.

She will be replaced by Polly Trottenberg, the current Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In her six-year tenure, Sadik-Khan has made a lot of changes.

She focused on reducing the number of cars on NYC streets. She built hundreds of miles of bike lanes, introduced a hugely successful bike share program, created pedestrian plazas, and transformed Times Square.

Her grand goal was to make it easier and safer to get around in New York, and to make the city a better place for residents and businesses, she explained in a 2011 essay for Slate.

Sadik-Khan was also responsible for managing a $US2 billion annual budget and 4,700 employees. She was in charge of maintaining and improving 6,300 miles of road, nearly 800 bridges, 12,000 intersections with traffic signals, and the Staten Island Ferry.

She caught plenty of flack for things like audible cross walk signals to help the blind and taking away parking spaces to make room for Citi Bike stations. But she stood her ground, and the changes were made.

So what’s the net effect of Sadik-Khan’s work?

New York City is healthier and richer.

There are guards on duty to keep everyone where they belong.

On the eve of the opening of New York's bike share program, Sadik-Khan announced that Street Safety Managers -- who first went to work on the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges in 2011 -- would be on duty in areas with heavy pedestrian, cyclist, and vehicular traffic.

Their job was to remind everyone to stay in their designated lanes. They were be on the streets during morning and afternoon rush hours between April and October.

Neighborhoods are easier to navigate.

To make life better for pedestrians, the DOT decided to install 150 'wayfinding' signs around the city (including the one pictured, in Long Island City, Queens).

'We have a great system of signage for cars, but we don't have a good system of signage for people,' Sadik-Khan said.

The program cost $US6 million, most of it funded by the federal government, WNYC reported.

And she spread her knowledge with a TED talk.

In October 2012, she gave a TED talk titled 'You Can Remake Your Streets.' She explained her straightforward approach to change:

'The temporary materials are important because we were able to show how it worked. I work for a data-driven mayor, as you know, so it was all about the data. If it worked better for traffic, if it was better for mobility, better for business, we would keep it.

'And if it didn't work, no harm, no foul, we could put it back the way that it was because these were temporary materials, and that was a very big part of the buy-in.'

Now see how things are run in other cities.

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