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Interview with Iris Weinshall, NYC DOT Commissioner


Iris Weinshall, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, was interviewed this week on the NY1 news channel. I had not heard Mrs. Weinshall speak on TV before, so I was all ears. Here's a rundown of selected questions from the interview I found interesting and/or frustrating.

Please note - this is most definately a summary, not an actual transcript. I'm going on memory from a show that was on a few days ago. Nevertheless, I'm confident I can boil down and convey the essence of the important points from the dialogue.

Q: Every road in Midtown is being repaved in preparation for the upcoming Republican National Convention. What do you say to residents who've been concerned about the roads all this time?
IW: Yes, we're spending $4M to repave all the Midtown roads, but we've also got paving crews working on major projects in The Bronx and Brooklyn so all our efforts are not just for the sake of the convention. When the convention comes to town, yes we do indeed want to put our best foot forward.

Q: In February two boys were killed in Brooklyn when they crossed a major intersection with the "Walk" sign, and a truck make a right turn on red and crushed them. Could a Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) have helped to prevent this tragedy?
IW: We have recommendations to implement LPIs throughout the city, in this case I'm not sure, and they're a measure going through the legislature to make sure trucks have proper mirrors for full visibility.

Q: Congestion pricing. London's got it. Is NYC next?
IW: No.

Q: [I don't remember the exact question, something about the state of gridlock in the city, but I do remember one thing she said.]
IW: I believe that having a lot of traffic in the city is a good thing. It shows the city is bouncing back, that people want to be in the city.

A frustrating interview, but about what could be expected. The DOT's mission is to move as many vehicles as possible through the city. The DOT has undertaken a lot of good projects in the last few years like pedestrian and school safety improvements. However...

Her comments about the Brooklyn truck deaths were sadly disappointing. I would have liked her drop her calm, diplomatic poise for five minutes and show some emotion, "Yes, well shall look into every way to improve the safety of our intersections." Maybe even come down on the driver. Instead, she mentioned truck mirror legislation, giving the driver a pass. She didn't explicity say that the boys were killed because of inadequate truck mirrors mind you. And yet she added to the arsenal of excuses for drivers of large vehicles should something tragic befall under their wheels again.

To summarize: A city soaked with cars is a good thing, and no lip service toward congestion pricing. Is this the city of tomorrow?