Mayor de Blasio is pushing hard for “Vision Zero” -- a plan to eliminate traffic-related deaths in the city. The mayor’s fight for this program is a smart mix of good politics and policy and could be a road map for other things he should try to achieve early in his administration.
Several recent pedestrian deaths have received a lot of attention – and just this morning Michael Saul of the Wall Street Journal was hit by a school bus on the Upper West Side. (The intrepid reporter says he was just “shaken up” by the vehicle that plowed into him.) Clearly there’s a problem when the number of traffic fatalities last year (286) is approaching the number of homicides (333).
Stepping into the breach is the mayor, who unveiled a set of 63 proposals to increase traffic safety, including exploring putting in devices in cabs that would turn off the meter if the vehicle was speeding. It’s a sensible plan that will likely have few enemies; it’s hard finding anyone who’s opposed to keeping more pedestrians alive.
Through this year’s heavy snowfall, the mayor is learning that New Yorkers care most about whether their basic needs are being met -- and then maybe they’re willing to worry about the income gap. If you can’t safely walk to the bodega, you’re not going to be wondering about whether the workers there are getting paid a living wage.
One of the many achievements of the Bloomberg administration was the creation of the 311 system—taking the “customer satisfaction” ethos to the public sector and making New Yorkers feel there was a place for them to vent and file complaints that would actually get answered. The 311 lesson is important for de Blasio. While fighting for social justice is important, Vision Zero is the kind of program that helps mayors actually get re-elected.
Amazingly, Albany could serve as Kryptonite for yet another de Blasio plan. Lowering the citywide speed limit to 25 miles per hour and increasing the number of red-light cameras – two key planks in Vision Zero – need the approval of state lawmakers, who are loath to cede any of their power to the five boroughs. And if there’s a way to derail something in Albany, there always seems to be a will. The mayor may need a separate vision for the State Capitol -- which is slowly turning into a speed bump for some of his biggest plans.