2011-07-01 / Top Stories

DOT Provides Pedestrians With New Help

New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan recently announced a Request for Proposals (RFP) to bring a comprehensive pedestrian information system to sidewalks in key New York neighborhoods. The initiative is a critical first step in making New York City’s world-class streets easier to navigate and even more accessible for New Yorkers and visitors alike, and the first in a series of steps to improve mobility whether you’re on foot, on a bike, in a car or taking mass transit. A coordinated pedestrian information network, known as “wayfinding,” will help pedestrians crack the code for traveling to, from and around the city’s neighborhoods, business districts, transit stops and landmarks on foot. By providing clear, readable signs, pedestrians will be able to better orient themselves to determine how long it takes to walk to key locations.

The RFP calls for a system and its elements to be designed and implemented in four New York City districts: Long Island City, Queens; Prospect Heights/Crown Heights, Brooklyn; and Chinatown and parts of Midtown in Manhattan. “As our streets become safer, more inviting places, it’s even more important that a common language unite these spaces and open them up in new and exciting ways,” said Sadik-Khan. “An information system that points the way to key destinations knits together neighborhoods and makes local businesses even more accessible to all New Yorkers.” “Long Island City is in the midst of major transformation,” said Gayle Baron, president of the Long Island City Partnership. “The neighborhood is home to thousands of additional residents, 16 new hotels, and expanded restaurant and retail offerings. New galleries, theaters and individual artists have joined the cultural institutions already here. At the same time, major companies are moving their headquarters to Long Island City. It is an ideal time to help residents, visitors and employees navigate our often confusing street grid through improved pedestrian signage.” “The 34th Street Partnership is located in the heart of the City’s main business district; every day hundreds of thousands of workers and tourists flood our district,” said Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership. “The Partnership looks forward to upgrading its existing wayfinding system as part of this DOT initiative. A standardized citywide pedestrian sign system would highlight our neighborhood’s offerings, and increase the number of people who walk instead of take taxis from our transit terminals, such as Penn Station.”

“Chinatown is a major destination for visitors,” said Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership. “However, no one knows that we are only three to four minutes from the Brooklyn Bridge and only a minute or two from the court complexes. Pedestrian signs would make our neighborhood more accessible to visitors and locals alike. The street grid can be confusing, even to people who live here.”

“The Fashion District is arguably New York City’s most central business district, anchored by three bustling transportation hubs and the city’s most iconic tourist destinations, including Times and Herald squares and the Empire State Building,” said Barbara Randall, fxecutive director of the Fashion Center BID. “You can’t get more Midtown than the Fashion District, and a wayfinding system will help visitors anywhere in the neighborhood easily get to the countless attractions just blocks away.” “Heart of Brooklyn is a partnership between Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park and Prospect Park Zoo,” said Ellen Salpeter, director of the Heart of Brooklyn. “As a major cultural destination in central Brooklyn, a comprehensive wayfinding system would measurably improve cross-visitation between and among our institutions and the local commercial corridors. From local residents and merchants to domestic and international visitors, everyone wins.”

With 31 percent of all trips in New York City made by foot and 22 percent of all car trips under one mile, the city is an ideal location for launching a comprehensive pedestrian sign system to encourage walking. Even longtime New Yorkers are frequently turned around and can’t easily determine north, according to a survey. In addition to promoting walking as a healthy and easy activity, a pedestrian information system can relieve overcrowding on mass transit by highlighting walking as both a mode of choice and convenience. It also encourages exploration, and with it the potential to boost profits for local businesses based on increased foot traffic. Additionally, the system strengthens the goals outlined in PlaNYC and DOT’s strategic plan, enhancing public space while helping to engineer a greener, greater New York City. The deadline to respond to the RFP is July 27. Proposals will highlight applicants’ approaches to and experiences in creating stylized, comprehensive wayfinding systems.

DOT will work closely with the selected vendor and the four districts to design a standardized system based on extensive community input. Any program will be reviewed and approved by the Public Design Commission and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The consultant will then install and monitor the sign system’s effectiveness. From there, the system will be expanded to other neighborhoods that elect to install wayfinding signage.

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