Press Releases

Press Release #08-053

DOT study finds an unprecedented period of transit-oriented growth in city travel

First-ever Sustainable Streets Index shows vehicle traffic volumes unchanged from 2003-2007 as transit absorbs all new travel in the City for the first time in more than 60 years

The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) today released Sustainable Streets Index 2008, profiling trends in how people get around in the City during the population growth and economic expansion of the last four years. Compiling years of data on motor vehicle, mass transit, bicycle and ferry use, the study finds that mass transit ridership grew steadily from 2003 to 2007, while the volume of vehicle traffic within the City remained virtually unchanged-marking the first time since World War II that growth in travel in the City has occurred entirely in mass transit. Enhancing transportation choices and encouraging sustainable transportation modes are core goals of both PlaNYC and the DOT's strategic plan, and this analysis shows how well the city is positioned for sustainable growth once the current downturn in the economic cycle plays out.

Graph of Sustainable Streets index showing Ciywide Traffic Volumes and Transit Ridership

"These trends support our plans to invest in bus, biking and walking programs and underscore the need to implement stable funding for our transit systems to secure the long-term future of the City's economy and quality of life," said Janette Sadik-Khan, DOT Commissioner.

The report, which is available at, combines data from DOT, the Port Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York Metropolitan Transportation Council. Key findings include:

  • Traffic volumes were generally flat from 2003 to 2007 in contrast to and 11% increase in the 1990s.
  • Transit ridership increased more rapidly than the rate of population growth or employment from 2003 to 2007. In fact, transit ridership increased 9% citywide and 12% among riders entering Manhattan's Central Business District (CBD).
  • Bikes are the fastest-growing mode of travel into the Manhattan CBD, with a 70% increase since 2002.
  • Taken together, transit and cycling have accommodated all growth in travel citywide as well as to the CBD since 2003.

"As mandated by Local Law 23 of 2008, which I sponsored in the Council, the Sustainable Streets Index provides policymakers and the public with data to make better decisions for the future of our City streets," said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. "This first report reflects how crucial it is to the quality of life and thriving economy of New York City that we identify and fund specific performance goals that reduce congestion that impedes mass transit. We need these measures to make our streets and sidewalks safer for all New Yorkers."

The 2003 to 2007 trends show historic progress toward the city's sustainability goals. They also raise equally important challenges and opportunities for maintaining and extending this progress. The most critical challenge is to expand transit capacity to absorb ridership increases and relieve overcrowding. Findings in this report underscore the importance of providing sufficient funding to meet transit capital and operating needs, and of investing in bus service expansions and improvements in areas beyond the reach of the subway system and where subway ridership exceeds system capacity.

Developed in accordance with Local Law 23 and in coordination with City Council, the Sustainable Streets Index provides a benchmark for the past and current demands placed on the City's transportation infrastructure in the face of economic and population growth. The Index, which will be published annually, will expand next year to include three additional sections. A new Citywide Traffic Index will be added to provide year-over-year comparison of traffic patterns on streets and highways away from the CBD, boroughs and City boundaries. Additionally, DOT will summarize its progress along key corridors where DOT initiated improvements such as bike lanes and Bus Rapid Transit to encourage sustainable modes of transportation. Lastly, next year's report will offer readers a snapshot of vehicle speeds it has tracked through GPS in Manhattan.